Archive for category Ukrainian believe it or not

Ihor Sikorsky, Father of Modern Helicopters

“The helicopter approaches closer than any other vehicle to fulfillment of mankind’s ancient dreams of the flying horse and the magic carpet.”

Ihor Sikorsky

From the private collection of the Sikorsky family

Ihor Sikorsky, Ukrainian-born American aviation pioneer and father of the modern helicopter, was born in Kyiv in 1889. His mother was a doctor and his father a psychology professor at Kyiv University. In 1933 Ihor wrote to Vasyl Halych, a Ukrainian-born American historian, “My family who comes from a village in Kyiv region, my grandfather and great grandfather were priests. All of my family members were Ukrainians.”

Homeschooled by his mother until age 9, he acquired a love for science through the flying machines in Leonardo da Vinci’s journals and Jules Verne’s books. By age 12, the budding engineer had already built a rubber band powered helicopter.

While studying at the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, he designed two helicopters, among the first such designs in the world, as well as a series of biplanes. On December 29, 1911 he established the world speed record (111 km/hr) for a loaded plane (three passengers), the C-6. From 1912 to 1917 he worked as chief designer at a Russian-Baltic aviation company, where he designed and built the first airplanes with multiple engines. In 1918 he emigrated to France, and in 1919 to the United States, where he founded a number of aviation companies and headed several design teams, which constructed various airplanes and hydroplanes. In 1939 he perfected the design of the first successful helicopter in the world. His Sikorsky Helicopter Co developed military and civilian helicopters, and was considered the world leader in its field. In 1941, the company got its first contract from the U.S. Army Air Corps for an observation helicopter that became known for life-saving missions in military and civil emergencies.

Sikorsky’s active professional life overlapped virtually the entire span of practical flight by man, from the Wright brothers’ inventions to space exploration. Few in aviation can claim such a personal contribution with such a wide range of innovative ideas. He complained that, of all his past predictions, those that he lived to regret were on the “too conservative” side.

Sikorsky retired as an engineering manager for his company in 1957 but remained active as a consultant until his death. Sikorsky received many honorary doctorates in science and engineering, honorary fellowships in leading scientific and technical societies in the United States and Europe, and the highest medals and awards in aviation.

Ihor Sikorsky died at his home in Easton, Connecticut, on October 26, 1972. Some of his last words were about Ukraine and his Ukrainian heritage. On his deathbed he proclaimed, “I am coming back to my native holy Kyiv where my distinguished ancestors are resting in peace. I am coming back to rejoin with them in spirit.”

The company he founded continues today as the largest helicopter maker in the world.

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Alexander Archipenko, First Cubist Sculptor

None of the sculptors since Rodin made a greater impact in his time like Archipenko. It was in the first decade of his artistic life that he created new laws of modern sculpture and rose in art history as a leader of the art revolution and drew in many others.

Svyatoslav Hordynsky,
Ukrainian artist, poet and writer

Archipenko at his New York studio. 1960 Photo: A. Paschuk

Archipenko at his New York studio. 1960
Photo: A. Paschuk

Every book about twentieth century art mentions Alexander Archipenko. While alive, he was acknowledged as one of the most acclaimed sculptors in the world. His works are in collections at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, MoMa and Guggenheim Museum in New York, and at museums in Stockholm, Berlin and Tel-Aviv. Archipenko is a national artist in France, Germany and the United States where he lived and created. Notwithstanding this, with his unique art, he raised awareness of Ukrainian culture to a higher level more than any Ukrainian diplomat could have.

Archipenko was born in Kyiv, Ukraine in 1887. After studying painting and sculpture at Kyiv Art School, in 1908 he briefly attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. However, he quickly abandoned formal studies to become part of more radical circles, especially the Cubist movement. He began to explore the interplay between interlocking voids and solids and between convex and concave surfaces, forming a sculptural equivalent to Cubist paintings’ overlapping planes, thus revolutionizing modern sculpture. In his bronze sculpture Walking Woman (1912), for example, he pierced holes in the face and torso of the figure and substituted concavities for the convexities of the lower legs. The abstract shapes of his works have a monumentality and rhythmic movement that also reflect contemporary interest in the arts of Africa.

As he developed his style, Archipenko achieved an incredible sense of vitality out of minimal means: in works such as Boxing Match (1913), he conveyed the raw, brutal energy of the sport in nonrepresentational, machinelike cubic and ovoid forms. About 1912, inspired by the Cubist collages of Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, Archipenko introduced the concept of collage in sculpture in his famous Medrano series, depictions of circus figures in multicolored glass, wood, and metal that defy traditional use of materials and definitions of sculpture. During that same period he further defied tradition in his “sculpto-paintings,” works in which he introduced painted color to the intersecting planes of his sculpture.

Archipenko was represented in the New York Armory Show of 1913 and in many international Cubist exhibitions. In 1921 he moved to Berlin and opened an art school. During that time his works were as famous in Europe as those of Picasso.

In 1923, Archipenko immigrated to the United States. He established an art school in New York City, and in the following year, moved it to Woodstock, NY. Showing his broad interests and widely inventive mind, he created and received a patent for changeable pictures (peinture changeante) known as Archipentura and Apparatus for Displaying Changeable Pictures. Besides working at his art, Archipenko devoted much time to teaching. He was in constant contact with various universities, among them those in Oakland, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Chicago (the New Bauhaus School). In 1927 an exhibition of his works was arranged in Tokyo. In New York, he established a school of ceramics, Arko. In the 1930s, his work appeared in the Ukrainian Pavilion at the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. In 1947, Archipenko created the first sculptures out of transparent materials (plastics) with interior illumination (modeling light). In the following years, Archipenko tried his hand at moving figures, which were mechanically rotating structures built of wood, mother of pearl, and metal. At Biennale d’Arte Trivenata in Padua, Italy, he received the gold medal. In later years, he again concentrated on industrial materials, in which he demonstrated his taste for dazzling polychromy. Juan Gris wrote about Archipenko’s influence on the art of the early 20th century: “Archipenko challenged the traditional understanding of sculpture. It was generally monochromatic at the time. His pieces were painted in bright colors. Instead of accepted materials such as marble, bronze or plaster, he used mundane materials such as wood, glass, metal, and wire. His creative process did not involve carving or modeling in the accepted tradition but nailing, pasting and tying together, with no attempt to hide nails, junctures or seams. His process parallels the visual experience of cubist painting.”

Archipenko never severed his ties with his countrymen. During his first years in Paris he was a member of the Ukrainian Students’ Club; in Berlin, a member of the Ukrainian Hromada; and in the United States, a member of the Ukrainian Artists’ Association in the USA. He belonged to the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences and was an honorary member of the Ukrainian Institute of America where he was exhibited multiple times.

Archipenko died February 25, 1964, in New York.

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William Dzus, the “Ukrainian Henry Ford”

The founder of the Ukrainian Institute of America and inventor of the first quick‐acting fastener used throughout the world in making aircraft, William Dzus came to the US as an immigrant from Western Ukraine in 1913. Born in 1895 to a family of wealthy Ukrainian farmers in the village of Chernykhivtsi in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, William’s fate was foreseen as a life that called upon him to blend with the land, with his thoughts centered upon the sun and the flow of the rainfall that blesses or curses the fields. Instead, he was a child with extraordinary mechanical aptitude and a highly creative mind. He was fascinated by machinery, energy and motion. After deciding that he needed some better mode of transportation than walking 4½ miles to school, young Dzus set about building a bicycle… completely from wood!

He desperately desired the freedom to work at what he wanted to accomplish, the freedom to spend his time at things he enjoyed, the freedom to live in a democracy and the freedom to be free. Unfortunately, Ukraine, which did not have its own state at the time, could not offer him that. William spent hours dreaming of America before he finally arrived there as a boy of 18.

Hard work, immense curiosity and an irresistible desire to “do things better” brought him to a recognized career as an inventor that started in 1922 with the grant of his first patent for a lathe attachment. From then on, over a period of almost forty years, he continued to apply his mechanical skills, and originality to problem after problem.  His inventions, some of them revolutionary, earned him dozens of patents, among them for his fastening devices known today as Dzus fasteners. He believed that “the secret of fulfillment lies in finding out what you really want and then working to bring what you want to fruition.” William took great pride and satisfaction with the knowledge that allied planes in World War II were reinforced and made safer by his fasteners.

Perhaps even more extraordinary is the fact Dzus proved himself to be an extremely good businessman. With no background or training in business management, Dzus, like the musical genius, learned to play entirely by ear. But the fact remains that Dzus is one of the very few inventors who retained financial control over his inventions and managed to build a sound and successful organization – the Dzus Fastener Company, in West Islip, Long Island – to profit from.

With the end of World War II, William Dzus founded the Ukrainian Institute of America in 1948, for the purpose of promoting Ukrainian art, culture, music, and literature in the United States. At that time, the Ukrainian Institute was located in the Parkwood Mansion in West Islip. With increasing membership and growth, Dzus authorized Francis Clarke, treasurer of the Dzus Fastener Company, to look for new, larger quarters in New York City. The capacious Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion, with its prestigious address and unique architectural style, was purchased in 1955 by the Ukrainian Institute of America, with the generous support of William Dzus.

In his words, “the obstacles will become diminutive when you view them from the pinnacle of love for the work to which you have set your hand.”


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