“We will never forget you”

Plast Chicago commemorates the 50th anniversary of its scouting tragedy This year, June 28 brought the 50th sorrowful anniversary of the tragic evening when six scouts, attending Plast camp at a site in Wisconsin called Velykyj Luh, participating in an ill-conceived exercise, were pulled by the turbulent force of the current of the Wisconsin River to their deaths. Aged 12 and 13 at the time, they were Orest Kurylak, Roman Kuchma, Ihor Levytskyj, Orest Nikorowych, Yurij Prypchan and Oleh Sheremeta.

zavadowychMindful of the approach of this anniversary, the leadership of Plast in Chicago called on all its members to gather at St. Nicholas Cemetery and unite in honoring the memory of their departed colleagues. The solemn ceremony was scheduled for June 28, at 7:30 p.m., the exact date and hour the tragedy occurred. And with true precision, as the hour arrived, the group assembled near the central cross and heard the voice of Roman Zavadovych, head of Plast Chicago, call the opening of the ceremony. He welcomed the family members present, the sole remaining parent, Mrs. Luba Sheremeta, the brothers and sisters of those who perished, family members, survivors, and many others who had lived through an event that significantly marked the organization over the intervening years.


Zavadovych, who was assistant administrator at Velykyj Luh that year, read a brief reminiscence of the evening, recounting how the administration learned that something had gone very wrong, how the frantic rescue efforts were launched and continued through the night, and how the painful realization of the scope of the fatality unfolded.

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A curtain of silence hung over the gathering as Rev. Myron Panchuk began celebrating the panachyda service. Behind the altar, set with a cross and six votive candles, stood six floral wreaths, each with the name of one of the six boys. After the service, the group sang the Lord’s Prayers to the Plast melody. Father Myron, a member of Plast, spoke of the difficulty, even after this extended passage of time, of finding words of solace. At the order to present flags, the group joined in a sad and moving singing of “Eternal Rest.”

Then, each wreath carried by an honor guard, headed a procession of Plast units with their flags and the 200-plus assembled family and friends, to the graves, lined up in a row in the cemetery, many with identical headstones, where wreaths were placed at each grave. As family members lit a candle for each son or brother, “Eternal Rest” was sung again for each youth.

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Finally, the whole group formed a wide unbroken circle, holding hands, hand over hand, in the Plast nightfall tradition, to sing “Day is Done” (Taps). When they were done, the voice of a lone trumpet, played by a 10-year-old scout in uniform, sang out the same melody, as if reaching the six members of the “eternal campfire” as an assurance that “we will never forget them.”

As a symbol of remembrance, all members of Plast Chicago were given black ribbons to wear, for the next year, under their Plast membership medal, the “lelijka.”


Photographs from the Event


The following letter was received in the next few days:


In Gratitude

In this vein, with great emotion, I wish to voice my gratitude and convey to the leadership of Plast Chicago my sincere thanks for organizing and celebrating with dignity the honoring of the memory of those who perished at the campground on June 28, 1960, six youths, who were pulled by the waters of the Wisconsin River. They were Orest Kurylak, Roman Kuchma, Ihor Levytskyj, Orest Nikorowych, Yurij Prypchan and my unforgettable son, Oleh.

The reminiscence of Roman Zavadovych, the memorial service celebrated by Father Myron Panchuk, the procession to the graves, the laying of the wreaths, and in culmination, the formation of the Plast circle, in which were joined the hands of all the participants at the ceremony, numbering more than 200, and singing Plast’s “Day is Done,” concluded with the trumpet cal, demonstrated the true Plast fellowship and appropriately honored the memory of those who died 50 years ago, the youthful members of Plast. Sincere thanks,

A grateful Luba Sheremeta

The only mother to survive for this sad anniversary