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Ukrainian Village Credit_ ablokhin_edite

UKRAINIAN VILLAGE

By Rosalind Cummings-Yeates

Lined with simple brick row houses and townhomes, Ukrainian Village, located in the West Town area of Chicago, gives off an understated vibe. But as home to one of the country’s largest concentrations of Ukrainians, the neighborhood displays plenty of historic and cultural significance.

Waves of History:

Chicago’s first wave of Ukrainian immigrants arrived between 1880 and 1910, establishing a network of informal groups centered in Ukrainian Village, and the second wave came between 1920 and 1939 after Ukraine’s declaration as an independent nation. The second wave of immigrants established five Ukrainian Catholic churches, including the striking St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, a multi-domed Byzantine landmark modeled after the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Kyiv and serves as the heart of the community.
 

The third wave of immigrants landed in the neighborhood between 1948 and 1955, right before the Soviet Union’s takeover of Ukraine. This wave was responsible for forming youth groups, cultural centers, and the Ukrainian National Museum, a vital institution for preserving folk traditions. The fourth wave of immigrants came during the 1980s and ‘90s after the fall of the Berlin Wall, bringing contemporary political aspects of Ukrainian culture to the Windy City.
 

The deeply evolved concentration of Ukrainian history in the neighborhood led to the establishment of the “Ukrainian Village” name in 1983. Today, the Ukrainian presence stretches well beyond the neighborhood, as the Chicago area boasts the second-largest Ukrainian population in the U.S. Despite moving to other neighborhoods, Ukrainian Village remains the spiritual epicenter for Chicago’s Ukrainian populace.

Saints Volodymyr & Olha Ukrainian Cathol
Mural by Rodrigo Oñate Roco  Credit_ Te

Sacred Architecture: 

Architectural hallmarks of Ukrainian Village include its ornately designed churches showcased with golden domes, murals, mosaics, chandeliers, and elaborate stained glass windows. A glimpse of these buildings and their 11th-century Byzantine designs give the impression of the churches having been dropped into Chicago from a small Eastern European village. 
 

Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral is the only house of worship still intact of two designed by the acclaimed “father of skyscrapers,” American architect Louis H. Sullivan. Equipped with financial backing from Czar Nicholas II, the congregation hired Sullivan in 1902 to build the church, inspired by Russian Provincial and Byzantine styles. The building has a bell tower over the front entrance, roof peaks dotted by Russian crosses that reach into the clouds, and a dramatic octagonal dome, and its walls are covered with mosaics, intricate wooden carvings, and murals. 
 

Saints Volodymyr & Olha Ukrainian Catholic Church is housed in a distinctive structure shaped like a cross. Topped with a gleaming gold dome, the church displays a colorful mosaic over the entrance, which depicts Ukraine’s Christianization. Even the layout of the building is symbolic, with the western portion representing the darkness of the unredeemed world — the only light filtering in comes from vibrant stained-glass windows adorned with portraits of saints. The eastern end is splashed with light, punctuated by the altar and encircled by a hand-carved oak screen called an iconostasis.
 

St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral sits in dazzling Neo-Byzantine splendor with 13 green cupolas capped with shining crosses that symbolize Christ and his 12 apostles. Soaring above the street, the cathedral displays a mosaic of Our Lady of Pochaiv above the entrance and an icon of patron Saint Nicholas just over the artwork. The interior boasts vividly colored mosaics against a sky blue and gold backdrop. The cathedral’s highlight is a nine-tiered golden chandelier dangling from the church’s highest dome, which shines with 480 lights and features the 12 apostles surrounding the exterior. The cultural and spiritual center of the community, St. Nicholas also houses an elementary school.

Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art  Credi

Ukrainian Heritage Highlights:
Opportunities to connect with Ukrainian history and culture are everywhere in this laid-back, tree-lined enclave, whose old-world charm co-exists with Chicago’s modern urban essence.

 

Start at the Ukrainian National Museum, which has showcased Ukrainian artifacts, folk traditions, and art for 70 years. This small museum has cultural treasures like pysanky (delicately etched Easter eggs), ceramics, photos, traditional costumes, and antique embroidery. Monthly events include artist talks, book signings, and community roundtables.
 

The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art focuses on the art of Ukraine-born and Chicago-based Ukrainian artists and Eastern European masters like Wassily Kandinsky and Călin Alupi. The museum serves as an educational center for emerging artists and hosts panel discussions, readings, concerts, and film screenings. For tangible treasures, visit Delta M, the oldest and largest Ukrainian shop in the U.S. At the shop, browse through an immense collection of handcrafted traditional goods, including tableware, jewelry, clothing, religious items, textiles, and more.

Dining:
Hearty, gut-busting food is a signature Ukrainian cultural experience. Restaurants, bakeries, and cafes serving traditional dishes line the streets of Ukrainian Village. Trying to decide can be overwhelming, but several beloved spots are always satisfying.

 

Old Lviv transports you to your Ukrainian grandmother’s kitchen with a homey atmosphere and a selection of Ukrainian dishes made from scratch. This family-owned diner offers borscht (beet soup), varenyky (dumplings), liver and onions, and stuffed cabbage. 

For over 65 years, Ann’s Bakery & Deli has been perched on a prominent neighborhood corner. It serves much more than flavorful European rye bread and traditional pastries. It’s also a community hub that offers a feeling of home for many Ukrainian transplants. The soups, smoked fish, and Ukrainian dishes are well prepared, and there’s also a grocery store selling hard-to-find Eastern European products.
 

A stylish eatery filled with Ukrainian art and photos, Tryzub Ukrainian Kitchen serves Ukrainian cuisine with an updated twist. The borscht is served in an upside-down goblet and garnished with pork, peppers, and cucumbers, while the varenyky is stuffed with fermented green kraut. The menu is innovative and tasty, but the real standouts are the infused spirits and cocktails with ingredients like juniper thyme and rhubarb lavender.

Ukrainian Soup Credit_ ALLEKO_edited_edi
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