Ukrainian Village is a Chicago neighborhood located on the near west side of Chicago. Its boundaries are Division Street to the north, Chicago Avenue to the south, Western Avenue to the west, and Damen Avenue to the east. It is one of the neighborhoods in the West Town community area.
By the 1930s, there were five Ukrainian parishes dotting Chicago's neighborhoods, including some in the Byzantine-Slavonic style of St. Nicholas Cathedral. Built between November 1913 and January 1915, St. Nicholas is in the heart of the Ukrainian neighborhood south of Wicker Park and along Chicago Avenue, fondly referred to by locals as Ukrainian Village.
This neighborhood, northwest of the Loop, was first settled by Polish and Slovak immigrants, but with the rise of Ukrainian nationalism and the influx of political refugees during World War I, it assumed a Ukrainian cultural identity which lingers to this day.
Ukrainian Village, like neighboring East Village, began as farmland. Originally, German Americans formed the largest ethnic group in the vicinity; however, by the start of the 20th century the neighborhood was largely Slavic. Similar to Chicago's Lithuanian Downtown in Bridgeport, Ukrainians settled in the district because of their familiarity with Poles who lived in the surrounding Polish Downtown. Dense settlement of the neighborhood was largely spurred by the 1895 construction of an elevated train line along Paulina Ave (1700 W) that would later be decommissioned in 1964.
The Ukrainian community in the Chicago metropolitan area is not localized, but there was a concentration of them in what is now known as Ukrainian Village. This central area has been the focus of Ukrainian life since around the start of the 20th century, and continues to function as its hub with three major Ukrainian churches, two Ukrainian banks, a Ukrainian grammar school, the Ukrainian National Museum, a Ukrainian Cultural Center, two Ukrainian youth organizations, and many Ukrainian restaurants, stores and businesses.
Over the past half century, Ukrainian Village has remained a middle-class neighborhood, populated largely by older citizens of Eastern European ethnicity, bordered (and affected) on many sides by more dangerous areas. It was insulated somewhat from surrounding socioeconomic change in the large industrial areas on its south and west borders by the strong fabric of ethnic institutions as well as the staying power of the Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic congregations. These local ethnic institutions include the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, the Ukrainian National Museum, and the Ukrainian Cultural Center. Although Ukrainian Village continues to be the center of Chicago's large Ukrainian community, the gentrification of West Town is rapidly changing the demographic. Ukrainian Village continues to be home to approximately 15,000 ethnic Ukrainians.
Other notable local landmarks include Ss. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church, St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral, Roberto Clemente High School, St Mary's Hospital, and Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral, the latter having been commissioned by St. John Kochurov and designed by famed architect Louis Sullivan.
There have been four mass immigrations from Ukraine to the United States. The first immigrants arrived during the period 1870-1914. Most of these early immigrants from Ukraine were poor, illiterate peasants seeking a better life in America. Many small Ukrainian enclaves developed throughout Chicago, including the area bounded by Division, Racine, Orleans and Roosevelt; another in the Burnside area and another in what has become known as Ukrainian Village. A small pocket of immigrants colonized Packingtown on the South Side of Chicago. In 1903, they erected a church that stood in the shadows of the large slaughterhouses that characterized the area. The First Greek Catholic Church of St. Mary's of Chicago featured a three barred cross on the steeple. Beneath the cross was a crescent, symbolic of the victory of Christianity over Islam. St. Mary's soon became an integral part of Rusyn culture.
The second, interwar, wave of immigration occurred between 1920-1939 following Ukraine's declaration at the end of World War I as an independent nation. In contrast to the first wave of immigrants, Ukrainians arriving in Chicago at this time were semi-skilled, literate workers who had decided to come to the United States to escape the political and economic pressures of the newly independent Ukraine. Ukrainians played an important role in Chicago's Centennial Exposition in 1933. The Ukrainian Pavilion at the Exposition housed a restaurant and exhibit halls demonstrating folk art and history.
The third, post World War II, wave of immigration occurred between approximately 1948-1955. This wave of immigration brought with it a highly skilled, professional Ukrainian population who entered the United States following the passage of the Displaced Persons Act of 1948. Forced to leave Ukraine on the eve of the Soviet onslaught, they were committed to Ukraine’s freedom crusade. The population surge of the 1950s energized Chicago's Ukrainian Village and spurred construction of new parishes and the founding of new organizations.
A fourth wave of immigrants from Ukraine began arriving in Chicago soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990. During the fourth period, thousands of political refugees from war-torn Eastern Europe found their way to America, including professionals, physicians, lawyers, writers, and intellectuals who opposed the post-Stalinist regime.
There are a number of Churches within Ukrainian Village, with three Ukrainian churches located on one street, most being within a block of each other. St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral was the first of the two Ukrainian Greek catholic churches in the village with Ss. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church forming in the 70's after St. Nicholas' parish split in disagreement. St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral represents the Eastern European Ukrainian Orthodox Church and primarily serves the fourth wave of Ukrainian immigrants who left Ukraine after the fall of the Soviet Union. Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral was the first Eastern European Russian Orthodox church in what was then called the "Slavic Village" and was commissioned by St. John Kochurov and designed by famed architect Louis Sullivan.
Chicago's Ukrainian history begins on the north side with the arrival of immigrants from western and Carpathian Ukraine in the late 1890s. At the time, they called themselves Rusyns (Ruthenians), an anachronistic national appellation associated with Ukraine’s occupation as a nation within the Austro-Hungarian empire.
St. Nicholas was the home of the famed Lysenko Chorus which won first place in a 1930 multi-state choral contest sponsored by the Chicago Tribune.
Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Parish in Chicago was founded in 1968 by Patriarch Josyf Slipyj and the bishop of the Eparchy of Chicago, Yaroslav Gabro. Among the reasons for establishing this distinct parish was the desire to preserve and nurture the traditions of the Ukrainian Church. The elements contributing to this Ukrainian Church's distinctiveness within the Universal Catholic Church are adherence to the Julian Calendar, a traditional liturgy, as well as a unique spiritual heritage. Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Church, with its golden domes, is a beautiful reminder of 100+ years of Ukrainian immigrants to the Chicago area and a tribute to those who came here.
St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral represents Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the dominant religion in Ukraine, and typically serves new Ukrainian immigrants who have left Ukraine after the fall of the Soviet Union. Although Orthodox in faith, the Cathedral is under the UOCUSA which is under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and has no affiliation with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.
The church was originally built for a German parish, and sold twice before it was finally bought and converted by the current Ukrainian parish. The parish runs a Saturday school of Ukrainian language for students from preschool to 10th grade.
On December 4, 2002, the Ukrainian Village District, centering on Haddon Avenue, Thomas Street, and Cortez Street between Damen and Leavitt Avenues, including portions of Damen, Hoyne and Leavitt Avenues, was designated a Chicago Landmark District. Extensions to the district were designated in 2005 and on April 11, 2007.
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