On June 30, 1957, Branch #2 of the Organization for Defense of Lemkivshchyna was formed, and held its first meeting in St. Michael’s Church in Yonkers, NY. This organizational meeting of the Yonkers branch was opened by Father Basil Klos and chaired by Stephen Zenecky. Elected as the first board of officers were: John Syvyk, Dmytro Malyk, Peter Kurylo, George Kowalczyk, Peter Rusynko, John Pecylak, Mary Syvyk, Seman Banyckyj, Mary Nebeska, John Honchak, Theodore Mychalak, Ivanna Byniovsky, Andrew Tacyn, and Stephan Zenecky.
For more than the last 29 years, the Yonkers branch of OOL has been led by Steven Howansky, who was born in Lemkivshchyna in town of Zdynia. Other presidents of Branch #2 have included: John Syvyk (1957-1958), Peter Kurylo (1958-1959), John Homza (1959-1960), John Pecylak (1960-1961), and George Kowalczyk (1961-1979).
From its inception, Branch #2 has publicized the hardships that the Lemkos have endured and the need to protect the people and property of Lemkivshchyna. The first efforts of the Yonkers branch involved helping to revive the branches that had become inactive in New York and New Jersey during the World War II period. As a result of an intense organizational effort throughout the United States and Canada, 20 new branches of the Organization for Defense of Lemkivshchyna were established after 1957.
In order to further its educational work, Branch #2 began the publication of a monthly newspaper called “ Lemkivski Visti ” (Lemko News). The first edition appeared in April 1958 and was possible only through the voluntary efforts of the organization’s members, such as its editor, Stephen Zenecky, and type-setter, George Kowalczyk. After being temporarily transferred in 1963 to Toronto, Canada, the publication of the newspaper returned to the USA and became the quarterly publication “ Lemkivshchyna ”. Lemkivshchyna is currently published by the OOL in Clifton, New Jersey and is edited by Mrs. Marie Duplak.
Other publications that Branch #2 has helped to finance include “Our National Name” by Stephen Zenecky (1961) and “Lemkivshchyna in its Struggle for Reunion with Ukraine” by John Krasowsky (1965). More recently, the Yonkers branch contributed funds that have helped such organizations as The Lemko Research Foundation to publish books dealing with Lemko issues.
In the spring of 1963, the Yonkers branch initiated and conducted the first “Meeting of American and Canadian Lemkos.” The blessing of the branch banner took place during the second of these “Meetings” in 1965, of which the local branch was again the host. Branch #2’s banner depicts the Ukrainian national trident on one side and the coat-of-arms of the city of Sanok with the figure of an eagle on the other.
In addition to hosting various national conventions of the Organization for Defense of Lemkivshchyna, members of the Yonkers branch have taken part in international conferences of Lemko organizations. In October 1993, Kornylo Babiak, George Kowalczyk, and Steven Howansky participated in the First Congress of the World Lemko Federation, which took place in Lviv, Ukraine. Then, in 1997, the Second Congress of the World Lemko Federation again took place in Lviv, Ukraine, where Branch #2 members Steven Howansky, Steve Kapitula, and Diana Howansky participated. At this Congress, the name of the World Lemko Federation was changed to the World Federation of Lemko Ukrainian Organizations. The most recent Congress of the World Federation of Lemko Ukrainian Organizations took place in May 2007 once again in Lviv, where Branch #2 members Steven Howansky and Andriy Khomyk participated.
Numerous members of the Yonkers branch have also traveled to Lemkivshchyna for the annual “ Vatra ” cultural festival in Zdynia. This event holds particular significance because, in addition to preserving the unique Lemko culture, it takes place on land that many of Branch #2’s families owned before being forcibly relocated by the Polish government in 1947 under Akcja “Wisla” .
During its 50 years of existence, Branch #2 has also aided relatives and countrymen from Lemkivshchyna by sending food, clothes, and money. For example, in 1957, students in Ukrainian schools in Poland were provided with new clothes and, in 1958, Lemkos returning to their homes in Lemkivshchyna received financial assistance. Over past several years, funds have also been sent to defray some of the costs of the “ Vatra ,” as well as to build, repair, and maintain numerous Ukrainian churches, like those in the Lemko villages of Krynycia, Koneczna, Zdynia, and Komancza, as well as in the Shevchenko Park in Lviv, Ukraine. Branch #2 has also provided financial assistance to many cultural ensembles in Poland and Ukraine.
The Yonkers branch has raised these funds through such events as Christmas caroling, dances, and picnics. As a Ukrainian patriotic organization, Branch #2 takes an active part in all of the manifestations of church, civic, and political life of the Ukrainian community in Yonkers, NY. Branch #2 is also one of the leading branches in OOL as a whole.
In 2007, Branch #2 of the Organization for Defense of Lemkivshchyna celebrated its 50 th year in existence. The organization continues to be strong, as younger Lemko-Ukrainians are taking over and carrying out the work that their parents began in order to preserve and protect Lemkivshchyna.
At the 50th Annual General Branch Meeting, which was held in Yonkers, NY on March 25, 2007, Steven Howansky was elected for the 30th time as Branch president. Also elected were: Andrew Kaszczak, Vice President; Andriy Khomyk, Secretary; Steve Kapitula; Treasurer; George Kowalczyk and Eustach Melnychuk; Social/welfare Rep.; John Mamrosh and Paul Odomirok; Cultural/educational Reps.; Basil Wasichko, Organizational Rep.; Diana Howansky; Press/External Affairs Liaison; Peter Rusynko, Ksenia Pecylak, Peter Howansky, Youriy Wasichko, Nadia Howansky, and Yaroslava Kaminska; Members-at-Large; and Michael Barna, Bill Mlynaryk, and Myroslav Kuzmiak; Auditing Committee president and members, respectively.
Finally, at this General Meeting, Branch #2 President Steven Howansky presented various OOL members with plaques to commemorate their many years of work, including George Kowalczyk, Peter Rusynko, John Honczak, and Ksenia Pecylak, who were honored for their 50 th anniversary as active members of the organization.
After Steven Howansky, why passed away February 11,2013, Steven Kapitula was elected President of Branch #2. He remained as President till 2022.
Lesia Kozicky was elected as a President of Branch #2 on Annual meeting on June 24, 2022.