Attention 1, 2006

A group of “novachky” (young girl campers) stand at attention for a photograph, along with their two “sestrychky” (counselors, but that word translates to sisters). Since the start of Plast, the Ukrainian scouting organization, marching drills and military-like commands are part of each day at camp.

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"Novyi Sokil" Ukrainian Summer Camp

Andrea Wenglowskyj | United States

Novyi Sokil is a Ukrainian Plast summer camp outside of Buffalo, NY, where I spent over twelve formative years and it has been in operation since the 1950s. Despite the horrific attempts to cancel Ukrainian culture, the stewards of this camp represent a guiding force in preserving tradition. Through my photographs I study the parcel of land purchased by Ukrainian refugees generations ago so that they would always have a place to convene. It serves almost as a theater set where a changing cast of characters come to immerse themselves in scouting rituals. Attending Plast camp is a rite of passage for young Ukrainians in North America, and like any summer camp, there is fun, friends and bonding. But the tight grasp onto the deliberate, formal, conceptual structure of the scouting rituals, the celebration of the Ukrainian language, and the re-enacting of uniquely Ukrainian customs are part of the fight to hold onto a notion of home, the motherland: Ukraine.

Some history:

In 1912, the Ukrainian Scouting Organization, Plast, was officially formed in the occupied city of Lviv in Western Ukraine. Young boys, spurred by World War One and a newfound freedom, joined Plast and attempted to defend Ukraine against the Red Army. 1918 marked the start of decades of Russian and German occupation where Plast was banned, but continued to operate secretly and illegally. During this time the organization’s fundamental guide, Life in Plast, was written which outlined the laws, regulations, and codes that are still followed today. Plast regained popularity after World War Two, building camaraderie among women and in displaced persons camps as masses of Ukrainians, including my grandparents, re-settled internationally. Eventually, permanent diasporas were established, most of which promoted Plast as an active organization by holding weekly meetings and establishing summer camps.

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