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Modern Followers of Philanthropist Yevhen Chykalenko

29 January, 00:00

The Kyiv public has marked, at the House of the Teacher, the 140th anniversary of the birth of Yevhen Chykalenko, a great Ukrainian public figure and philanthropist. Chykalenko financially supported the publication of Borys Hrynchenko’s famous Dictionary of the Ukrainian Language. Incidentally, the donor gave not only money but also actively collected and edited on his own agricultural terms for the dictionary. He dreamed of finding an individual who could bring the Ukrainian nation together by force of his literary talent. He paid for the time fabulous fees to the authors of Ukrainian works printed in the Russian-language journal Kievskaya starina. Among them were Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky and Volodymyr Vynnychenko whose literary pursuits always received the patron’s support. The donor earned, to a large extent, money for this support by suggesting new ways of raising good crops in drought-stricken areas. He wrote many books on this but encountered as many obstacles, trying to get permission to publish and sell them. Yevhen Chykalenko founded the Ukrainian weekly newspaper Rada, which soon became the mouthpiece of various political forces in Ukraine. Chykalenko tried to be tolerant toward all. Having the talent of a diplomat and the ability to bring things together, he would manage to reconcile seemingly irreconcilable people. As he was a very well-known figure in Ukraine in his lifetime, we today need to revive the memory of this unusual personality.

This is good, of course. But you will agree that the more important question is whether Yevhen Chykalenko has successors. In other words, who are they, the philanthropist of today? “Today’s donor is a prominent and successful person,” Mykhailo Slaboshpytsky, General Director of the League of Ukrainian Philanthropists, believes. “Today the league includes only twelve persons, with five out of them living outside Ukraine, while most others are the collectives of national enterprises, including the Svitoch Candy Company and the Druzhba Oil Pipeline. There are also individuals, such as Halyna Pidopryhora from Kharkiv and Ivan Kikta from Lviv oblast. Both Halyna and Ivan are half orphans who had a difficult childhood. With the onset of Gorbachev’s perestroika, they discovered a talent for business in themselves. Halyna opened a small restaurant and several shops, while Ivan and his mother set up a home appliances repair cooperative. Ivan then had various pursuits, works very much, and has had his setbacks, but he was never broken and was eventually rewarded with handsome profits. Now he invests a considerable part of his profits in charity. While he funds a fencing team in Drohobych and subsidizes meals in a village school, Halyna uses the profits from her restaurant and shops to support about two hundred orphans, her godchildren. As the talent for philanthropy occurs even more seldom than that of writing, there are so few charity figures. For this one must outdo oneself and give what he has.

President of the Yaroslav the Wise International Educational Foundation Valentyna Strilko told The Day’s correspondent, “A philanthropist is not a person who spends money on charity during the elections, expecting to reap dividends in return. A patron does not give money to everybody who asks for it, he chooses where it is best to invest it, as did Petro Jacyk, seeking out the most effective projects. For example, he translated Hrushevsky’s ten-volume history into English so that it found its place in the libraries of the world’s leading higher educational institutions. It is a law of nature that if you contribute you will eventually get back more. Our foundation does not leave, as the law allows, 20% for its own development, for there is a very long line of those who ask us to give money for our neglected education. But we are lucky: we always find new opportunities to reinforce the foundation. It is important that charity money should be given without regret and without expectation of gratitude. Such people do occur, but they are few. We search for donors among the directors of enterprises, banks, and organizations, among those who know how to earn money today. But the law does not encourage charity and philanthropy in this country. While abroad those who make charitable contributions enjoy tax privileges, in this country they have to pay additional money. Unless we have an adequate law, charitable activities will not develop but arise only once every four years in the shape of political actions and buying voters.”

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