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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Canada declares Holodomor a genocide, sets national day of remembrance

Selkirk-Interlake MP James Bezan has expressed his thanks to the Senate for unanimously supporting his Private Members Bill C-459 to establish a Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day and recognizes the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33 as an act of genocide.

“I would like to express my appreciation and thanks to all parties for the support that I received," said Bezan. "I would also like to thank Senator Raynell Andreychuk, who sponsored my bill in the Senate and expedited its quick passage.”

On Tuesday in the House of Commons, in one motion moved by Bezan, the bill was deemed to have been read a second time, considered in committee, reported, concurred in, read a third time and passed. The bill then went the Senate, where it passed all stages on Wednesday. The bill received Royal Assent today (May 29, 2008) at Rideau Hall.

While it was Bezan's bill, it was truly a team effort. I for one found it deeply gratifying to witness the solidarity and goodwill between the Ukrainian community and so many of Canada's elected officials to see this bill go through. Equally (if not more) gratifying was the unity displayed between members of Canada's Ukrainian community on all sides of the political spectrum. A sign, perhaps, of the maturity and latent strength of the Ukrainian-Canadian community.

Amazingly (and shamefully), consent was being blocked on Tuesday by a number of government MPs. So, in an admirable spirit of non-partisanship and goodwill, Opposition MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj (Lib., Etobicoke Centre) crossed the aisle to work alongside Mr. Bezan on a series of intense negotiations with the Hon. Jason Kenney, Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity). As a result of these negotiations, amendments were agreed to and an agreement struck to pass this historic bill at all stages.

“Discussions have taken place this afternoon among all parties and in the spirit of those two words, БІЛЬШ НІКОЛИ - “never again”, at the end of today’s debate there will be an unusual display of goodwill among all parties and respect for the millions who perished,” said Wrzesnewskyj.

It's not common (nor likely very easy) for politicians to put aside partisan differences. But in this case, they did, in order to focus on doing the right thing. And for that they are all to be commended.

“This bill is about recognizing a historic wrong ignored by the West," said Bezan. "The communist ideology of Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin targeted and exterminated millions of Ukrainian men, women and children through forced famine.”

The Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Memorial Day Act not only establishes every fourth Saturday of November a memorial day commemorating this atrocity, but also recognizes the Holodomor as a genocide.

“It is important that this bill be recognized by Parliament and the Government of Canada, which will allow us to honour the victims and survivors of the Holodomor that are in Canada, Ukraine and around the world. It will also let Ukraine and the International community know that Canada supports calling Holodomor, a genocide,” said Senator Andreychuk.

Ukrainian President, Victor Yushchenko has been visiting Canada this week and had asked for Canada’s support in recognizing the Holodomor as genocide. Bezan met the President and personally discussed the bill with him on Monday during the President’s state visit to Ottawa.

The bill was introduced last year as Ukrainian-Canadians and the international community marked the start of the 75th anniversary of one of the most heinous crimes in modern history - the state-sponsored Famine-Genocide of 1932-33 perpetrated by the communist regime under Soviet dictator, Josef Stalin against the Ukrainian people.

Well done, Canada!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Article on Ukrainian president paints realistic portrait

This article in the Toronto Star paints a very good, IMO, picture of Ukraine's president. It depicts Yushchenko as the statesman that he is, and reminds readers that if he hasn't been as strong as some would have liked him to be, he had a legitimate reason. He was poisoned, and physically weakened as a result.

A pragmatist, Yushchenko is clearly a tortoise to Yulia's hare (pardon the pun). He has no illusions of being able to create, much less any intention of trying to deliver, a utopia disguised as democracy to the Ukrainian people. This assuming all his rivals are sincere and merely trying misguidedly to deliver that grand vision to the Ukrainian people. And you have to admit that is a highly unlikely probability.

The author of the article also pins down a political situation in Canada that no doubt has the thugs at the helm of whatever the old KGB has morphed into gnashing their teeth. In which case, I am happy for their dentists.

Yushchenko has very nice things to say about Canada and the Ukrainian community here. Hopefully, despite the dashed hopes of the Orange Revolution, his visit and kind words will energize the community and give it a renewed focus. He really is a statesman. Perhaps that explains the endless standing ovation in Parliament (recorded here) by Canadian politicians.

Read the article here.

Video clip of Yushchenko's visit to Canada

For those who, like me, were not able to see Ukraine's President Yushchenko in person or hear him speak, here's a video with clips of his parliamentary address as well as Canadian Prime Minister Harper's. The editing is a bit choppy in spots, and the text commentary is redundant (to say the least), but otherwise I enjoyed the opportunity to see and hear what was said in our parliament. It was very nice to hear.

The original from CPAC is here. More clips at CTV and CBC. And of course, lots at UkrainaTV here.

That Eurovision song contest

Hello all, and thank you Paulette for the invite!

For my Canadian and American friends reading this, here in "Blighty" we don't take the Eurovision Contest seriously. We watch it to just laugh at how seriously everyone else takes it. So, for your benefit too, here is my tongue in cheek summary as follows for those who saw it :

Russia. I was waiting for the violinist to poke out the eye of the singer. Was he epileptic? Why didnt the singer want to get off his knees? The Ice skater looked like he had wandered onto the set from a dance competition in a neighbouring studio by accidcent. Why didnt the singer just push him, and that mental violinist of the stage?

Serbia. Was there a lighting technician wandering around on the stage? One of the dancers looked like he had got lost. He kept approaching one of the singers as if to tweak something on their costume. Very strange. As for the song? Tried to pull of last years winner with another pseudo classical emotive mish mash. Minor key Balkan mountian side warbling. Rubbish. At least the singer was a bit prettier though.

Croatia. Ah now we're talking! Are they available for any Ukrainian zabavas?

Ukraine. Anilorak looked like she should have been in the strip bar across the road. Maybe she was earlier? Eurovision entry or pole dancing? Looked like a competition between her bottom and her face for most attention. Well, at least it will pump through the speakers of Mediteranean holiday resort clubs this summer. Those thighs could crush coconuts! Ouch!

Greece cute, but should have gone a bit further. You would bring this darling home to your Mum. Make your mind up. Put a pretty knee lengh drees on, or do an Anilorak, get it all off, and strut it.

Iceland. "Its my life and I don't want to change it?" What? Good, go back to Iceland and dont change it then. Who cares? Were the lyrics written by a two year old?

Poland. Polish girl impersonates anguished Essex girl. You got what you deserved, joint bottom with your new westernmost district, the UK. Anyone remember the Brit TV presenter Esther Ranzen? Cruel but tempted to say quite literally a bit long in the tooth.I can see the jokes coming here. Dressed in Blue. Long teeth. Blue tooth. Oops. Stop it.

France and Spain, and Boznia Hercegovina. at least had the courage to perform entries as ridiculous as the whole contest. You're slowly getting the joke boys and girls! Well done! Learning from Ukraine's entry last year. Now that was more like it!

Turkey. Nice enough chorus, but office clerks turned rockers for a night? Please.

Azerbajan? Artic frozen Robbie WIlliams impersonator or an angelic version of one of the X Men? What was that about?

Cant remember the rest except it all being vaguely amusing. As everyone is so keen to sing in English the best thing the UK could do is "celebrate our multiculturalism" and submit an entry in Polish next year as there are enough of them over here now. That would "throw the cat amongst the pidgeons" for political voting!

Finally, although I am a bit of a night owl, Im not that much of one.
For any future blog reference, the post time displayed is your local time.
Its 11.27 am over here.


Monday, May 26, 2008

Ukraine's President Yushchenko visiting Canada

President Yushchenko is on a 3-day visit to Canada, the first Ukrainian president to visit here in 14 years. He started out in Ottawa:

Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko told a joint session of Parliament Monday that his country is making quick progress on its democratic path and is working on overcoming remaining challenges such as corruption.

After brief remarks and an introduction by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Yushchenko began his speech by thanking Canada for welcoming so many Ukrainian immigrants and for being the first Western country to recognize Ukraine's independence in 1991. ...

Yushchenko thanked Harper for Canada's support in its bid to become a member of NATO, a contentious issue among some of the alliance's members. ... [He] also raised the issue of the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine known as the Holodomor. ... A private member's bill is currently before Parliament that calls on the Canadian government to officially recognize the famine as a genocide. ...

The president has a full itinerary for the rest of the day, including an awards ceremony where Senator Raynell Andreychuk and Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj will be given the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise. ...

Full article here.

Speaking of awards, President Y. will be giving one in Toronto as well, to my writing mentor and role model...

[A]uthor Marsha Skrypuch hopes to snatch a few words with Ukrainian president Victor Yushchenko when he gives her a state honour at a ceremony in Toronto on Wednesday.

Skrypuch will receive the Order of Princess Olha, Class III: the highest honour the country bestows on foreign citizens. The medal recognizes her books about the 1932-1933 Ukrainian famine, which killed up to 10 million people. ...

A writer of award-winning books for children and young adults, Skrypuch has carved a significant career crafting fiction from the facts of historic atrocities.

In 2000, she wrote Enough, a picture book based on a folktale about a young girl's attempts to save her village from starvation during the Ukrainian famine. The Holodomor also inspired her story called "The Rings", published in Kobzar's Children, a 2006 anthology of Ukrainian-Canadian writings which she also edited.

Full article here. More about Marsha here and here.

President Y. will visit Winnipeg as well, but his planned visit to Edmonton was cancelled (presumably his handlers felt time was just too tight for him to travel that far).

It's a thrill to have him here for any length of time. But hopefully he'll return to Canada soon, and spend some time out west.

Vancouver audio archives updated to May 25

Nash Holos audio archives are updated to May 25.

  • Sylvia has a yummy recipe for strawberry cake.
  • Myrna Arychuk of Solaway Travel has travel info on Lviv.
  • Fr. Ihor Kutash tells the fascinating story of biblical author and devoted Apostle, John. (Courtesy Simon Kouklewsky, producer of Ukrainian Time in Montreal.)
  • An interview with Orysia Tracz, for a sneak preview of her upcoming presentation on erotic symbolism in Ukrainian folksongs in Vancouver this Friday.
  • As usual, the Proverb of the Week, community events listings, and other items of interest to the Ukrainian community in the Lower Mainland ... and beyond.
  • And of course, plenty of Great Ukrainian Music from all corners of the globe!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Funny Ukrainian magician leaves Vancouver for Vegas

Unfortunately I've never met Murray, nor seen his act (magic or Ukrainian). Maybe one day he'll bring it to Vancouver to entertain his old home town.

In the meantime, it's nice that they're writing about him:

There wasn’t much call for a dancing accordion player, so Murray SawChuck turned to magic and comedy.

Probably a good choice.

Today the 29-year-old comic magician lives in Las Vegas and performs around the world. He’s one of seven magicians starring in “Celebracadabra,” described as “Dancing With the Stars” set to magic. ...

Murray Sawchuk — he changed his Ukrainian last name for a catchier stage name — was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. He started dancing (ballroom, swing, Ukrainian folk) professionally when he was 5 and later added the accordion, keyboard and saxophone to his repertoire. He joined a troupe that entertained in nursing homes and schools. ...

SawChuck will always be a magician at heart but he wants to do more acting ...

Full article here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Interview with Ani Lorak & Verka Serduchka

Well, whatever you think of their music and musical personas, you gotta hand it to these two Eurovision entrants (2007 and 2008) from Ukraine. They're out there working hard at being cultural ambassadors for Ukraine. And they come across as genuinely nice, fun folks.


H/T to Bill at UkeTube.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Japanese songs on the bandura

This is a classic example of how adaptable Ukraine's national instrument, the bandura, is.

The singer, Natalia Gudziy, is originally from Chornobyl. She has been living in Japan since 1999. Given the nuclear bombing of Japan in WWII, perhaps her affinity for the Japanese people and culture is not particularly surprising.

I don't know anything more about her than I could find here and here (still no Wikipedia entry on her), but I hope we'll hear more about her in the future.

In the meantime, here's another:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Vancouver audio archives updated to May 11

All the audio archives, including Chetverta Khvylia, are now updated on the Nash Holos website.

There's been lots going on in the Ukrainian community locally and further afield, and so there have been a rash of interviews with some fascinating people with very fascinating information and news.

Most recently, Dr. Lubomyr Luciuk, President of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, with an update on the Ukrainian redress settlement, Mary Gavan, a registered nurse and Celtic storyteller on the connection between hemachromatosis (iron overload) and northern Europeans (particularly Celts and Ukrainians), Richmond pysanka artist Joan Brander on her new book and its launch in Washington, DC, and Gladys Andreas, founder of the BC Ukrainian Festival.

And of course, more of the usual:
  • Ukrainian Food Flair with recipes for chilled apple soup, baked beets, mushroom-stuffed eggs, and Easter babka
  • Travel Tips on such topics as the Diaspora Museum in Chernivtsi, gift ideas for travellers to Ukraine, and a vocal vignette on Easter in Ukraine;
  • A Spiritual Moment, with Fathers Ihor and Edward Danylo
  • Proverb of the Week
  • community events
  • and, as always, Great Ukrainian Music from all corners of the globe!

As always, at the Nash Holos website.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ukrainian Canadians and federal government sign accord on WWI internment redress

On May 9th, history was made... and a historical wrong was (finally) righted, as Canada's federal government and its Ukrainian community finally settled the Ukrainian redress issue.

The driving force behind this issue is Dr. Lubomyr Luciuk, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, who got the ball rolling over 20 years ago. It's been a tough grind and a needlessly long slog, but finally, an accord has been reached.

He graciously credits a whole whack of other people in this recent article. While a lot of people did help with the legwork and gruntwork, and deserve thanks and praise for their not insignificant contributions, if it wasn't for Dr. Luciuk's vision, tenacity and leadership, none of this would have happened.

You can hear his thoughts on the issue in an interview that aired on Nash Holos last Sunday (here). There is also more information at the UCCLA site here.

Ukrainian wedding video

Does this ever look like fun!

The group is called Hudaki. Would love to get my hands on their music for my program! What a voice, and what great instrumentals.

Their website is here.

Canada set to acknowledge Holodomor was genocide

It looks like Canada is planning to join the list of countries with the integrity and fortitude to call a genocide a genocide, and formally recognize as a genocide the Holodomor (Great Famine) of 1932-33 in Ukraine. This is very progressive, indeed!

... Prime Minister Stephen Harper is under mounting pressure to adopt the genocide label, as Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko is coming to Canada, starting with a visit to Ottawa May 26.

At a celebration last week with Manitoba MP Vic Toews to thank the Conservatives for acknowledging the Canada's [sic] internment of Eastern Europeans during World War One, a community leader mentioned the famine or Holodomor, sometimes translated as murder by hunger.

"Incidentally, Minister Toews, we would also be delighted with a rapid adoption of the Holodomor genocide bill, which is before Parliament," said Oleh Gerus, vice president of the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko.

Liberal and NDP members had earlier pledged support for the bill, which would also set aside an annual memorial day in November.

More than a dozen countries, including the United States, already formally recognize the famine as a deliberate attempt by the Soviet regime of Josef Stalin to eliminate ethnic Ukrainians and end their aspirations for independence.

Full article here.

UPDATE: Scuttlebut has it that the Bloc Quebecois are planning to try and block passage of this bill. Ганба! (Shame!)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bibliography on Pysanka released

Richmond pysanka artist recently published About the Pysanka - It is Written! A Bibliography. She did her debut launch of the book in March at the recent Pysanka Symposium in Washington, DC.

Joan kindly agreed to speak with me on Nash Holos about the book and the launch. The interview aired on Easter Sunday (Julian calendar) and is archived here.

I've known Joan for many years ... she is incredibly talented and about the nicest person you could hope to ever know. For years, she has quietly but diligently been spreading the knowledge of the ancient art of pysanka in the local area, doing workshops in schools and shopping malls leading up to the Easter season, putting out her Eggsaminer newsletter, selling pysanka supplies, and creating beautiful pysanky herself.

About the Pysanka is Joan's second book. It's a compilation of the resources she has collected over the years. During our interview, she mentioned that she wrote it because in her years of doing pysanky, she had never come across a comprehensive bibliography of resources, and thought that it would be useful for future (and current!) pysanka enthusiasts.

It's a valuable addition to the library of anyone who creates or even just admires these gorgeous works of art. You can order a copy directly from her, and find out more about Joan and her work, at her website here.

Check it out!

Back at it...

Where did that last week go??

It hasn't been a "slow news" week by any means. Of late there's been a lot of activity in the Ukrainian community as well as at Nash Holos, and sometimes it just gets a bit overwhelming. I could sure use a clone or two!

A few of the things I've been preoccupied with lately:
  • redesign/overhaul Nash Holos website

  • lots of interviews on Nash Holos ... the most recent being with Dr. Lubomyr Luciuk on the Ukrainian redress settlement. It will air on tonight's program. More info and links to follow.

  • the Nash Holos cookbook ... a compilation of Sylvia's recipes, tips and interesting info

  • the BC Ukrainian Cultural Festival last weekend

  • the upcoming workshop on the erotic roots of Ukrainian folksongs with Orysia Tracz and Zeellia on May 30
The cookbook is getting closer to finished ...nareshti (finally)! We plan to have it available as an ebook as well as a soft-cover hard copy in time for Christmas shopping season. We still haven't finalized the title. The thought crossed my mind to have a listener/reader contest. What do you think?

I'll be posting pics and info over the next few days. Thanks for staying with me!

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