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Memorial Day Celebration at the Town of Pulteney, NY, Glen View Cemetery

By Bill Weber

[Ed. Note: Former Town Supervisor of Pulteney, NY, Bill has been involved in civic activities there for many years. His Memorial Day speech is his latest service to the town.]

Welcome to the Town of Pulteney’s Memorial Day celebration. We are here today to honor the fallen soldiers of America’s wars and conflicts. On this day in 1868, General John Logan issued a proclamation commemorating the sacrifices of the soldiers and sailors of the Civil War. He called it Decoration Day, later to be termed Memorial Day. Over 600,000 men died in the battles and I am sad to say the United States has lost over 1 million men and women soldiers to date in a variety of wars and conflicts. The Town of Pulteney has contributed brave men and women to virtually all the conflicts and suffered loss of life by many of our town residents in service to their country.

As the war in Ukraine waged by Russia has gained our attention over these recent months in 2022, we feel a deep sense of connection by virtue of three Ukrainian men who came to America, became citizens and lived in Pulteney for the rest of their lives.

Konstantin Frank came here in 1951 via New York City and established the vinifera winery that bears his name. It is recognized as a world class producer of fine vinifera wines and is currently being managed by his great-granddaughter, Meagan Frank.

Myron Baran came here in 1948 and established one of Pulteney’s popular restaurants, called the Pine Grove. He was Town Supervisor and responsible for bringing municipal water to many parts of our Town.
Steve Boyetchco came here in 1948 and was a building contractor in Rochester before moving to Pulteney, living next to Myron Baran, meeting each other quite by accident while hunting near Myron’s house. They recognized that they had lived in Ukraine within 20 km of each other!

Before we examine the effect of the war on the Ukrainians today, we need to review the history of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, which is the second largest country in Europe, after Russia.

In 1905, Russia suffered a humiliating defeat in a war with the Japanese, which ended in a treaty crafted by US President Theodore Roosevelt. Imperial Russia was beset by internal turmoil until they entered WWI on the side of the allies against the Central powers dominated by Germany. By 1917, Russia had lost over a million soldiers and sued for peace with a treaty benefiting Germany. This series of events gave rise to the Bolshevik revolution/civil war, resulting in millions of lives lost. In 1922, the Soviet Union was created and 19 republics of the former Russian empire were incorporated into the USSR. This included Ukraine, which had only declared itself to be an independent republic in 1917. Needles to say, many Ukrainians were not happy to lose their independence, and many, especially in the eastern portion were pro-Russia and spoke Russian rather than Ukrainian. During the period 1930 to 1932, a great famine descended on the people of Ukraine, with millions dying. This famine was caused by Russia taking all of the grain grown in Ukraine for export to earn foreign currency for the struggling USSR. During this period, Konstantin, Myron and Steve were most likely children or young men, and managed to survive this horrible time. In June of 1941, Germany launched the greatest invasion in history and its army group south entered Ukraine. At first the Germans were greeted as saviors of the Russian oppression, but the killing of civilians and burning of the villages changed all that. I do not know what Konstantin Frank did during this time, Myron Baran had already left Ukraine and was living elsewhere in eastern Europe. But Steve Boyetchco, who was in the Ukrainian underground fighting the Germans, was captured, sent to Germany as slave labor and finally was able to come to America at the end of the war.

The times between the creation of the USSR by Lenin, Stalin as general secretary of the Communist party, the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, and the attempt by Mikhail Gorbachev to transform the Soviet Union to a more democratic society (only to be derailed by Boris Yeltsin), Ukraine declared itself to be an independent republic and was on the way to becoming a freer nation of Europe.

After 1991, relations between Russia and Ukraine were tolerable, but the eastern portion, being pro-Russian, saw continued conflict and loss of life in a virtual civil war. The rise of Vladimir Putin over the years from his KGB duties only created additional hardship for the Ukrainians, culminating in the invasion of the country in February of this year.

What should have been a warning of Putin’s intent to rebuild the former Soviet empire was the invasion of Chechnya and Georgia in 2012 and the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Now there is the invasion we’ve witnessed, and the heroic defense by the Ukrainians. It is both alarming and reassuring that the USA and NATO are assisting the Ukrainians in their struggle, with the threat of potential nuclear war started by Putin’s Russia.

In closing, I want to have us recognize that the Russians are not bad people; they are led and subjugated by persons as evil as Hitler, Stalin and the other ruthless dictators of history. I well recall a visit by some Russian engineers when I was working a lab in England. I started the tour by telling them I was American, and they were pleased to hear that – even in 1967, the height of the “cold war.” At the end of their tour, their leader gave me a medal (a common thing given to a tour guide, as a courtesy), so I reached in my pocket and gave him, in return, a Kennedy half dollar. He passed it around to his companions and, by their expressions, they were pleased to know an American and clearly revered one of our great Presidents.

So on this glorious day of honoring our fallen soldiers, let us not forget their sacrifices on our behalf and enjoy being Americans in this great country and wonderful community we call home.

We welcome your comments below.


  • Thank you. Very nice. Informative. My maternal grandmother grew up in a large Odessa family, was studying piano in London in her late teens, came to the US to visit an uncle just before WWI broke out and never saw her Russian family again. My maternal grandfather grew up in a small town just east of Odessa, became a pharmacist as a teen and emigrated to Chicago before the war, where he started a newspaper delivery business and worked his way thru Northwestern dental school. Their Odessa generation gave the world Isaac Babel, one of the century’s truly great writers🙏🏼

  • bill weber


    Thanks; it is clear many of us have relatives and/or know people of Ukrainian descent. It is a great country and I hope it survives and rise to its full potential beyond the grain production and heavy industry.