Journey from camper to counselor

Courtesy of Steven Maksymowych Top: A view on the top of Giant’s Ledge after a three-mile hike. Middle: Steven Maksymowych and two other camp counselors wearing traditional Ukrainian clothing to an event. Bottom: Campers perform a dance and skit for another camp, which is followed by the exchange of gifts.

Over the long and relaxing summer, one of the many adventures that Steven Maksymowych ’18 embarked on was being a counselor for the older boys’ sub-camp at Plast Ukrainian Camp for three weeks.

This camp was exclusively for Ukrainian Boy Scouts, and the fact that the camp is Ukrainian is the heart and soul of the camp.

Everyone — campers, counselors and administration — speaks fluent Ukrainian. Maksymowych stated, “It is almost a prerequisite for being part of the camp.”

“At the camp, we try and speak as much Ukrainian as possible. All the commands, everyday talking and campfire songs are spoken in Ukrainian. We also have most of our events involve the cultural elements of the Ukraine,” explained Maksymowych.

At the camp there are many events that involve traditional elements of the Ukrainian culture.

One of these events is Ukrainian Night, where you learn how to dance traditional Ukrainian dances. Another event is Gypsy Night, where fortunes are read to the attendees of the camp.

One more traditional event is the sharing of stories. These stories are traditional to Ukrainian culture, and one of the ones they share is called “Ivana Kypala.”

“Every year each of the sub-camps are given a new theme. The commander of the camp decides this theme, or ‘tema,’ in Ukrainian. The commander will then come up with a theme song for each camp all written in Ukrainian, but put to a fun pop song, like ‘Brown Eyed Girl.’ They are very fun to perform. Each of the groups will perform the song they are given in front of anyone, and we try to include as many instruments as possible, since we don’t use speakers.”

For his group, Maksymowych used drums and played the violin. “It created a great sound,” elaborated Maksymowych.

The Plast Ukrainian Camp is broken up into four separate camps: younger girls, younger boys, older girls and older boys.

Which camp a camper is placed in is determined by his or her age.

“We try and stay away from technology as much as possible. The campers are not allowed to have any technology and the counselors only carry their phones for emergency situations. The older campers also live in military-style tents, with wood floors and an overhead light. The younger campers live in barracks so that they can have an adjustment period and be more prepared to take on more responsibility of being in the tent when they are older. Being away from all the technology is amazing. It is almost normal for me at this point, because I started going to the camp when I was six years old and attended for 10 years,” explained Maksymowych.

Being a camp counselor at the camp is a cycle most of the campers go through. The counselors that Maksymowych works with are his close friends and, in the past, were who he attended camp and grew up with.

“At first, when I attended the camp, I hated it. I was homesick and it was rough being away from my parents for three weeks when I was that small. However, as I got older and more independent, that feeling diminished and I loved it. The camp taught me how to be independent and helped me with my college transition,” explained Maksymowych.

At the camp, every sub-camp has a “Christening Night,” when all the other camps are invited to come to one camp and the hosting camp puts on a show.

The goal of the show is to explain the camp’s theme, and the campers do a performance that displays their theme to the other camps.

They also will sing the song the commander came up with. The camps that attend the hosting camp’s show also perform skits, usually to poke fun at the other camp. After, they will give a gift to the host, typically candy.

“My group did a skit that involved a lot of dancing because the counselors of the girls’ camp poke fun at the fact that we are very good dancers. Then, after the dance, we gave them candy. Overall, camp was a great experience, and I loved going through the evolution from camper to counselor,” Maksymowych stated.


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