When you leave Cleveland for the suburbs, perhaps the last thing you expect to find is a slice of another country nestled along the streets. In 2009, the suburban municipality of Parma to the southwest of Cleveland officially recognized its long-standing settlement of Ukrainians, giving them a "village" of their own. Ukrainian Village, located along a two-mile stretch of State Road, had been the vision of Ukrainian Americans since the 1940s. The rise of suburbs began to push them out of their original enclave in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood, setting the stage for the emergence of the vibrant community that is present today.
In the late nineteenth century, immigrants of all walks of life arrived in Cleveland because of many different factors. Ukrainians were escaping political and economic hardships by coming to the United States, looking for work in any shape they could find. Ordinarily, they took up various jobs in Cleveland’s thriving industrial plants and mills. These jobs helped them to save money to send back to their relatives in the “old country.” They ended up establishing cultural and religious centers that have changed over time yet still stand as strong symbols of Ukrainian pride.
Ukrainian settlement in Cleveland began in Tremont. The community began to put down roots in order to keep their memories and customs from home alive. The first of these Ukrainian institutions was the Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Church, built in 1910 on West 7th Street. Shortly after, St. Vladimir Church was also established in Tremont. The first few years of worship took place at Craftman’s Hall on West 14th Street. In 1933 the congregation's original church building was dedicated. It still stands on West 11th Street but it is now the Spanish Assembly of God Church. In 1967, the St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Parma was opened for worship. Its shift from Tremont to Parma reflected the trend of people moving to the suburbs after an influx of immigration, pushed by the Holodomor (famine) of the 1930s, German occupation of the Ukraine during World War II, and displacement under Stalinist rule in the Cold War era.
Churches like St. Vladimir’s were the anchor of the Ukrainian community. Not only did they provide a sense of community in a new and strange country, they also kept the cultural of the old country alive. One of the many new organizations was the Ridna Shkola, a school teaching heritage, language, and customs to the youth of the community. Today, classes are held at St. Josaphat Cathedral on State Road.
Churches are not the only anchors of Ukrainian culture in the Ukrainian Village today. Many shops, such as Lviv International Foods and State Meats, offer a taste of the ethnic fare unique to many people. These places, among others, serve as the backbone of the Ukrainian community. In 2007, the board of trustees from St. Vladimir’s Church asked the city of Parma to hang decorative banners and to dub State Road Ukrainian Village. First, however, much work had to be done, including landscaping, restoring storefronts, and placing banners and murals to signify the village’s presence. The vision came to life only a year and five months after work began. Ukrainian Village was officially dedicated on September 19, 2009, and was celebrated with a festival, religious services, and a parade.
The lasting legacy of the Ukrainian immigrants can be viewed not only through Ukrainian Village, but also in Tremont where some of the original settlements still stand. These institutions, regardless of their locations, stand for the progress of a people and the achievements they have made.