Sokil

In 1912, the Ukrainian Scouting Organization, Plast, was officially formed in the occupied city of Lviv. Young boys, spurred by World War One and a newfound freedom, joined Plast and attempted to defend Ukraine against the Red Army. 1918 marked the start of decades of Russian and German occupation where Plast was banned, but continued to operate secretly and illegally. During this time the organization’s fundamental guide, Life in Plast, was written which outlined the laws, regulations, and codes that are still followed today. Plast regained popularity after World War Two, building camaraderie among women and in displaced persons camps as masses of Ukrainians, including my grandparents, re-settled internationally. Eventually, permanent diasporas were established, most of which promoted Plast as an active organization by holding weekly meetings and establishing summer camps. This perseverance – or anxiety of amnesia – to sustain traditions that were once banned in Ukraine is the guiding force of my Ukrainian-American community.

Noviy Sokil is a Plast summer camp outside of Buffalo, NY, where I spent over twelve formative years and where my family has sent generations of plastuny, or campers, since the 1950s. These photographs are part of an on going study of the deliberate formal and conceptual structure of the scouting rituals, and the unchanging acres of land where they occur. My lens captures the familiar schema, the exactitude of repetition, and the sacred real estate in rural western New York State. This project connects my experience to the current consciousness of Sokil's ever-present Ukrainian nationalistic activity, albeit a sort of theatrical re-creation, which guides young scouts through levels of traditional decree that are vastly lost in contemporary Ukraine.  These works establish a space to reflect upon the thinning threads of connection from the participants to a distant foreign homeland and back to their American lives.