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A fighter for equality and a descendant of the Kozaks: the story of the first Ukrainian political refugee in the United States

155 years ago, the first Ukrainian political refugee, human rights activist Agapiy Goncharenko arrived in the United States. This is stated in the video "Voices of America".

From his printing house in San Francisco, he sent literature forbidden there to the Russian Empire. It is believed that it was he who convinced the US government to buy Alaska from the Russians.

Subsequently, Agapiy acquired a plot of land in California, called it "Ukraine". And although he associated himself with Ukraine, the Russian community of the United States claimed its origin.

Ukrainians from California at the state level have achieved recognition of Goncharenko as a leading American figure with Ukrainian roots.

About an hour by car from San Francisco, a group of Californian Ukrainians gather in a regional park. They go on foot to the officially recognized reserve "Ukraine".

The first political Ukrainian immigrant, Agapiy Goncharenko, is buried in this land.

Agapiy Goncharenko (real name Andrey Gumnitsky) was born in the Kiev region in 1832 into a family of descendants of Ivan Bogun, a Cossack commander from the time of Bogdan Khmelnitsky.

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After graduating from Kiev Theological Seminary, Agapiy became a priest in the Kiev Pechersk Lavra. Since then, he began the struggle for the equal rights of people.

“At one time he was an active fighter for the rights of people, opposed serfdom, opposed the use of serf labor by the church. For this, the Russian Orthodox Church persecuted him, ”says Yury Babkov, the former consul of Ukraine in San Francisco.

Goncharenko was appointed a priest at the Embassy of the Russian Empire in Athens, but in 1860 he was accused of writing anti-royal literature and arrested with the intention of sending to Russia.

Agapius managed to escape to London, and subsequently fate brought him to the United States.

“After the Russian Orthodox Church persecuted him even in the United States, he was forced to leave his parish in San Francisco and acquire a small piece of land nearby, which is very similar to the hills of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra. Here he created a church where he married, baptized people for almost 35 years. " - says Babkov.

He continued to rally around himself opponents of the tsarist regime, and called for equal rights.

It is believed that it was Agapiy who was one of those who persuaded the US government to acquire Alaska from the Russians.

He also issued the first newspaper of the new state, Alaska Herald, in which he published the works of Taras Shevchenko.

Since 1966, the Ukrainian community launched a campaign to proclaim the farm a historic landmark. However, this had to be fought, because the Russians claimed the origin of Agapia.

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“To say that he is Russian is horror. It took time, but now it’s the Ukraine Park, as Agapiy called it, ”says activist Maria Cherepenko.

After many years of efforts in 1999, the Agapiya Goncharenko farm, which is now located in the regional park, was officially recognized as a historical monument of California. Since then, local Ukrainians have come to his grave to commemorate the fighter for freedom and equal rights.

Here Agapiy Goncharenko lived for 43 years, is buried next to his wife Albina, whom he survived for 1 year.

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