From 14-17 October 2023, twenty Ukrainian women’s organizations from around the world gathered for the XII Congress of the World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations (WFUWO). Representing UNWLA was President Natalia Pawlenko, 2nd VP Valentyna Tabaka and UNWLA immediate past president Marianna Zajac, who also serves as first VP for WFUWO. The Congress was an opportunity to both celebrate the 75th anniversary of the WFUWO and to hold the Second International Assembly “Ukrainian Women in the World”, organized by the International Institute for Education, Culture and Diaspora Relations (MIOK, Lviv, Ukraine).
“We were so inspired by this gathering of Ukrainian women from around the world and Ukraine”, said Pawlenko. “To be with so many who are focused on a swift victory for Ukraine, as well as preserving and promoting all that is Ukrainian, has been a true energy boost”.
Pictured: WFUWO Delegates (from left) V. Tabaka, N. Pawlenko, M. Zajac
The events took place in the Ukrainian National House in Przemyśl, Poland. The choice of the venue was a sign of respect and gratitude of Ukrainian women to the Polish people and nation, who from the first minutes of the invasion took in millions of Ukrainian families fleeing the war. Its proximity to Ukraine allowed dozens of women activists from Ukraine to join and contribute towards developing the future path of WFUWO.
Pictured: Pawlenko presents during WFUWO Panel discussion
The theme of the Congress – “United by love for Ukraine – for its victory and restoration” – was repeated throughout the panel discussions and presentations over the course of the four days. President Pawlenko participated in three panel discussions. Of particular interest to the delegates was the development of the American Coalition for Ukraine, co-founded by UNWLA in early 2022 and which now has over 90 member organizations, many of whom are not Ukrainian.
“It is especially powerful when non-Ukrainian organizations are engaged in the mission of advocating for Ukraine with their federally elected officials”, said Pawlenko.
The WFUWO was founded in November 1948 in the United States during the first World Congress of Ukrainian Women, convened by Olena Lototsky, then President of UNWLA and Iryna Pawlikowska, President of the Association of Ukrainian Women in Emigration in Germany. The Congress, held in the Adelphia Hotel in Philadelphia, brought together over 100 guests and delegates from the USA, Canada and Europe, representing a score of Ukrainian women’s organizations from various countries of the Ukrainian diaspora, some existing since the 1920s, other founded by those recently displaced by the Second World War.
United by their concern for their homeland which in the aftermath of the war had come fully under Soviet rule, the women resolved to join together in a worldwide voluntary federation through which they would strive to empower Ukrainian women in working towards the future emancipation of their nation.
Pictured: WFUWO XII Congress 2023 participants
“The last face to face meeting of WFUWO member organization representatives took place more than four years ago in L’viv” observed Marianna Zajac. “ So, this year’s gathering was long overdue and filled the void of camaraderie so needed during this horrific time in Ukraine’s history. As Chair of the Congress Organizing Committee, I and committee members faced a myriad of challenges but our community partners in Peremyszl helped make this historical event a resounding success.”
We look forward to the next steps in the work of WFUWO and anticipate a collective call to action that will unite the myriad voices of Ukrainian women from around the world in defense of Ukraine and its people.