by Basil P. Tarasko District Administrator of the Little Leagues in Ukraine (1995) e mail:firstname.lastname@example.org Please visit:ukrainebaseball.org USA 718-415-7821
A tale of the two internats.
(names and places have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved) In November of 2006, I received an e-mail from a woman I will call Maria. She eloquently wrote about a very poor internat in Western Ukraine. As she explained about the substandard conditions, I was truly moved. She was looking for funds to help these orphans. I explained to Maria that I do not have any money to give her, but I could provide an opportunity for her children to play a new sport, namely baseball. Her children would receive all the equipment that they would need and receive the necessary training to start playing baseball. Maria is not the director of this internat, nor is she a teacher, but a volunteer, who spends her extra time and all her extra money helping this poor internat school survive. Maria is the first true Ukrainian volunteer that I have ever met in Ukraine. There are no showers in the children's living quarters. In the basement there is a boiler and hot water coming out of a pipe which the children use once a week to bathe.Each child is allotted a mere 8 liters of hot water once a week. Imagine that. I had to help somehow, but how? All I have is donated baseball equipment from the US Maria showed me plans to construct a bathroom and shower on each of the three floors, the cost of which would be about US $ 2500. I arranged for Maria to receive some basic equipment to show to her that I was ready to help develop a new sport at her internat. Maria explained to me that last year she sent out over 4,000 e-mails about the plight of her kids. Only three people responded and I was the only one to help. How sad! Maria was elated to get baseball equipment for her children, then she informed me that there was a second internat in town. And she remarked, "how can a mother give something to one child and not the other?" I promised to help there too after my planned visit to her town in March. My understanding of the word internat is that it means a boarding school. Then I learned that there are all sorts of boarding schools in Ukraine. Those for full orphans, half orphans, handicapped children, gifted children and others. I arrived in her town with my companion from New York, Harold Weissman, who is 82 years young and looking to help children play ball. Harold is another volunteer who gives all that he has to help the youth of Ukraine. We visited the first internat, the one with no showers. The kids were delightful and full of smiles as we put on a baseball clinic in their gym. Their two teachers, the future baseball coaches, enjoyed participating and learning the basics of playing baseball. Next morning we visited the second internat. I looked forward to working with a new group of kids. As I approached the grounds I noticed a huge difference. The grounds were spacious and immaculate, and then I saw a huge lake. This internat was on a lake. Walking into the main building, I saw children, well dressed, in uniforms, bigger children than the previous day. I was confused. Why were these orphans bigger and healthier that the others? What was going on? Slowly I learned that this internat was not for orphans but one for gifted students, children from families that were well off. Each time that I heard the word internat, I assumed it was a place for orphans, how wrong I was. These kids had to take entrance exams. The ratio of adults to children was 3 to 1, as the director proudly explained to me. He informed me that the next day a dozen or so students were set to travel with him to Slovenia to put on a concert. He openly said that his budget for the 2007 school year was 6.4 million hryvnia or about US $1.3 million. The director of the other internat received 78 cents per child per day according to Maria. Can this be so? Two schools in one city and such a difference in care for children. Why is this so? I met with the physical education teacher to explain the Little League baseball program. His first question to me was "how much will I get paid?" I did not hear that the previous day. Those teachers were just grateful to get equipment so that their children had something to play with. What a difference! What to do? I did promise to give equipment to this second internat. Remember, a mother cannot give to one child and not another. I just could not simply give the same amount of equipment to the second internat. One internat has almost nothing, the other has it all. It's not fair. What to do? I felt like King Solomon, trying to make a difficult but correct decision. I decided that there must be a trade, an exchange of a sort. In return for receiving the equipment the gifted internat must provide services to the poorer one equal in value of the donated equipment. Will this work? I am still waiting for the reply. I told Glen. (Glen Willard, Editor-At-Large for the Ukrainian Observer) and a close personal friend, about Maria. She is donating her life to improve the conditions of children. I wanted him to meet her, to hear her story. Who knows what could happen, a story, information gets out and she receives the money that is needed to get the needed improvements for those poorer children. Before we met with Glen, Maria called to inform me that there was a bad wind storm in town. The poorer internat had many windows blown out and there was damage to the roof. More repairs needed to be done. I asked her, what damage did the gifted internat suffer? She said "absolutely none." It is just not fair. Those with little suffer the most. Why is this so? Two weeks later I was in Houston, Texas attending the 24th Little League Congress as the Ukraine delegate. I met people and I told them all about Maria and her orphans. All are moved. People pledged to help her to construct a bathroom and showers. I never get involved in raising money for non-baseball projects. But Maria moved me, and Glen and many other kind people in Houston had inspired me. I returned home to New York in mid-April to find an e-mail from Maria. I was happy to hear from her. I wanted to hear more about the kids. Did they start playing any games? I was stunned after reading Maria's message. She asked that I pay her US $1000 a month as an inducement to continue our working relationship in developing baseball. Where did this come from? No adult who works with kids gets paid in Little League baseball. What part of volunteer did she not understand? All I do in Ukraine is travel to cities and towns and offer a program to schools and orphanages that want and need an organized sports program to try to combat the many unsavory temptations that children are exposed to. I provide all the equipment and all the training free of charge. During end of season Championships, I raise money to pay for housing, meals and a cultural program for the kids. Maria wanted money from me. Red flags went up. I wrote back asking for clarification. Did I misunderstand something that she wrote? Where did she get the notion that I had money? There has been no reply, and it's May 1. Why? What happened to Maria? Whom can you trust? I guess that you just move on, turn the page. I know that there is good in Ukraine. I just have to keep looking.
Ukraine's National 16 & Under Softball team competes at the III World Cup in Plant City, Florida Nov. 23 - 27, 2005.
Reported by Basil P. Tarasko, special correspondent for The Ukrainian Weekly.
A delegation of fifteen left Kyiv on Nov. 21 to Tampa, FL via New York, not knowing that they would miss their connection in NY for Florida due to a three hour delay for mechanical problems at Borispol airport.
This trip was not included in the official Ukraine sports program for 2005. Funds were originally allocated for the Ukraine National Junior baseball team to compete at the European Championships in Spain. Since the team was unable to obtain necessary visas for travel, allocated funds went unused. After much discussion, the Ukraine Ministry of Sports decided to use the funds to send ten young ladies to represent Ukraine at the World Cup.
Michael Savchak and I arrived at JFK with ‘kanapku,’ pickles, and drinks, donated by Veselka restaurant located on Second Ave, in Manhattan, for our young players. I looked up and saw that the Aero-Svit flight would arrive at 7 PM more that three hours later than scheduled. The connecting flight to Tampa was to be at 8:30 PM. Too close for comfort considering potential custom clearance delays.
No problem, our team would just take a later flight. That was not to be. Delta Airlines indicated that the 8:30 flight was the last one that evening for Tampa. Now what? Michael and I now started looking for the Aero-Svit representative for some answers. Of course, no was on duty at the time, because there was no plane. Finally at 8 PM, as our team cleared customs, we located our rep and learned that hotel arrangements were set up for our team to stay over in Queens and depart the following morning.
This was a blessing in a way. Our team had a limited budget to work with. We just saved one nights hotel cost by staying over in NY.
I then realized that I had reserved hotel rooms for our team in Plant City. It was late. The hotel had to be called, would I be charged for that night? Ramada Inn understood our situation and reassured me that there would be no charge for the missed night.
There was another problem. I had arranged for Ukrainians in the St. Petersburg - Tampa area to welcome our team at midnight and then transport them to their hotel. They had to be notified of the cancellation. Could they return the following morning?
Mrs. Luba Mycyk, a dynamic energetic young lady, and her husband Roman along with some warm and caring Ukrainians came to the aid of our team. They were there in the morning to greet our Ukraine team and drive them to our hotel.
How did I find Luba Mycyk? Well, Ika Casanova, of the Weekly, suggested that I contact Professor Vira Bodnaruk of North Port, FL for assistance. Professor Bodnaruk indicated to me that she could not assist with our transportation needs because North Port is about 100 miles south of Tampa. But she gave me Luba Mycyk. Thank you Pani Vira.
Let the games begin. November 23, opening game, our team faced the Diamond Dusters under the lights. It was cool evening, our newly found Ukrainian fans from the St., Petersburg area came with blue -- yellow flags to root for their home team. This was a first for the Ukraine softball program, never before our girls tried to catch a fly ball under the lights. It was truly an adventure.
The Dusters scored early and often to take a four run lead before Ukraine scored its first run. In the bottom of the third inning. Anna Marko reached first base on a walk, took second on a passed ball and then Anna Loza executed a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Marko to third. Oksana Maksakova knocked in Marko for the only Ukrainian run with a single up the middle. Final score 12 - 1, Dusters.
Ukraine would score its only other run in the tournament three games later and take its only lead in a game against the Lady Panthers. Maksakova lead off the game with a sharp single to left. She moved to third on a back to back wild pitches and scored when Tetyana Bondar grounded out to second base. The Panthers responded quickly with nine runs in the bottom of the first and went on to defeat Ukraine 11 to 1.
Ukraine lost all six games scoring but two runs and getting two hits, both by Maksakova. Yet our ladies never quit, they swung the bat, encouraged each other, cheered in Ukrainian, and kept on smiling. They were happy just to be here. They were proud to wear the Ukraine uniform. These were delightful young ladies. They were wonderful ambassadors for Ukraine. Our young team quickly became the darlings of the tournament. Special thanks to the Emerald Comets, the Jacksonville Thunderbolts, the Tampa Bay Mustangs and the SunCoast Outlaws for their kind donation of equipment for our team.
Final result of the III World Cup: the Shamrocks of Virginia squeaked by Chinese Taipei 2-1 for the Championship. Twenty teams competed in all including five foreign teams.
Our Ukraine team consisted of ten girls, six from Rivne and four from Kirovograd. The adult delegation, which was all male, included a part time softball coach and a baseball coach. This team did not include all the best softball players in Ukraine nor were the best softball coaches in Ukraine present.
Two years ago Ukraine participated at the II World Cup. (I was unaware of this.) That team also scored a total of two runs and with the same two coaches. Where is the progress? What does this say about the development of softball in Ukraine? If Ukraine is to invest thousands of dollars to send a team to the US, then send the best players and send the top softball coaches. One of the girls, during this tournament, supposedly paid for her own travel expenses. Ukraine should not send ten girls to play six games in four days. Send fewer adults and more girls. Send a full team. Invest in the youth of Ukraine, if you want better results in the future.
To help turn the Ukraine softball program around for 2006 and beyond, the Ukraine Little League program is planning to register all softball programs under its banner. There will be an emphasis on scheduling more games and providing better instruction. Little League softball championships will be held in all age categories. The hope is to identify the best players early. In order for our best players get more international experience, Ukraine Little League softball program will send National teams to Kutno, Poland to compete at European Softball Championships in all divisions.
Lets hope that if Ukraine sends a team in 2007, it will send its best players and its best softball coaches.
There were so many local Ukrainians who made our trip and stay in Florida so memorable. We will never forget them. Friendships were started for a life time.
Special thanks to the following individuals for providing financial support, moral support, transportation help, warm smiles or just being there for the girls of our Ukrainian Softball team and for supporting my Little League - Orphanage Project in Ukraine.
Thanks for the support from the New York area:
Dr. Bohdan Kekish, President of the Self Reliance (NY) Federal Credit Union, Mr. Jason Birchard, Veselka Restaurant in NYC; Ms. Tamara Jeziorski, Mr. Gary Krupsky, and Mr. Michael Savchak.
Thanks to the support from North Port, Florida:
Professor Vira Bodnaruk, President of the Ukrainian Language Society of Chicago; Mrs. Iwanna. Holowaty, President of the Ukrainian National Women's League of America, Branch 56; Dr. Volodymyr Korol, President of the Society for Humanitarian Help to Ukraine; Mrs. Orysia Tkachuk; Mr. Mykola Spivak; Ms. Stephanie Sandra; Ms. Chrystyna Sheldon; Ms. Daria Pelech and Ms. Leida Boyko.
Thanks to the support from the St. Petersburg - Tampa area in Florida:
Mrs. Luba Mycyk, President of the Ukrainian National Women's League of America, Branch 124; Mr. & Mrs. Volodymyr and Ruslana Panov; Mr. Bohdan Horbaczuk; Mr. Ihor Matiychuk; Ms. Olya Czerkas; Ms. Irena Kuc; Mr. Ihor Khakhoula; and Mr. Andriy Slybka.
For more information about the Ukraine Little League Baseball & Softball - Orphanage Project and for pledges of financial help, please contact:
Heidi Araya Press Secretary of Ukraine Little League 4531 7th PL SW Vero Beach, FL 32968 301-526-7184
Basil P. Tarasko District Administrator of the Little Leagues in Ukraine Scout - San Diego Padres Major League Baseball Club Coach - National Baseball Teams of Ukraine 36-46 212th St. Bayside, NY 11361 USA cell 718.415.7821 USA fax 718.428.8592 USA In Ukraine 8.097.544.9141