“Black clouds cover the ruins,
The wind hums menacingly over the fires,
As a wild desert, lies Ukraine,
A girl who cries and awaits an avenger”…
Each of us has sung this song set to the words of Ivan Bahrianyi at campfires countless times during our Plast summer camps. We recall the romance of “Gorgany nights”: with everybody sitting around a campfire, sparks rising upwards, and casting a glow on many young faces gathered round.
These words were felt deep within your soul- until on February 22, 2022 they suddenly took on a clear and real new meaning. On that day began a new wave of a several century’s old war- the war of Ukrainian Independence.
Great journey in bringing up many generations of Ukrainian patriots
In April 1912 (although there had already been secret groups led by Ivan Chmola and Petro Franko since 1911) an event took place that would become significant for the entire Ukrainian community. A hyrtok (group), called “Raven”, from the Lviv Academic Gymnasium under the guidance of Oleksander Tysovsky, solemnly pledged allegiance to God and Ukraine. From that moment on, Plast began a great journey in bringing up many generations of Ukrainian patriots.
History would present scouts and Plast with many complex challenges. Two World Wars, the complete liquidation of the organization in Galicia and repression of individual members occurred, leading to the formation of clandestine Plast. Members also continued to function under the auspices of other organizations and following the war, re-emerged in the Displaced Persons camps in Austria and Germany. After immigration to many new lands, Plast was again reborn and thrived, establishing itself as a vital part of life in the Diaspora.
With the declaration of Ukrainian independence, there were new challenges – living and developing in one’s own country, establishing methods of cooperation with this state. Against a reactionary and stagnant system and often in opposition to the current environment, Plast learned to find active and strong forces within the community. It grew, spreading to encompass the entire territory of Ukraine, even in districts where one would not have imagined much hope of educating youth in a spirit of patriotism and Christian ethics.
Three Main Obligations of the Scout Oath
On the 24th of February, 2022, at 5 in the morning, the Russian Federation perpetrated a war crime and crimes against against humanity by attacking Ukraine, bombing cities, civilian infrastructure, and airports etc. Among the dead were civilians, children, emergency workers and medics. A large number of scouts immediately enlisted into the ranks of the Territorial Defense of the Armed Forces of Ukraine- fulfilling the first of the main Obligations of the Scout Oath.
Even more significant was the great mobilization of Plast Volunteers. Many welcomed refugees and provided care for them in cities of Western Ukraine, finding temporary homes, giving other support for the destitute at the borders, and helping receive emigres in countries including Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. These scouts, who took on these first difficult struggles, are deserving of our sincere gratitude.
Along with this, scouts in all of these countries, without exception, began to fundraise for the support of the Ukrainian Army and for scouts serving within its ranks. Necessary equipment and gear was gathered and delivered, including bullet proof vests, thermal imagers, drones and automobiles, along with medical aid, first aid kits, and IFAKs etc. etc.
All of this fulfilled the second of the main Obligations of the Scout Oath – namely, to help others.
At this time, many scout communities, especially in Western Europe, obtained a significant challenge- to look after thousands of refugees, comprised mainly of the elderly, women and children. Many of these people found themselves across the border in order to save the lives of their small children. They sought a Ukrainian environment, their own language and traditions. Those who did not previously have such a desire or opportunity, could learn history, and the Ukrainian language, to once and for all cut ties with a country of insane murderers. Plast scouts, united by National Centers and various groups or individuals, continue to actively support refugees with aid, providing moral and culturally appropriate support.
Today, during the 110th Anniversary of the founding of Plast, we remember the memory of those scouts who fought in the ranks of the Sich Riflemen, Ukrainian Insurgent Army and other army formations, as well as those who gave their lives in the war with Russia, from 2014, as part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Eternal Memory and Glory to the Heroes!
In the end
A separate thank you to all volunteers, medical workers and generous people who undertook the heroic obligation of helping those in need- soldiers, families of scouts and displaced persons.
Sincere thanks to all donors and benefactors, who from the first days of the war have financially contributed to support the needs of Plast and scout-soldiers.
Thank you to all scouts, junior scouts, counselors, scout leaders and scoutmasters, who work and do everything within their power, knowing that each day brings us closer to our Day of Victory.
With the Plast Greeting
Strong! Beautiful! Carefully! Quickly!
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