Slava Stetsko: A Life for Ukraine

March 13 brought sad news: Yaroslava Stetsko, people’s deputy of Ukraine and chair of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, died in Germany.

A Woman in the upper case, she lived a life full of challenges. Barely eighteen, she joined the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists in 1938 and became one of its leaders in 1946. After resuming leadership of the OUN in 1991, she remained at the helm of the organization until 2000. After two years as a teacher, she studied at the Lviv Polytechnic Institute in 1941- 1943. The Nazis arrested her in 1943. Then followed long years of forced emigration. She earned a law degree from the University of Munich, where she was actively involved in political and public activity up to 1991. In 1986, Mrs. Stetsko replaced her late husband, Yaroslav Stetsko, as president of the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations and Ukrainian State Administration (a Ukrainian government in exile). She was among the organizers of one of the first truly international conferences in Ukraine, Ukrainian Nationalism: the Past, the Present, the Future, held in March 1992.

Back in Ukraine, Yaroslava Stetsko was elected to the Verkhovna Rada of the Second (in 1997-1998, after winning a constituency in Ivano- Frankivsk oblast), Third, and Fourth convocations. She entered the Fourth Verkhovna Rada on the Our Ukraine ticket and served on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Twice, in 1998 and 2002, Yaroslava Stetsko, as the oldest deputy in Verkhovna Rada, ascended the rostrum to read out the oath. It will be recalled that in 1998 Communist deputies attempted to obstruct her access to the rostrum. Last year on May 14, the swearing-in timed to coincide with her 82nd anniversary. Presented a gorgeous bouquet by her colleagues, she was deeply touched, trying to hold back her tears.

It is unlikely that Mrs. Stetsko, a modest, courtly, invariably friendly and attentive person, considered herself one of the symbols of the Ukrainian nation, although it would not be an exaggeration to say that she deserved to be called one. All her life she fought to secure a decent place for her free homeland in the world. “We must rally all strata of society around a national cause so that people can feel they own their land,” Yaroslava Stetsko told The Day on the eve of her 80th anniversary (see The Day, May 13, 2000). “So far we do not have the Ukraine that millions died for. We must arouse the initiative of leaders and people. It is essential that they believe in their future.” She left us these words as her testament.

Last respects were paid to Mrs. Stetsko on Saturday at the Teacher’s House. Den/The Day joins in mourning with all those who knew, respected, and loved this wise and courageous woman.