Michael Hanusiak, a lifelong activist and leader in the Ukrainian progressive community, died on Oct. 11, 2006. He was 93.
Hanusiak was born in 1913 in New Haven, Conn. As a child, he was surrounded by progressive politics. He attended a school run by the Zaporozska Sich, a progressive Ukrainian workers’ organization and a section of the Socialist Party’s Ukrainian Federation. There he studied Ukrainian and joined the school’s drama club.
In the mid-1930s, Hanusiak toured much of the U.S. with the Russian National Mutual Aid Society, a left-wing, Russian American fraternal organization.
It was during these years that Hanusiak joined the Communist youth movement. He later joined the Communist Party USA, ultimately serving on the party’s national committee, its national groups commission, and the New York party’s state committee.
The mutual aid society eventually merged with the International Workers Order, a Communist-led organization that provided low-cost health and dental insurance to workers. The IWO also operated a string of free clinics for workers and the poor and a progressive children’s camp.
Hanusiak became an IWO children’s activities organizer in Western Pennsylvania, and moved up the ranks, becoming an organizer for all of West Virginia, eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, and vice president of the IWO’s Ukrainian-American Fraternal Union.
Through the work of the fraternal union, Hanusiak was able to visit the Ukraine, then a socialist republic of the Soviet Union. Though he had spent his whole life working in the Ukrainian American community, this was the first time Hanusiak had ever been able to visit there.
He was regarded as a friend of the Soviet Union, particularly the Ukrainian Republic. When he turned 75, Hanusiak was awarded the Order of Friendship of the Peoples by the chairman of the presidium of the Ukraine’s Supreme Soviet.
An opponent of anti-Semitism, Michael spoke at and participated in an international symposium on “The Lessons of Nuremberg” held in Moscow in 1986. Along with Sam Pevezner of the Jewish Cultural Clubs and Societies, he wrote the pamphlet “Lest We Forget,” which detailed the war crimes of Ukrainian fascists during the German occupation in World War II.
Hanusiak, who spent decades working for Ukrainian American newspapers, exposed a number of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators who were living in Ohio at the time, based on his research in Soviet archives.
Hanusiak went on to become editor of the Ukrainian News, one of the last ethnic Ukrainian newspapers in the U.S.
The editors of the People’s Weekly World will miss Hanusiak and the Ukrainian News. Hanusiak often worked closely with the PWW in developing his paper’s editorial content, sometimes reprinting stories from these pages. He was also a generous financial contributor to the PWW.
In the words of his wife Genevieve, Hanusiak “leaves us a legacy of work and perseverance, of conviction and humor, and of principle and resolve.”
She said her husband “spent his life working and fighting for the betterment of the working-class people — and peace.”