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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Season's Greetings!

To all those celebrating the holidays according to the Gregorian calendar:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

To hear the sounds of the season, tune in to Nash Holos Sunday evenings at 6 pm PST on the radio dial AM1320 (97.5 Cable FM) or the internet live stream. Or download the audio archives and listen anytime. Ukrainian Christmas and New Year's carols will be broadcast on programs from Dec 21, 2008 - January 18, 2009.


Out here in Lotusland, we don't normally get a lot of snow, so I'll make sure to get out and enjoy our "marshmallow world"!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tribute to a Ukrainian poet and patriot

A friend brought to my attention this article about Ukrainian poet Moisei Fishbein, formerly of Radio Liberty. Although an Israeli citizen (he emigrated in 1979 to avoid conscription into the KGB), Fishbein considers himself Ukrainian and is a staunch defender of all things authentically Ukrainian. Especially the language:

Watching this language being maimed is unbearable. To me it's like watching a person under torture. Out in the street or in a subway car, hearing someone speak good Ukrainian, I feel like walking up and embracing the person. ... I also know Russian, English, German, Hebrew, and several Slavic languages, but will never allow myself to use Russian in Ukraine. It's a matter of principle, a matter of survival of the national language and culture. In other words, a matter of survival of the Ukrainian spirit and Ukraine as such. ... Once I called my friends from Germany and told them, "Get me out of Germany and to Ukraine." Now I say, "Get me out of Kyiv and to Ukraine." I am suffocating in this city, with its Kobzon and Rybchynsky culture.

I am not sure what he means about "its Kobzon and Rybchynsky culture" but I'm guessing it means Russian chauvinism.

... I was outraged to hear President Kuchma greet Yan Tabachnyk at a televised banquet, addressing him in Russian. I am not against Russian as such, but the Ukrainian President simply has no right to appear on national television speaking another language.

We have grown so accustomed to idiocy we no longer seem aware of its manifestations. ...

He's certainly not alone in holding the notion that there is nothing wrong with Russian, as long as it's not used to bludgeon other languages and cultures into oblivion.

It was especially encouraging to read this well-known and well-respected poet's perspective on anti-semitism in Ukraine:

... [I]f you remember my recent soiree at the Kyiv Mohyla Academy, Ukraine's Chief Rabbi Jacob Dov Bleich and Metropolitan Ivan Shvets sat side by side. By the way, neither Symon Petliura nor Stepan Bandera were anti-Semitic. Ze'ev Vladimir Jabotinsky, one of the founders of Zionism, said, "I ask you to inscribe on my gravestone that here lies a man who was friends with Petliura." Petliura gave orders to execute those who committed pogroms. Likewise, in the Soviet concentration camps Ukrainian and Jewish political prisoners were always the best of friends. ... Some are anxious to build Ukraine's pogromist image. I remember hearing on Radio Israel that an explosive charge was discovered at the Kyiv synagogue on the date of referendum when people voted for independence. It was a bomb planted not so much at the synagogue as at the foundation of Ukrainian independence.

So much for Ukrainians being "genetically anti-semitic", as some in the MSM would have the world believe. From the day I read the Diary of Anne Frank while attending Sacred Heart Academy in Yorkton, SK, I believed that Jews and Ukrainians had such similar histories of persecution, and that if we joined forces we would be a power to be reckoned with. (Obviously, hostile forces that work to pit Ukrainians and Jews against each other recognize that potential as well.)

I hope that someday I will have the privilege of shaking the hand of this amazing man, and expressing to him my appreciation for his deep and abiding love of my ancestral homeland.

I am convinced that Ukraine is a land given and chosen by God. It will survive no matter what, because such is His Will. How do I, a Jew, know this? I don't know how, but I know.

The full article can be found here. A very inspiring read!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Roman Shwed's radio program

Roman welcomes his guests is a lovely hour-long weekly radio program of music and interesting commentary with host Roman Shwed.

I had the good fortune to meet this charming Ukrainian-born, American-raised Ukrainian patriot at Kupidon bar in Kyiv this past September. (Many thanks to Vasyl for arranging the meeting.)

I'd love to return to Kyiv and spend much more time chatting with both of these wonderful guys. But until then, I'll have to content myself with following Vasyl's blog and tuning in to Roman's program which airs here Thursdays at 5 pm. Kyiv time.

The first time I tuned in was to a program that Roman pre-recorded, to air when he was off to the U.S. for a high school reunion. What I found particularly delightful about that program (which was a tribute to Kvitka Cisyk) is the way he discussed the music ... the song itself, the artist, the mood it creates, even the effect that Ukrainian music has on listeners.

The commentary was completely in Ukrainian, but he speaks at a nice, normal pace that North American Ukrainians are used to ... unlike at the frenzied double-speed that many Ukrainian commentators have taken to, and that even the fluent amongst us have trouble following because it's so fast! He also throws in an English word or two which is quite fun. :-)

You can catch Roman's program here.

To listen, you'll need to download RealPlayer, otherwise you'll get a "Web page cannot be displayed" response. Once you do connect, sit back and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Petition to revoke Duranty's award

A petition is going round to demonstrate public sentiment regarding the New York Times' stubborn regarding its refusal to return the Pulitzer Prize awarded to its discredited reporter, Walter Duranty:

To: The New York Times

This year, 2008, is the 75th anniversary of the "Holodomor," the genocidal famine in which up to 10 million Ukrainians died in 1932-33. It behooves The New York Times, whose reporter, Walter Duranty, received a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 and thereafter lied deliberately about the Holodomor, to return his prize. With every day that Duranty's Pulitzer remains with The New York Times, the stain of Duranty's lies spreads ever wider.

The Pulitzer organization refuses to revoke the award, but there is no reason the NYT can't return it in a gesture of goodwill and a demonstration of its commitment to integrity.

You can sign the petition here.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Documentary Film: The Soviet Story

This just in by email:

Watch: A Soviet Story

This documentary film by a Latvian director shows how the Soviet Union helped Nazi Germany instigate the Holocaust. Furthermore, it’s a documentary about the Soviet crimes against humanity and its own people.

More importantly, it underlines the similarity of Soviet and Nazi regimes and undisputed ways of how they helped and supported each other.

It ends with a conclusion of how Europe lacks political will to fully condemn Communist crimes against humanity. With Germany and Russia building gas pipelines together, it is difficult to imagine one being vocal against the other, and requiring e.g extradition of former Soviet KGB interrogators who tortured many people to death. They continue to live in Moscow as decorated veterans.

“The Soviet Story” is directed by Edvins Snore, who spent 10 years gathering information and two years filming in several countries. Among those interviewed in the film are Western and Russian historians, as well as survivors of the Soviet Gulag.

This is not a pure documentary and not a pure scholarly work. It injects drama and cinematography that goes beyond what we usually see in documentaries.

I watched the first 20 minutes and will be watching it all with hubby on the weekend. What I saw of it was heartbreaking, but I think it's important to broaden one's knowledge of the awful details of the communist regime. This film certainly starts out doing that.

It's narrated in English and contains a lot of archival documentary footage. There are a few eye-witness accounts that don't have English captions for the Ukrainian-impaired, but the tone of voice, gestures, and footage get the basic point across.

It's about 85 minutes in length, and can be viewed online and/or downloaded.

Get it here, or here. If you do watch it, I'd be interested in your thoughts on it.

Update: Make sure to buy a copy of this film, as by doing so you will support the film-maker, and encourage the production of similar films. Buy additional copies to give as gifts to friends and family, and/or as donations to schools and libraries. Purchase details are here.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

True patriot shames Canada's self-serving politicians

It is no wonder Canadians are becoming as enamoured of our politicians as Ukrainians are of theirs.

I have long had my own thoughts about the political direction of this country, and thought it prudent to keep (most of) them to myself and off this blog. However, the recent idiocy in Ottawa has driven me to break from that tradition.

My intention was to write a diatribe, but nothing I could write would improve upon a letter sent by a retired admiral to two MPs, Minister Gary Lunn and Liberal MP Keith Martin. It was a heartfelt (if probably futile) appeal for help in getting our politicians to display some maturity and dignity, as well as respect for their office and fellow Canadians.

A copy arrived in my email box yesterday shortly after I heard the author read it on the Roy Green Show on a local radio station yesterday (Saturday, Dec. 6). It was also written about here.

I was discussing it today with a dear friend, a retired senior officer from the Canadian Reserves, who also received an email copy of the letter.

He has a message for the instigator of this disgusting debacle: "Jack Layton, stop pulling Dion's strings."

He remarked that Layton has been planning a coup d'état since October when we last went to the polls. I checked around and found that he was right... although this article (and some of the comments) gave me the distinct impression that this isn't the first time the flamboyant NDP leader has cooked up a coup.

I have a message of my own for Mr. Layton, but it is not polite and definitely not printable. Suffice to say that his comments on air gave me a distinct feeling of déja vu ... right back to the election campaign trail.

To me, there is something inherently chilling about a politician who has no respect for any electoral outcome that doesn't favour him or his preferences. (It's also chilling that even after supporting the government's decision to declare the Holodomor a genocide, some of his party's most fervent supporters appear to be genocide-deniers mourning the death of Stalin(ism), but that's another story.)

Then there's the Man-Who-Would-Be-Prime-Minister. Another one who can't accept the will of the electorate when it is not to his liking. A few weeks ago he threw in the towel as leader of the Liberal Party, but jumped at the offer of a plummier job...especially as it came without the need to subject himself to the nuisance of winning an election. What a patriot.

As for the third member of this destructive, self-serving troika, all I can say is that as a Canadian nationalist, I have never had much use for the Blockheads.

In the end, tho, the fault for this mess really lies with the Canadian electorate. And especially, those Canadians eligible to vote who chose to avoid the polls on October 14th. Of any of us, they have the least right to complain about the government they left the rest of us to collectively decide on.

And as for the current chaos in Ottawa, those on either side of the coalition debacle who did vote do have a right to complain. But big deal. Why not do more than complain? Why not, regardless of your support for or opposition to this coalition, at least closely consider the single issue that succeeded in getting such politically disparate parties in bed together?

Ask yourself: what momentous national concern could unite staunch centrists, socialists, and separatists? Was it a human rights violation? Fiscal irresponsibility? Abolition of unions and/or universal health care?

Heavens, no. Nothing so trivial as any of the above.

It was the earth-shattering prospect of losing a few million tax dollars allocated to their collective political troughs. (Quick, can anyone say "corporate welfare"?)

Just remember, tho, that Canadians voted these jokers into office, either by voting or by abdicating that civic responsibility. Furthermore, some of us even approve of paying for their campaigns with the hard-earned tax dollars of our fellow Canadians, some of whom definitely don't support them.

You want a taste of genuine love of country and democracy? Then read this letter written by someone who truly believes in serving his country, rather than his own ambition and political ideology.

Read it and weep. Because if the leaders (and backers) of this coalition have their way, a taste may be as much democracy as you and I will be enjoying in the near future.


As you both may be aware I contributed financially towards your recent re-election - not because of your Party affiliations but because I know and respect both of you.

Regretfully, I am too old now to serve Canada in any political capacity. However, I did serve faithfully for 38 years in the RCN and the Canadian Armed Forces - including in NDHQ, as a Rear Admiral and Vice Admiral, where I had the honour to serve both under Liberal and Conservative Ministers of National Defence. In every instance they received my complete respect and loyalty regardless of Party.

My father also served in Canada's Navy for 37 years from 1909 to 1946. He commanded several RCN ships and both coasts, and was ultimately the Commanding Officer Pacific Coast during the last three years of World War II.

His father was Speaker of the House of Commons, during the Laurier Government, then was Minister of Inland Revenue, then Minister of Marine and Fisheries (in which capacity he became the founding Minister of the Royal Canadian Navy), then served as Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, and ultimately died in office as Lieutenant Governor of Quebec. He devoted his entire life to Canada.

On behalf of three generations who have devoted their lives to Canada, I unequivocally condemn the power grabbing political charade now taking place in Parliament.

We are witnessing a deplorable and juvenile scene which demeans its participants, and also further erodes the residual prestige of a Canada which in both World Wars achieved greatness and international respect.

Politicians and their sycophants delude themselves into believing that Canada has influence and prestige in the modern world. Compared to the Canadian international influence and prestige I witnessed in the 1950's we have become moralizing nonentities who are recognizably no longer even capable of constructing our own warships, submarines and military aircraft; and will soon become totally dependent on other nations for even our means of defence

When a terrorist crisis hits Canada - and someday it undoubtedly will - the politicians will scurry about seeking who to blame for lack of capability or preparedness. I can save them the trouble - look in the mirror! Make it a long look if you come from the NDP - the political party which has consistently opposed defence spending over the past three decades.

So this obviously dysfunctional consortia is about to approach the Governor General seeking her concurrence to form the next government? Ask yourselves how Her Excellency will be able to reconcile the fact that Canadian soldiers, of whom she is the Commander-in-Chief, are fighting, and dying for Canada in Afghanistan; while Canadian politicians are obsessed with power grabbing. Our military are not stupid - how long can they be expected to put their lives on the line under those circumstances

There was a stunning contrast yesterday between the statesmanship displayed by President-Elect Obama with his National Security Team and the complete lack of statesmanship in Canada's Parliament. A great many Canadians will have noted that contrast and be disgusted with Canada's politicians.

I realize that you are only two Members of Parliament among many. I can only hope that my words and my respect for you may assist you in bringing your colleagues to their senses.

Nigel Brodeur

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shame on NY Times for 75 years of genocide denial

Well, if Canadian papers are starting to get it right, it seems their esteemed colleagues south of the border are still getting (and giving) it wrong.

William F. Jasper writes in New American:

The New York Times prides itself on being the national "newspaper of record" and still carries its longtime motto, "All the News That's Fit to Print" in the upper left-hand corner of its front page. If we are to believe the Times' motto, the week-long Holodomor commemoration didn't take place, or at least it didn't qualify as "news." A search of the Times website — using both visual scan and their own search engine — yielded zero results for current or recent stories. ...

There was plenty of Times coverage of other breaking European and World "news" on November 22: an increase in boar hunting in Germany, the semi-retirement of famed French chef Olivier Roellinger, Russian President Medvedev's trip to Venezuela, an inquiry into the alleged crimes of General Franco in Spain during the 1930s, etc.

The Times neglect of the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor is especially inexcusable, inasmuch as the Times served as an indispensable handmaiden to Stalin as he carried out this horrendous crime against humanity. While the communists carried out the mass annihilation of the Ukrainian farmers, the Times assured the Western world that all reports of starvation in Ukraine were merely anti-Soviet propaganda. ...

The Times' defense in recent years — that Duranty pulled the wool over the eyes of the Times — is shown to be likely false. The Gordon Dispatch indicates that it was the Times itself, not merely Duranty, that was responsible for the pro-Stalin, pro-Soviet slant in the Times' pages. But in the case of Holodomor the Times was guilty of far worse than "slanting" the news; it was a willful collaborator in a "crime of the century," a willful collaborator in blatant propaganda to cover up that crime. The Times has never mentioned the Gordon Dispatch. ...

As far as the Times is concerned, apparently, they will be airbrushed out of history, along with the Holodomor commemoration this year and the original victims of the Holodomor 75 years ago.

Full article here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Canadian media finally acknowledging enormity of Holodomor

What a difference 25 years makes.

I recall during the 50th anniversary commemorations in Winnipeg there was a lot of disbelief in media circles about the facts surrounding the Holodomor. That media disbelief is described pretty thoroughly in this article originally published in The Ukrainian Weekly.

... On this gruesome anniversary, the Ukrainian community in most Canadian cities fought an uphill battle in getting the newspapers and television stations, especially the CBC, to inform the public about this almost unknown genocide. "Too academic," "too historical," not newsworthy enough," "we can't mark every anniversary that comes along" and "that issue has been well-covered in the past" were the replies of a Winnipeg Free Press city editor to inquiries why events related to the anniversary were not reported. Only one letter to the editor was printed at the time, even though many had been sent in. It took a whole month of inquiries at first, then downright badgering by angry individuals before the Winnipeg Free Press printed three articles about the Famine [April 9, 1983]. Ironically, after all that, one of the articles carried the headline "Famine in Stalin's Russia [sic]." A separate box carried the statement:

"Few events of such enormity have attracted so little public clamor or more press apathy that the government-programmed famine which led to the extermination in 1932-33 of 8 million people in Ukraine. The Free Press was a party to this apathy -- in the years immediately after the famine and in efforts this year to publicize its 50th anniversary. Editors took for granted it was a matter best left to history books and academics, ignoring much significant
new research on the subject. Readers have noted the shortcomings. These pages acknowledge it."

Fortunately, these days there seems to be less press apathy, as this recent Winnipeg Free Press editorial illustrates.

Based on the numbers alone, body for body, victim for victim, murder for murder, the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933 may be the single greatest crime against humanity that has ever been committed.

... [The world] is a worse and more dangerous place ... because of the continuing refusal of many people, many governments even, to acknowledge that the Ukrainian Famine occurred and that it was a deliberate act of genocide committed by Stalin and the Soviet government against the Ukrainian people. ...

There is, and never was, any rational reason for accepting the Stalin line on the Ukrainian Famine, yet the West eagerly bought into it, and many people still do. The time has past, however, when honest denial of the Holodomor is possible, just as honest denial of the Holocaust is no longer possible. The Famine, too, should be engrained in our conscience and our consciousness lest we remain its accomplices.

Full editorial here.

Also this weekend, the National Post newspaper published an article about two British journalists, Malcolm Muggeridge and Gareth Jones. These two men courageously reported the truth of what was happening in Ukraine in 1932-33. For their efforts, Muggeridge lost his job and Jones lost his life under "mysterious" circumstances.

... They told the truth when all around them their press colleagues were inadvertently (or, in one case, deliberately) misleading the public.

Gareth Jones ... found people starving everywhere he went, and he wrote about it. The Western press corps, mostly confined to Moscow ... rejected Jones's reports.

As the world now knows (although it took more than half a century and the opening of Soviet archives to confirm), approximately 10 million people were deliberately starved to death by the collectivization policies pursued by Joseph Stalin...

[I]n the spring of 1933, young Malcolm Muggeridge ... described a man-made famine that had become a holocaust: peasants, millions of them, dying like famished cattle, sometimes within sight of full granaries, guarded by the army and police. ...

Few believed him. ... He was sacked by the Guardian and forced out of Russia. He was vilified, slandered and abused. Walter Duranty's voice led the chorus of denunciation and denial, although privately Duranty [said] at least 10 million people had been starved to death ...

Beatrice Webb -- Muggeridge's aunt by marriage, and a longtime Soviet apologist -- said that Muggeridge's famine reports were "base lies." The very Reverend Hewlett Johnson, Anglican Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, from the pulpit praised Joseph Stalin's "steady purpose and kindly generosity." George Bernard Shaw made a whirlwind tour of Russia and pronounced himself satisfied that there was ample food for all in the worker's paradise.

Vindication for both Jones and Muggeridge was a long time coming. ... Today, 75 years later, vindication is complete, as [they] posthumously receive the Ukrainian Order of Freedom. If there is a comparable Award for journalistic integrity, they deserve that too.

Full article here.

Maybe one day, denying that the Holodomor happened, and/or that it was a genocide, will be universally considered a hate crime, just as Holocaust denial (rightly) is today.

I just hope it doesn't take another 25 years to progress to that point.

American astronauts display good taste in music

According to a NASA report issued last Friday:

... Endeavour crew members, Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Eric Boe and mission specialists Don Pettit, Steve Bowen, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, Shane Kimbrough and Greg Chamitoff, and the station crew, Commander Mike Fincke and flight engineers Yury Lonchakov and Sandra Magnus, were awakened at 8:05 a.m. CST.

The music was for Piper. The song was in the Ukrainian language, which she learned as a child. It was "Unharness Your Horses, Boys," ... performed by The Ukrainians.

The full NASA STS-126 Report #14 report can be read here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

New award for multiculturalism announced

The Canadian government is honouring the memory of the "father of multiculturalism" with the annual Senator Paul Yuzyk Award for Multiculturalism, which will be presented each year to an individual or an organization that has demonstrated excellence in promoting the multiculturalism for which Senator Yuzyk stood.

The announcement was made by Jason Kenney, Canada’s Minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism at the Canadian Club in Winnipeg on Nov. 13, 2008.

Yuzyk was undoubtedly inspired by the prescient words of Governor General Lord Tweedsmuir (John Buchan), who in 1936 told a Manitoba audience from the Ukranian community that “You will all be better Canadians for being also good Ukrainians.”

Paul Yuzyk paid tribute to the French and British founding, and the Aboriginal peoples who were here before. But he added, in his maiden speech in the Senate in 1964, that “with the setting up of other ethnic groups, which now make up almost a third of the population, Canada has become multicultural in fact.”

He became known as the “father of multiculturalism.”

Today, to perpetuate his memory, and to strengthen the vision of “unity in diversity” to which he was so devoted, I am pleased to announce that the government is creating the annual Paul Yuzyk Award, which will be presented each year to an individual or organization that has demonstrated excellence in promoting the multiculturalism for which he stood..

The full transcript of Kenney's speech can be found here.)

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress sent out a press release today welcoming the award.

"Senator Yuzyk is widely regarded as the chief architect of Canada's multiculturalism policy and it is fitting that this award be established in his memory," said Paul Grod, President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

Senator Yuzyk was appointed to the Senate of Canada by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, becoming the first Ukrainian Canadian to achieve this honour. He served in Canada's Upper Chamber for 23 years, until his death in 1986. Senator Yuzyk was born in 1913 in Pinto, Saskatchewan. His encounters with discrimination as a young teacher in search of a teaching position, which he was denied because he was a 'foreigner,' forged his determination to seek recognition for non-British, non-French-Canadian citizens. In his maiden speech in the Senate, entitled "Canada: A Multicultural Nation" he voiced the concerns of many ethnic groups that Canadians must accept the fact that Canada is not a country of two solitudes. Multiculturalism was the subject of rancorous debate until 1971, when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced an official policy of multiculturalism.

"Our community eagerly awaits the announcement of further details and looks forward to honouring the first recipient of this award," said Grod. "We commend Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, for recognizing the contribution of Senator Yuzyk to Canada."

One of the things that struck me in Kenney's speech is the emphasis on how well Ukrainians have integrated into mainstream Canadian society. While I appreciate the kind words, as someone who can be considered a "born-again Ukrainian," I see this high praise as somewhat of a "positive spin" on past societal pressures to assimilate. Especially since there was no mention made of them, or the personal consequences suffered by many Ukrainian Canadians... particularly those by Sen. Yuzyk.

But aside from that, I had a bit of a deja vu feeling. Back in about 1991, I recall his Conservative predecessor, Gerry Weiner, saying his government was getting away from funding support for "3D multiculturalism" ... the 3 D's standing for "diet, dress and dance." Kenney just used a different alliteration and a warmer, fuzzier delivery for what seems to be essentially the same message and overall philosophy. (Which, I might add, the Liberals were all too happy to adopt as their own.)

Some have said that the multiculturalism of the 1970’s was about food and folklore.

Now, as you can tell, I’ve had my share of great ethnic cuisine. And we all get a kick out of celebrations like Winnipeg’s famous Folkorama. (Prime Minister Harper certainly enjoyed his visit to the Filipino pavilion this year).

But today Canada’s cultural communities are strong enough to stand on their own, and showcase what’s best about their cultures, without depending on government handouts.

And today many of those communities are so robust that there may be a temptation amongst some new Canadians to stay within their familiar social and cultural networks, rather than venturing out into our broader society. Staying within what academics call “ethnic enclaves.”

But that would impoverish us all. It would be like a Folkorama where everyone just stays put in their own pavilions, all the time. And that wouldn’t be much fun.

But having criss-crossed this great country; having attended hundreds of events and talked to thousands of new Canadians, I am certain of this: we all want a multiculturalism that builds bridges, not walls, between communities.

We want a Canada where we can celebrate our different cultural traditions, but not at the expense of sharing common Canadian traditions.

Well, if "Canada’s cultural communities are strong enough to stand on their own" these days ... particularly the Ukrainian community, it's certainly not due to a lot of "government handouts" in the past for "food and folklore" type of celebrations.

It would be nice if that little fact were acknowledged ... and perhaps that stronger government support of Canada's cultural communities (including ethnic ones) might help along that integration process today that he is calling for. A warmer, fuzzier approach to encouraging assimilation, perhaps. And that, I think, would be a good thing.

But lest I be accused of "looking a gift horse in the mouth" I tip my hat to minister Kenney and prime minister Harper for the commendable gesture of creating this award. To their credit, this government has so far been much kinder to Canada's Ukrainian commmunity than previous ones have been.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Canuck is a Uke from Saskatchewan

Darcy Hordichuk is an exciting team addition for Canuck fans of Ukrainian descent, and of special pride to those who hail from Darcy's hometown of Kamsack, Saskatchewan ... or thereabouts.

This dedicated, determined professional athlete is drop-dead gorgeous and by all accounts an all-round nice guy well-loved by fans, friends and family. According to this article, he is also very proud of his Ukrainian small-town roots ... much to the chagrin of his wife who can't seem to get the hang of Ukrainian cookery.

Q. You're from a Ukrainian background and you love your perogies and cabbage rolls and borscht. Is your wife also of Ukrainian descent?

A. No, she's got some Swedish in her and some Irish. She's an American, from Fresno, California...

Q. Have you managed to convince her of the delights of Ukrainian food? Is she a fan?

A. Oh, yeah. That's one of the things you have to do if you want to be a Hordichuk. You have to like my Baba's cooking... It's tough on my wife because I want her to make the perogies and borscht and she can't do it quite like Baba. The standards are pretty high.

Hmm, well I suppose he could always suggest she try volunteering for a local perogy supper to get some experience... :-)

He's a pretty scrappy guy with a (well-deserved, apparently) rep as a brawler. If that sort of thing turns your crank, he's got a fight gallery on his website. Here's a recent scrap:

Personally I think brawls tend to kill the momentum of the game but I also appreciate that for a lot of hockey fans fights make the game. So I guess the NHL has found a balance of sorts...

But being a pacifist, I was pleased to see that Darcy has a softer side that has him keeping in touch pretty regularly with his fans via his website and blog, as well as the Canucks players blog.

And another surprise - he's an unabashed, outspoken Christian. He tells the story of his life, career, and faith here:

This season is turning out to be pretty exciting for Canucks fans, after a dry spell following the end of the Bertuzzi/Burke era. So I'm looking forward to seeing more of Darcy and his team-mates on TV. And who knows, maybe he'll bring the missus to a perogy supper somewhere in Metro Vancouver one of these Fridays. (You can find out where there are, and when, at the NH website.)

From Australia, with ignorance

Everyone in the entertainment and media world is all abuzz about the new Bond girl, Olga Kurylenko.

Understandable. The lady is undeniably gorgeous, and she got to play a rather unprecedented role... her character doesn't sleep with 007 and apparently is cast as a more than just another great body pretty face.

But come on. What kind of a lame title is From the Ukraine with love for this article?

It's understandable that media writers and/or editors would try to be cute and capitalize on a pop culture metaphor like the title of a well-known and related movie, "From Russia with Love."
News flash: It's 2008. Putting "the" in front of "Ukraine" is as dated as the movie the title refers back to.

No wonder the newspaper industry as we know it is dying. Isn't the "news" supposed to be, well, new?

Oh well. Long live the blogosphere!

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to seeing Quantum of Solace, blunders notwithstanding. Bond films are so entertaining.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Russia dubs Holodomor commemorations "Ukraine's Great Famine stunt"

Wow. There's certainly little respect for the dead (specifically, Ukrainian dead) in Russian political circles, as illustrated by this article in the publication Russia Today.

[Russian president] Medvedev says it’s completely unreasonable for Kiev to describe Holodomar as a deliberate genocide against the Ukrainian people when a full and independent inquiry into the tragedy is yet to be carried out.

Well what, one may ask, have they been waiting for? It's been 75 years! But, interestingly enough, Moscow politicians haven't exactly been leading the charge for any inquiry into why, in the glory days of soviet communism, millions of Ukrainian food producers starved to death in a single year.

Much research actually has been done by many highly-credentialled and independent non-Ukrainian and non-Russian scholars and experts. The material is readily available for the use of this yet-to-be-formed inquiry and it would no doubt add some fullness to the records Moscow is still keeping under wraps.

For starters, they can send their independent inquirers to sites like this and this to start their quest for truth. Because, of course, for a full picture they would need to get all sides of the story, right?

Assuming, of course, they have any interest in any one else's side of the story.

Which may be debatable. Given that the successors (and would-be revivors?) of Russia's old gory glory days feel compelled to enter a public debate. This is the best they can do to rebut the experts:

Extreme drought and forced nationalisation of land and property are thought to be the main reasons behind the tragedy.

So there you go. Mix in a bit of truth (nationalisation of land and property) with total bunk ("extreme drought") for a 21st century stalin-era agit-prop remix.

Well, maybe that little teeny bit of truth is as much independence of thought as they can tolerate.

As for Ukrainians, after 75 years, there is no hope of anything like a Nuremburg trial ever bringing the perpetrators of this genocide to justice. They're all long dead. But after 75 years, you'd think at least the people alive today would stop the genocide denial.

What would it hurt to say "Vichnaya pamyat"? And/or maybe even "We're so sorry for your loss and will ensure nothing like that happens again"?

Yeah, well. Dream on, I guess.

Original article (and links to more like it) can be found here.

In the meantime, here's an independently-produced video with some links to resource sites... for inquiring minds genuinely interested in a full picture of this genocidal tragedy.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Return to Paradise

The other day, Molly Anne Warring's 3rd book in her Paradise Acres series arrived in the mail. After dinner, I sat down with it and a cup of tea, intending to thumb through it for a few minutes to whet my appetite for a more leisurely read later. Several hours later (and way past my bedtime), I had finished the book ... still in the same spot and my tea long gone cold.

There are few books that will keep me glued to a chair when bed is beckoning, just so I can find out "what happens next." But I could not bear to put down Return to Paradise until I did.

Such fascinating and well-developed characters and situations ... the crazy American woman, those hillbilly horse-whisperers, the black lady lawyer, the Native family, the seedy trucking tycoon, the madame, the priests, the cops and spies ... not to mention of course the main cast of Stry-Ker family members, their growing fortunes, and all the family dynamics. Some of the scenes are seared into my memory bank, particularly the wild one where the cursed Rolls Royce exploded. That story line alone would make a great Hollywood horror flick. (Gave me the chills, that's for sure.)

I liked how the story was placed in the context of Canadian historical events, such as the Air India investigation and political regime changes. I found it added depth to the storyline and colour to the historical events. Nice touch to wrap up the trilogy with a Stry-Ker returning to Ukraine.

Another emotional roller-coaster ride, with an entertainining mix of happy, sad, and mysterious characters and events in a unique western Canadian setting.

List price: $19.95.
Publisher: Borealis Press
Format: Trade Paperback
Published: August 1, 2008
ISBN: 9780888873651

The other titles in the trilogy are Paradise Acres and Lost Paradise. The set (or any individual novel) would make an ideal gift. Books can be purchased through Chapters as well as Borealis Press and Molly's website.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Antresol café in Kyiv

This article in the Kyiv Post certainly brings back memories!

Antresol cafe, a downtown hangout for intellectuals and book fans

While most city cafes offer food and drinks, others can entertain you in other ways. ...

Antresol, a book cafe on the corner of Khreshchatyk and Taras Shevchenko Boulevard, focuses mainly on literature, although you can also purchase DVDs, exhibited photos and paintings there, as well as choose funny presents designed by Artemiy Lebedev’s studio. ...

Even when passing Antresol in the street, you cannot help noticing the place is special ...

I can personally vouch for that! I was there on my first full day in Kyiv with my sisters and nieces. Fellow blogger Vasyl recommended meeting there, and it was a great way to be introduced to the city. (This photo of Vasyl and me was taken in the mezzanine of the Antresol café.)

While it was a bit disappointing that the staff spoke only Russian and there were no traditional Ukrainian items on the menu, nonetheless the place is very quaint and charming. My sister the teacher was fascinated with the concept of a book café. Being a writer and avid reader, so was I! Altho at the time we had no idea such a thing existed...

All literature sold at Antresol is managed by a so-called “librarian,” an assistant sitting at the entrance near the book shelves. He or she will help you to choose something from fiction, science, books for children, and books in foreign languages. There are also some Ukrainian magazines lying in a pile on the cashier’s desk and on the bar ... The library at Antresol is regularly supplied with new additions, which are advertised on a special page in the menu and exposed on the front shelf. ...

You can borrow any of the books to read while you're there, and if you choose so, you can buy it. The prices are lower then [sic] those in central book stores, as books are usually not brand new – someone has scanned through them before you. ...

Besides literature and films, Antresol boasts a wide choice of dishes and drinks as well, though the prices are rather high for a cafe – tea for Hr 35 is an expensive addition to regular book readings...

We kind of thought so too. Although we didn't have tea, we had lemon juice instead. A bit of a surprise, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post. But we all enjoyed the salad we ordered. (I can't speak for my renegade niece who ordered grapefruit juice and went next door for some fast food.)

I love the idea of a book café. Here at home, I suppose Chapters comes close, although it's sort of the reverse ... a (huge) retail book store with a coffee shop attached, with literature as well as menu items on the pricey side. And, there are no flowers growing on windowsills. In stark contrast, Antresol offers essentially second-hand books and a much more integrated, intimate experience. Very European.

Vasyl said that Antresol is one of his favourite eating places, and it's easy to see why. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, and while I'm no intellectual I do love books so, if I lived in Kyiv I'd probably spend a lot of time there too!

Full article here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Vancouver audio archives updated to October 26

Vancouver's Ukrainian radio audio archives are now completely up to date at the Nash Holos website! This includes Chetverta Khvylia.

On Nash Holos, a crop of new Ukrainian music this fall. So we've had several CD of the Week features in the past few weeks.

First, on Oct 12, was Anytchka, of Lviv, with her latest release Дзвони Лемківщина (Bells of Lemkivshchyna). This is a lovely collection of Lemko folksongs in Anytchka's inimitable, sunny-sounding style.

Next, on Oct. 19, we featured Zubrivka of Toronto, with their brand-new debut release, Знову Вдома (Home Again). This collection of traditional folksongs is a very skillful blend of old and new musical styles that comes together to create a contemporary sound that retains a distinct ring of authentic folk tradition. Delightful!

Last Sunday, Oct. 26, we featured The Female Beat of Winnipeg, and their CD ... and the beat goes on. This is a group of very talented and charming women who are (as far as I know) the only all-girl polka band around. And yes, I mean a rip-roaring, foot-stomping good old polka band. And they are good!This CD of the Week feature included an interview with the gals of The Female Beat when I was in Winnipeg on my way home from Ukraine last month. This photo was taken at the home of Joan Lasko, shortly after we chatted and enjoyed a wonderful dinner. L-R: Gail Koroluk (violin), Joan Lasko (accordion), Pawlina, Joyce Horn (guitar), Valerie Feniuk (drums).

The interview is on the Nash Holos website here, and program archives are here.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Beautiful churches in Kyiv

Here are a few pix of some of the churches, cathedrals and monasteries I visited in Kyiv.

Pecherska Lavra, Monastery of the Caves: This was our first tour in Kyiv and I was surprised at the size of this amazing church. There seemed to be quite a bit of it that was off-limits. However, we covered a lot of ground nonetheless. We went into the "caves" where the saints were buried. I felt very much the foreigner. I couldn't help thinking how sad it is that I (like so many of my Canadian Ukrainian compatriots) grew up in this faith, yet came here to where it all began, not knowing even the proper protocol of venerating these saints, let alone about their earthly lives and why they ended up as saints.

We also saw the Scythian Gold art exhibit somewhere in here, which I found utterly fascinating. So much wealth for what has (in my experience anyway) usually been referred to as a "peasant" nation! We were taken on a trip through time starting with the prehistoric era of the Sycthians,, then on through the golden era of Kyivan-Rus followed by the rich (literal and symbolic) heritage of the golden age of the Ukrainian church. As usual, not nearly enough time to savour the experience.
St. Sophia Cathedral: Although this church is now just a museum, and not an active church, it still had an incredible spiritual "pull." None of us wanted to leave because we all felt like we were in this wonderful bubble of serenity and peace. On top of that, it is gorgeous inside. As well, it was awesome to learn the historical details and see some very old relics. Coming from Canada, where 90-year-old buildings are classified as "heritage buildings" it was a real treat to see such old stuff. I did visit St. Sophia's in 1984 and from what I can recall, there has been a fair bit of restoration done to it since then.

Ukrainian Greek Catholic cathedral & administrative headquarters: It's still under construction, but there's what I assume is an artist's rendering of how it will look when finished here. (The website also appears to be under construction, and the English version is gone.) This is what it looked like when I was there:

Here's the chapel that is being used while the cathedral is being built. Not very big but nonetheless impressive in its beauty.

We were told that the original chapel "mysteriously" burned down and had to be rebuilt. We were also told that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is not particularly popular in Kyiv, at least in religious circles. (No connection to that fire, I'm sure...)

Apparently this is Orthodox territory and there's a lot of infighting amongst them as it is (Kyivan Patriarchite, Moscow Patriarchate and Ukrainian Autocephalus Patriarchate all duking it out over the real estate) ... without adding yet another contender to the mix. So the Catholics as new kids on the block aren't finding any red carpets rolled out for them.

Well, all I can say about that situation is that it's a good thing the Lord Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven. Because otherwise He'd be getting downright dizzy spinning in His grave.

But, there's no denying the buildings are gorgeous, inside and out. Here's an interior shot of that chapel; we arrived just as Divine Liturgy was ending so we had a chance to go inside, enjoy the peacefulness and beauty, and take some photos.

This is St. Michael's Golden Domed Monastery. This 11th century treasure was destroyed by Stalin (along with much priceless, ancient artwork) and rebuilt after Independence in 1991. It is stunningly beautiful inside of course, and the sight of it from the street was quite striking.

Equally striking, I thought, was the sight of elderly ladies standing outside the entrance of this magnificent building, begging. While it is wonderful that these glorious churches that were destroyed by the soviets are being rebuilt, how can the irony be lost on those who (re)build them that money is so readily available for golden domes but not for poverty-striken women? One could ask, WWJD? And would He approve? I suppose elderly Ukrainian women are at least fortunate that they're not on the radar of human traffickers. (Some great fortune, but no doubt any trafficked young woman trapped in a faraway brothel would gladly trade places.) As the song goes, when will we ever learn?

I don't recall the name of this palatial building which was nearby (I'm taking notes for sure next time I go!) but it was so majestic-looking that I had to get a shot of it.

Next to the church was a commemoration of the Holodomor. We were told that such ceremonies are ongoing in this 75th anniversary year of the soviet-engineered genocide by famine of Ukrainians in 1932-33.

More Kyiv pix to come...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Our excursion to Kaniv

On Friday, my last full day in Kyiv, our tour group went on a day trip to Kaniv, the final resting place of the revered Ukrainian bard Taras Shevchenko.

This was the view from the monument over his grave. It was all he ever wanted in life ... to gaze at his beloved Dnipro and the lands and horizon beyond it. But he was denied that simple pleasure by tsarist Russia which kept him in exile, and in chains.

Isn't it bizarre (and sad) how a powerful imperialist regime could be so threatened by a poet whose words just encouraged the Ukrainian people to be proud of their language, their history and their heritage, that they persecuted him for his entire life?

Obviously there is something to that Ukrainian proverb: В руках поета-героя, дуже небезпечна зброя. (The hand of a poet can be a dangerous weapon.)

Below is a snapshot of the actual monument itself. Our tour guide told us that originally there was a large cross marking the grave, but the soviets took it down and replaced it with this statue. It would seem the successors of the tsarist regime were similarly threatened... by a religious symbol.

This is the tour guide (I think his name was Danylo Victor) who took us around the park and told us about the life and times of Taras Shevchenko. His English was impeccable and he had us all spellbound. I knew that Shevchenko was an accomplished painter, but I hadn't actually seen much other than poor reproductions of his self-portraits. Danylo Victor showed us some nice photographs of Shevchenko's paintings. He was truly brilliant.

This is the house of Shevchenko's childhood. We were able to look, but not actually go, inside the rooms. Some beautiful artifacts were on display...

Quite a lot of exquisite embroidery and paintings.

Here's a close-up of the thatched roof. Quite intricate, and obviously required a fair amount of skill!

Outside the хата were some simple, but beautiful gardens. The kalyna was so striking that we all had to take close-up shots of it. (I was tempted to snitch a berry and taste it, but didn't dare...)

Isn't that a brilliantly beautiful fence for the flowers?

Our next stop was lunch in the restaurant at the hotel on the premises. But first, a detour. We had all heard about the possibility of encountering toilets that weren't exactly what we're used to, and that were essentially just holes in the floor. We came prepared with our own paper and little bottles of hand sanitizer, but weren't quite sure what to expect.

So we lined up, and when it was my sister Marilyn's turn, she handed me her purse and coat, rolled up her sleeves, took a deep breath, then said: "OK, I'm ready" ... and with great resolve and determination, marched into the cubicle. This is what she saw:

Well, I figured I could do it, too. So, I followed in my sister's footsteps. Literally. But it would seem I may require a bit more practice to be able to consistently aim straight. (OK guys, you just go ahead and laugh. You couldn't possibly relate...)

Anyway, I must say I was just glad to have been wearing leather (i.e., washable) sandals and bare feet! Actually, there was lots of water and altho it smelled like an outhouse, the facility was actually reasonably clean.

It was very nice to see several groups of schoolchildren visiting the monument with their teachers, and learning about this important figure in their history.

As you can see, the wonderful weather that greeted us a couple of days earlier was long gone, so we didn't linger much outside.

After our delicious lunch we boarded the bus and headed back, past fields of corn and sunflowers growing in rich chernozem ... the fabled black earth Ukraine is famous for. And, having spent many childhood years on a Saskatchewan farm with a very well-used stone boat, so much rich soil with not a single stone in sight was quite amazing to see.

And speaking of sights, more to come...

Monday, October 13, 2008

More low-cost airlines to fly in Ukraine

Having just recently returned from Ukraine where I experienced a domestic flight, I was quite intrigued to read this article in the Kyiv Post:

Several low-cost passenger airlines hope to launch flights in Ukraine within weeks, offering less expensive direct flight tickets between Kyiv, European cities and Dubai.

...Transport Minister Vinskiy said the new October arrivals will “increase competition” on a market dominated by two domestic airliners – Aerosvit and Ukraine International Airlines. ...

In negotiations with airlines wanting in on the Ukrainian market, Vinskiy said the government seeks competitive ticket fares, new aircrafts and contemporary services such as online booking.

... The influx of fresh competition and its big expansion plans for Ukraine does not have the country’s leading airlines in a panic. They claim to already be functioning as low-cost airlines...

Full article here.

Having once worked in the Canadian airline industry (the former Canadian Airlines International and predecessors) for many years, it was interesting to travel on a domestic flight in Ukraine and draw some comparisons ... especially to my last domestic flight(s) on Aeroflot back in 1984.

This time I flew on Aerosvit, from Kyiv to Simferopol in the autonomous Ukrainian republic of Crimea. (That's me in blue, in one of my better head shots.)

It was a Boeing 737, an aircraft I am very familiar with. The interior was starting to show signs of wear, and there was no bridge so we had to take the stairs up. However, the in-flight service was excellent and the flight was smooth and uneventful. (The best kind!) The flight attendants were attractive, smartly uniformed and distantly professional. They reminded me of the "good old days" in the airline biz, before the advent of wise-cracking, casually dressed flight attendants.

They had their work cut out for them when we landed, though. No sooner did we touch down (quite smoothly, btw) than we saw several passengers around us whip out their cell phones and start gabbering away (in Russian of course). And right after the captain asked passengers to remain in their seats and refrain from using electronic devices - including cell phones! - until the aircraft had come to a complete stop. Sigh.

OK, so it's not like that doesn't sometimes happen here. But then some yahoo got up and opened the overhead bin, left it open and then opened another one across the aisle! Hello??? We're still moving, dude, and at quite a speed.

We heard a yell from the back and the male attendant (a burly blond hunk) came rushing up, snapped the bins closed and politely shoved the bozo back in his seat.

I felt like clapping and yelling "Bravo!" ... but managed to restrain myself. (Just.) I really wished they would have gone after the cell phone yakkers as well, but that would probably have been too exhausting, not to mention an exercise in futility.

With this experience, I was starting to understand why Ukraine is having a hard time getting into the EU. If that lingering soviet mindset isn't holding the country back in its development, it sure isn't helping move it forward.

Maybe with an influx of low-cost airlines, air travel will become more common and eventually help to straighten out bozos who think safety rules are for other people. (Ditto for staying awake on the job...)

Some neat people and things I saw in Kyiv

I was in Kyiv Sept. 10-13, with really only two full days there. Not nearly long enough!

We were supposed to arrive mid-day on Sept. 9 and have 3 days in Kyiv. But a delay on our Air Canada flight to Toronto from Winnipeg (where I hooked up with some family members and the tour) resulted in missing our connections on Austrian Airlines from Toronto to Vienna and Kyiv. So we spent an extra 24 hours enroute, with two overnight stays (such as they were) in Toronto and London, and much sleep deprivation.

However, we finally made it ... and lucked out on the weather. It was warm but not hot, about as perfect as you can get.

Kyiv (and especially Khreshchatyk) was nothing like I remembered, only а bit like I expected, but all I hoped for ... and more.

What an incredible city! So vibrant and colourful, teeming with life and an air of hopefulness that I didn't detect back in 1984. It helped that this time I knew some locals (thanks to the internet!) and was able to hook up with one, and meet even more.

After getting my mom and myself settled into our room at the Hotel Rus, my first order of business was to call my fellow blogger and good friend Vasyl... who was a little concerned that I didn't call as promised on (what was supposed to be) my first day in Kyiv. But we connected and agreed to get in touch the next day, after our tour of the Pecherska Lavra (Monastery of the Caves).

I had heard enough about "proper attire" from friends including Orysia and Myrna. My nieces, however, were under the impression it was ok to wear slacks, as was their Baba. After we took a family group picture, some Russian Orthodox nuns walked by and gave us a dirty look. Shortly afterward my jeans-clad niece said one of them beat her with a cane! Seriously. She thought it was just a jostle at first, but after 3 hard whacks on the leg she figured it was deliberate. So I was very glad I wore a skirt and a scarf!

When we got back from the tour, we wondered what to do for lunch. I called Vasyl and he suggested meeting at a favourite restaurant of his, called Antresol. My sisters and nieces came along and we all ordered the duchess salad, which Vasyl recommended (and which was quite delicious.) To drink, we all (except for one wise niece) ordered what we thought would be some nice fresh-squeezed lemonade ... you know, the kind you get at fairs and exhibitions here at home?

Well, silly us. We forgot we were far from home.

What we got was fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Pure, plain, pucker-powering lemon juice. It was drinkable once the waitress brought us a pile of sugar cubes and some water. (What she must have thought of us crazy Canuck women is anyone's guess.) In our defence, none of us could speak a word of Russian beyond "dosvidannya" (not a very helpful word in that situation). Likewise, the poor waitress spoke neither English nor Ukrainian. Nor could anyone else ... until Vasyl got there. All in all, quite the experience and a lesson remembered for the rest of our trip!

Looking a tad jet-lagged there and having quite the bad hair day. But, as you can see, happy to be there and finally meeting Vasyl in person. (And none the worse for the lemon juice.)

After lunch Vasyl showed us some sights along Khreshchatyk, including the Maidan ... a.k.a. Independence Square (where the famous Orange Revolution took place) and what he said locals call "the chick on a stick"...

Afterwards, he very gallantly took us shopping. All five of us. (Brave man!) I needed batteries and (obviously) a hair dryer, so he took us to Цум which he said locals consider a sort of bargain store.

Good grief. Army & Navy and Wal-Mart are bargain discount stores! This store reminded me more of the old Eaton's, only glitzier. It was amazing what we saw there, from cosmetics to appliances, jewellry and lighting fixtures to fine china and wine and spirits. The store was brightly lit, immaculate and just a joy to be in. It's hard to think of Цум as a descendant of the soviet-era Ґум, which I visited in 1984. (And which more closely resembled Army & Navy ...)

This was the one in Moscow in 1984, but I don't imagine the one in Kyiv would have looked much different. The modern-day Kyiv descendent Цум is a lot more fashionable ... as are the shoppers! (Orysia warned me before we left that these days most Canadian tourists tend to feel quite frumpy in comparison to the locals ... and, as usual, she was quite right.)

After I got my batteries and hairdryer, my sister and nieces wanted to shop for clothes and shoes so Vasyl, my other sister and I left them at the underground mall on Khreshchatyk.

Then we hit some bookstores ... my favourite! My sister teaches nursery school and wanted some new books for work, so Vasyl pointed her in the right direction. He also helped me find some excellent Ukrainian-language synonym-antonym dictionaries.

After that, we went to the famous Kupidon bar. There, we met Vasyl's friend Roman Romanovych before he went off to do his radio show (which is called Roman welcomes his guests and airs Thursdays at 6 pm local (Kyiv) time). Then, who should show up but Andriy Denisenko, a.k.a. Riffmaster, and his manager, Andriy Honcharuk.

(L-R: Andriy H, Vasyl, me, and Riffmaster.) What truly great guys. I wondered if a Ukrainian rock star and his manager would be interested in talking to some old broad who does this little radio program in Canada. But as you can see they were very charming and chivalrous! :-) Very down-to earth and not the least bit pretentious, just a delight to be with.

BTW, Vasyl tells me to expect more Ukrainian-language releases from Riffmaster, as he has discovered that doing music in his native language allows him a much richer musical expression... and his fans agree. Hopefully those new releases will find their way to me. In the meantime, there's a Riffmaster tune on this Sunday's playlist which Vasyl sent me earlier. It's called Misiats.

The next day was a tour to Kaniv, and then supper at a restaurant called Козацькa Втіхa (I think?), where Vasyl said we could get some good, authentic Ukie food. We also lucked out and got some live music to go with it.

These musicians were Oleksandr Litvinenko and Volodymyr Ovcharchyn, members of a 5-piece group called Cheremosh. They were fabulous musicians and entertainers, and showed us a most wonderful time. I was fortunate to have my handy-dandy recorder with me, as Vasyl had planned to meet us there and bring with him Dirk Lustig of Toy-Toy Accent Toys, so I could interview them. Unfortunately they didn't make it, but since I had the recorder with me, I couldn't resist putting it on the table and just letting it run! (I aired a portion of it on Nash Holos on October 5.)

The only downside to that fun evening is that it used up most of the memory card, and I had an interview with Dirk the next morning (which Vasyl rescheduled from the night before). BTW, Dirk is the guy who, along with Vasyl, is pretty much responsible for the drive to get Kyiv on the board of the world edition of Monopoly. He is a Swiss national with a peculiar, and very powerful, love for Ukraine. Another down-to-earth, unassuming guy with a huge heart.

We had about an hour together before I had to leave for the airport and the flight to Simferopol. Over a cup of espresso (the first time I ever enjoyed strong black coffee!) Dirk and Vasyl gave me a detailed overview of the political situation in Ukraine ... as well as a fair bit of sympathy when my recorder stopped in the middle of the interview and the floor refused to open up and swallow me whole. Hopefully I will eventually catch up with Dirk for a long-distance interview to get his take on the outcome of that Monopoly vote, and plans for World Edition.

There were a couple of whirlwind tours during our brief visit to Kyiv, including a trip to Kaniv, the burial place of Taras Shevchenko. As I started out saying, it was not nearly enough time in Kyiv. I would dearly love to return and spend much more time there, exploring the fascinating historical and modern sights, and mingling with the wonderful people who live in that amazing city.

More pix and recollections to come ...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ukrainian musician has great impact on BC island community

Ruta Yawney is a very talented musician who has been practicing her music and her professional skills here on the west coast of Canada for many years. I had the pleasure of seeing her perform live a few times in the early 1990s, before she moved to Bowen Island.

She has released 2 CDs of Ukrainian and cross-cultural folksongs, of which selections have been featured on Nash Holos.

Recently, a local paper published an article about Ruta.

... Ruta Yawney holds a bachelor’s degree in music therapy and has been working in the field for over 15 years. She says that it has been music that has facilitated her way of finding peace.
“Music allows us to be filled with light,” as Ruta puts it.

Many islanders have witnessed some of the magical moments of Ruta Yawney’s musical performances over the past 16 years here on Bowen. She is known for her captivating vocals and exotic Ukrainian bandura playing. Ruta has taught many children in Bowen’s different schools.

... For the past five years, many have seen Ruta behind the piano, playing guitar or flute, as the director of music at Bowen Island’s Little Red United Church.

Full article here.

To hear a selection from Ruta's most recent CD of Ukrainian songs, tune in to the October 12 Nash Holos podcast here. The selected track is an instrumental bandura piece composed by Hryhory Kytasty. For more information about Ruta, visit her website.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Edmonton's Kule Folklore Centre Ukrainian Wedding Exhibit Opens in Saskatoon Museum

On September 12, 2008 the Ukrainian Museum of Canada of the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan hosted the opening of their latest exhibit – Ukrainian Weddings.

Ukrainian Weddings, a multi media display, was developed by the staff at the Kule Folklore Centre at the University of Alberta for its initial launch at the 2007 Ukrainian Festival at Harbourfront in Toronto, Ontario.

The exhibit is a series of panels and videos that explore Ukrainian Wedding traditions through four different times and settings.

These settings include classic Ukrainian traditions from Ukrainian villages of the 1800s; a 1995 Bukovynian village wedding, wedding traditions from pre-1940 western Canada and post-1970 Ukrainian wedding traditions.

The Saskatoon exhibit also has antique Ukrainian wedding headpieces, examples of Korovaii – a traditional wedding bread – and an authentic wedding dress made by one of the donors of the Kule Folklore Centre – Mrs. Anna Kuryliw – in her Ukrainian village in 1936 and brought to Canada for her wedding to Wasyl Kuryliw. The decorated tree in the front of the picture below is a traditional Ukrainian Wedding Tree - a "derevtse."

Several members from the Kule Folklore Centre were on hand for the opening of the exhibit which featured refreshments and hors d oeuvres and a tsymbala player who greeted the 130 guests at the exhibit entrance.

Dr. Andriy Nahachewsky, Huculak Chair of Ukrainian Culture and Ethnography and Director of the Kule Folklore Centre and Nadya Foty, Archivist of the Bohdan Medwidsky Ukrainian Archives who was instrumental in arranging the exhibit collaboration with the museum, spoke to the audience about the Kule Folklore Centre and its role as the leader of Ukrainian Folklore outside of Ukraine.

They noted that the Kule Folklore Centre is committed to the exploration and documentation of Ukrainian and Canadian culture through teaching, research, archiving, publishing, scholarships and active community engagement.(Folklore and ethnology are the study of arts, customs, beliefs, songs, crafts, and traditions, as well as the people who partake in them.)

The exhibit (which has since been shown at the Moncton Museum, New Brunswick; Vegreville Pysanka Festival; several Edmonton events; and Folkfest in Saskatoon) will be at Saskatoon’s Ukrainian museum until early November.

If you're fortunate enough to be in the vicinity of this fabulous exhibit, I hope you'll take the opportunity to see it. As for those of us out here in Lotusland, we're hopeful it will one day make its way to the west coast!

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