University of Minnesota bug expert pleads for a free Ukraine

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Ukrainian-born Alexander Granovsky was a poet, painter, soldier in the United States Army during World War I, and a renowned insect expert at the University of Minnesota in the mid-1900s.

He pioneered the use of chemicals to control cutworms, larvae and potato bugs, and is credited as the first expert to call for chemically dusting forests from airplanes to curb infestations. He even has two species of aphids known as aphids named after him: Calaphis granovskyi and Drephanaphis granovskyi.

But Granovsky’s ardent advocacy for a free and independent Ukraine could be the cornerstone of his legacy. He visited refugee camps after World War II, recruiting about 5,000 displaced Ukrainian artists, scientists and carpenters to resettle in the United States, including about 100 families who ended up in Minneapolis, many of them in the North Quarter. -is. He was president of the Organization for the Rebirth of Ukraine for 28 years, making him a leader among Ukrainian Americans.

Granovsky died in St. Paul on his 89th birthday in November 1976. But his words from 82 years ago about Ukraine blocking ‘Muscovite aggression’ resonate today as the invasion Russian in his country drags on.

“A free Ukraine”, said Granovsky in 1940, “will be the only effective buffer between the two great imperialisms, Russia and Germany, which today constitute the greatest danger for all free national states”.

Halyna Myroniuk, a retired curator at the University of Minnesota’s Immigration History Research Center, knew Granovsky well.

“He would be very depressed by what is happening in Ukraine today and would be even more partisan,” she said from her home in St. Paul.

Myroniuk remembers having lunch at Granovsky’s on Scudder Street near U’s St. Paul campus shortly before his death.

“He always had a youthful sparkle in his eyes and that day over lunch he went over the details of all the projects he still had in mind,” she said. “He could be exhausting and was constantly on the move.”

The son of a farmer, Granovsky was born in what is now western Ukraine on November 4, 1887. He could read two languages ​​by the age of 5 and majored in sociology and economics in an institute in Kyiv.

Although he published poetry and short stories, Granovsky’s Ukrainian patriotism prompted the Russian authorities to ban him from working or studying in their schools. He therefore immigrated to America in 1913 at the age of 25, not knowing English.

“I’m proud that though I came to this country penniless, I didn’t come naked with everything,” he said in 1940. “I brought a few books, a few beloved pictures, a few pieces beautiful embroidery and I brought with me the cultural background of a thousand years.”

Discussing his dream of being a painter, Granovsky had just $120 he wrote for Ukrainian newspapers when he enrolled at the Colorado Agricultural College in Fort Collins, where he studied zoology and entomology. . When the United States entered World War I in 1917, he quickly enlisted and spent nearly a year in Europe.

He returned to America after the war, serving as a high school principal in Colorado and earning his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin before joining the faculty of the Department of Entomology and Economic Zoology at the University of Minnesota in 1930. He retired from the University in 1956. .

In a 1940 profile in the Minneapolis Times-Tribune, writer Vivian Thorp noted that Granovsky had developed an excellent reputation during his first 10 years at U among students and scholars.

“But it has a very bad reputation among Minnesota insect pests whose main idea is the ruin of our crops and our trees,” Thorp wrote. “Grasshoppers, leafhoppers, grubs and all their friends and relatives have cataloged him as public enemy No. 1. He has become very unpopular among aphids. … He qualifies as [a] a terror of the first order for all kinds of pests and glories in distinction.”

It should be noted that Granovsky advocated the use of the pesticide DDT to control potato bugs – a practice banned in the United States in 1972 due to its adverse effects on wildlife and potential health risks. human, including reproductive issues. He retired 16 years before DDT was banned.

Granovsky married Irene Thorpe in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, in 1928, and they raised five children. Although Irene was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, she enthusiastically embraced her husband’s Ukrainian activism.

“I take my hat off to my wife”, he said, for having grasped “the importance of the struggle of oppressed peoples”.

They attended a Ukrainian Orthodox church and collected colorful Ukrainian costumes and more than 700 decorated Easter eggs – folk art that symbolizes the rebirth of spring and a metaphor for her hopes for her homeland.

“God was too good to the Ukraine”, Granovsky told Thorp in 1940, “her very blessings of fertility and material wealth betrayed her”.

Curt Brown’s Tales of Minnesota History appear every Sunday. Readers can send him ideas and suggestions at [email protected] His latest book looks at 1918 Minnesota, when flu, war, and fires converged: strib.mn/MN1918.

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