The Ukrainian church in Jewett

By Dede Terns Thorpe, Town of Hunter Historian

I felt it was important to again share information on the Ukrainian Church, just outside of Hunter. Most readers feel the same way about what is happening in Ukraine; it’s difficult to watch and impossible to understand. 

Part of the following information is from an undated Windham Journal article.

Five miles west of Hunter Village is the home of an exceptional-looking Catholic Church, the St. John’s Ukrainian Catholic Church. Built on the north side of Route 23A, Hunter’s neighbor to the northwest and located in Jewett. You must see it in person to grasp its distinctiveness and beauty and how it fits into the surroundings. (Its location is just past the intersection of route 23A and county route 17, just past the Xenia; a delightful restaurant [make a reservation] with a wonderful Saturday Ukrainian buffet.

A description found on the website, Brama, said St. John’s the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Eastern Rite is both a spiritual and a cultural center for Ukrainians in the United States. It was built in 1962 in the traditional (but modified) timber blockwork style. 

Brama explained the grounds, the builders, the architects, and the many other people involved in the undertaking. 

On August 14, 1960, John Kobziar organized a meeting of local Ukrainian American residents and property owners in the neighboring area. Kobziar owned the “Xenia Tourist Home” near routes 17 (the road leading to Jewett center) and 23A. The group formed the “Temporary Committee for the construction of the Ukrainian Catholic Chapel in the Vicinity of Hunter, N.Y.” The name was soon shortened to the “Temporary Committee” and chaired by Mr. Kobziar. It was May 21, 1961, when they accepted the submitted sketch design of the wooden chapel of a three-dimensional structure. (Much of this information is from the Saint John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church website). (Oshanna Kobziar, a striking-looking, bright daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Kobziar, graduated from HTC not long after the church was completed in 1962. Oksana, with their home next door, watched the daily progress of the church.)

Ukrainian Church at Hunter Serves Over 100 Families

“Saint John’s was consecrated on Saturday at 11 a.m. by the Right Reverend Joseph Shmondiuk, Bishop of a diocese that includes New York State and New England. After the consecration ceremonies, the bishop celebrated Mass according to the colorful Byzantine rite. A total of twenty-four priests took part in the first Mass held in the church.

Over 2,000 persons were present to witness the rites, some coming from Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, and Toronto, Canada.

The church, built as a memorial to the more than 2,000 Ukrainian archbishops, bishops, and priests martyred by the Communists in Ukraine, is the only one of its kind in the United States. Constructed of hand-hewn red cypress put together with dowels throughout, it is an exact copy of the Ukrainian Catholic Churches of the Carpathian Mountains, now all destroyed.

The completed structure cost just $40,000 (about $347,712.00 in 2021). Many Ukrainians contributed their labor and materials.

The church will serve over 100 families mainly settled in the Schoharie valley between Hunter and Lexington.

Following the religious ceremonies, a dinner for 270 persons was held at John Kobziar’s Xenia Motel. St. George’s choir sang the Lord’s Prayer in Ukrainian at the beginning of the dinner and presented a selection of Ukrainian folk songs afterward. A troupe of 14 girls and boys from Hempstead, L. I., under the direction of Mr. Petrina, entertained the guests with a series of Ukrainian folk dancers.

Father Barnych, the toastmaster at the dinner, introduced the keynote speaker, former Assemblyman Stephen Jarema, representative of the Ukrainian Congress committee; Bishop Shmondink commented on the many recreational facilities built into new homes as contrasted to the complete absence of a place in the home for prayer. ‘We have televisions rooms, game rooms, playrooms, even bars,” remarked the bishop; “why not a prayer room?’

Mr. Lesawer, president of the Ukrainian National Association, extended greetings; Dr. Pushkar, of the Providence Association of Ukrainian Catholics in Philadelphia; and Fr. John Tracy, of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Haines Falls, extended the hospitality of his church’s facilities. Dr. Ivan Makarewycz welcomed the clergy and people in the name of the new church, and its new pastor-administrator, Fr. Osidiach, extended thanks to all.”

The new church was built under the supervision of Jurij Kosliw of South Jewett.”

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