Numerous Ohioans are descended from Ukrainian ancestors. Today, Ukrainian Ohioans continue to enhance Ohio's cultural and social landscape.
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, millions of immigrants migrated to the United States of America, hoping to live the American Dream. Before the American Civil War, most immigrants arrived in the United States from Great Britain, Germany, and Ireland. By the 1880s, the home countries of immigrants began to change. Many of the new immigrants to arrive in the United States came from Eastern European countries, like Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Estonia, and Czechoslovakia, rather than from Western European countries, like Great Britain, Ireland, and Germany.
In 1860, 328,249 immigrants lived in Ohio. These people accounted for fourteen percent of the state's population. By 1900, the number of immigrants in Ohio rose to 458,734, but the percentage of the population that was foreign-born declined to eleven percent. Most of these immigrants in 1900 came from Germany, Great Britain, and Ireland, yet a growing number of Eastern Europeans were also migrating to the state.
The first Ukrainians to immigrate to the United States arrived during the 1870s. Most of these early immigrants settled along the Atlantic Ocean, but by the 1880s, some had moved into the American interior, including to Ohio. By 1900, approximately ten thousand Ukrainians lived in Ohio. Most of these Ukrainians settled along Lake Erie, especially in Cleveland, where they found low-paying jobs in factories or worked as day laborers. Immigrants who were more successful established businesses that supplied their fellow migrants with traditional Ukrainian products. Most of these immigrants came to the United States seeking a better life. They, however, did not intend to stay in the United States. Most hoped to return to Ukraine with enough money to purchase land. World War I and the Russian takeover of Ukraine convinced many of the Ukrainian immigrants to remain in the United States.
The Ukrainian immigrants tended to settle in their own communities, preferring to live among people who shared similar cultural beliefs and spoke the same language as they did. They congregated together partly out of camaraderie but also out of fear. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many native-born Americans feared outsiders. Some of these people objected to the immigrants' religious and cultural beliefs, while others believed that the foreigners would corrupt the morals of United States citizens. These people also contended that the quality of life within the United States would decline, as there were not enough jobs to employ the millions of people migrating to America. Many native-born Americans hoped either to limit immigration or to force foreigners to convert to American customs and beliefs. The leaders of this movement were the Progressives of the late 1800s and the early 1900s. To accomplish their goals, the Progressives implemented numerous reforms, including settlement houses, which taught foreigners American practices. The Progressives also called for laws that would either limit or ban the cultural practices of recently arrived immigrants. It would take several generations before the immigrants became truly accepted by the vast majority of white Ohioans.
Ohio's Ukrainians established numerous organizations to preserve their traditional customs and beliefs. In 1928, they formed the United Ukrainian Organizations, a group that helped coordinate the activities of all Ukrainian societies in Cleveland and surrounding communities. The Ukrainians also formed mutual-benefit societies, such as the Ukrainian National Association, the Ukrainian National Aid Association of America, the Ukrainian Workingmen's Association, and the Providence Association of Ukrainian Catholics in America. These societies provided social and cultural opportunities to Ukrainian immigrants, as well as health and death benefits. Cleveland's Ukrainians also formed Ridna Shkola, a Saturday school, where Ukrainian-American children received instruction on their former homeland. They also established choirs, including Dnipro, to promote Ukrainian culture.
While many Ukrainian immigrants arrived in the United States prior to World War I, an additional large wave of Ukrainian migrants eventually reached this country both before and after World War II. Following the Russian takeover of Ukraine, many Ukrainians fled to the United States. These migrants came for political reasons, while earlier Ukrainians had migrated for economic ones. Ukrainian migration also occurred in the years immediately following World War II. World War II destroyed numerous homes and businesses in Ukraine, and many residents of this country sought a better life in the United States. Eventually the Soviet Union ended this migration. By the late 1980s, at least thirty-four Ukrainian communities existed in Ohio, with Cleveland boasting more than thirty-five thousand residents of Ukrainian ancestry. Most of Cleveland's Ukrainians lived in the suburb of Parma.
Following World War II, like most other immigrant groups, Ohio's traditional Ukrainian communities began to lose their cohesiveness. As other Ohioans became more tolerant of the Ukrainians, many Ukrainian communities began to disintegrate. Many Ukrainians moved into other communities, while non-Ukrainians began to infiltrate the traditionally Ukrainian neighborhoods. This does not mean that Ohio's Ukrainian population has lost its ties to its traditional cultural beliefs. Ukrainian Ohioans continue to participate in various social and cultural groups that serve to promote Ukrainian beliefs and customs.
- Van Tassel, David D., and John J. Grabowski, eds. The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996.
- Wynnytsky, Z. The Clevelanders of Ukrainian Descent. Cleveland, OH: The Ukranian United Organization, 1961.