Returning Home to Ukraine from Argentina
After a three-year search, a group of Argentineans has traced their roots back to Ukraine's Volyn region. At the start of the 20th century, their family left Ukraine and settled across the Atlantic. Now, their grandchildren have returned to discover more about their homeland
“All this time we’ve been living in Argentina, but we are proud to be Ukrainian,” citizen of Argentina said.
The guests were presented with bread and salt, a Ukrainian tradition. The Argentines said their families in South America still carry on the customs of their ancestors, especially when it comes to Ukrainian cuisine.
“We eat borsh… I cook these kinds of foods for my kids, my grandkid. My grandmother taught my mother, my mother taught me. And I teach my children,” citizen of Argentina Nora Bugaychuk said.
The meeting was organized by the director of the Manevychi Local History Museum. Communication between the Argentine and Ukrainian sides of the family broke in the early nineties. Two months ago, the Argentines inquired with the consulate in their country, asking for help in finding their relatives in Ukraine. Researchers drove around villages, talking to the locals until, finally, they found the relatives.
“In 1994, they came to Karasin and met the relatives. After that they passed away there was nobody left who knew anyone here. The children only thought about finding their roots in Ukraine after the parents were gone,” Director of Manevychi Local History Museum Petro Khomych said.
Borys and Paraskeviya grew up in Ukraine and got married in the village of Karasin in 1920. In the 1930s they were one of three families in their village who decided to immigrate to Argentina in search of a better life. Their Argentine descendants brought old photographs of their Ukrainian grandparents and a hand-drawn family tree.
The guests, some of whom still bear Ukrainian surnames, were waiting for this moment for three years — that’s how long it took them to find their relatives in Ukraine.
“Today we’re very happy to finally find our Ukrainian family. It is so important to know your roots. And at home we are still trying to maintain Ukrainian traditions, everything that our parents taught us,” Nora Bugaychuk said.
The Argentines say it will take a lot more time, and more than one visit, to get acquainted with all of their Ukrainian relatives — there are hundreds of cousins and extended family.
“If you look back at the years and centuries, our family is bottomless, and if you go forward, it is limitless,” citizen of Ukraine Ivan Shymchuk said.
The Ukrainian diaspora in Argentina is the seventh-largest in the world — with over a quarter of a million people. Most of the Argentine Ukrainians are descendants of immigrants, who left Ukraine in the late 19th–early 20th century. Most of them speak hardly any Ukrainian, but they cherish their roots and the history of their ancestors.