Magazine article American Forests

Healing the Soil, Healing the Earth

Magazine article American Forests

Healing the Soil, Healing the Earth

Article excerpt

What inspires a person to be kind and generous after enduring poverty, cruelty, and loneliness? The story of Jerry Chlypniacz - a native of Ukraine who has raised more than $4000 for AMERICAN FORESTS' Global ReLeaf for Chernobyl project - answers that question.

Chlypniacz, 74, lives outside Chicago, and the first impression he makes is one of exuberance, enthusiasm, and energy. A thick Ukrainian accent punctuates his speech, giving his words a sing-song liveliness reminiscent of a child whose imagination knows no bounds.

"My goal is to plant one million trees," he says. "Trees give life. They control temperature. They help clean the air."

Chlypniacz grew up among the thick pine forests of western Ukraine's Carpathian Mountains and remembers talking with his father as they walked hand-in-hand through the woods. But this idyllic life was cut short when the Soviets invaded during World War 11. Chlypniacz, then 21, and his father abandoned their home and fled to a train station at the Hungarian border. They lost sight of each other in the confusion, and Chlypniacz was injured and taken to a hospital. He never saw his father again.

After he recovered, Chlypniacz made his way to Strasshof, Austria, and eventually to a displaced persons' camp in Landeck, Austria. The camp offered little for a young man's curious mind, so Chlypniacz searched for solace in the surrounding mountains.

"We were in the Tyrolian Alps. It was very beautiful," he says. "And I could see that the people who lived there had a special respect for their environment and worked at preserving it."

Moving to Chicago in 1949, Chlypniacz became a plumber's apprentice, joined civic groups and a local church, and acclimated himself to life in the States. But he never forgot what he had endured. When he saw an article in a Ukrainian newspaper about the Chornobyl memorial grove in a Florida Global ReLeaf Forest, it struck a chord. …

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