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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Край - A great Ukrainian musical tradition!

Nice to have a front-row seat to a musical moment of "living history" in Ukraine!

Sofia Rotaru version from 1979:

The sentiment and tradition carried on by a new generation:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Living with the aftermath of Chernobyl

Chornobyl (also Chernobyl), site of the world’s worst nuclear accident, is one of the most radioactive areas on the planet.

According to an April 26, 2006 article in The Guardian, the fallout damage was roughly the equivalent of 400 Hiroshima nuclear bombs. 

When the core of reactor number four at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant exploded on April 26, 1986  it caused fires, a nuclear meltdown, and sent out a radioactive cloud that blanketed Ukraine, Belarus, Scandinavia and Western Europe.

The official Soviet death toll was 31 people. However in reality, the actual toll is more likely in the area of 250,000 and rising.

Soviet authorities had hoped (and tried) to keep the world ignorant of the accident. However, word soon began to spread via amateur (HAM and shortwave) radio, confirming the source of the sudden and substantially increased amounts of radiation in the atmosphere.

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster drastically transformed the lives of thousands of people in Ukraine and Belarus. Even today, Ukraine continues to cope with the long-term health, economic and environmental consequences of this preventable disaster.

Ukrainian American writer and film-maker Irene Zabytko is the author of The Sky Unwashed, a novel about the the elderly people who insist on living, as they always have, in their homes in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone, the highly irradiated 30 kilometer area surrounding the site of the 1986 explosion. (Available through Amazon.)

She has also spent several years documenting this tragedy on film, featuring their lives in a documentary film she is spearheading, called Life In The Dead Zone.

Irene and her film crew at Wheat Street Productions, Inc. have already released an award-winning film short, Epiphany At Chornobyl, based on the soon-to-be-released documentary. Here's the trailer:

More information about the film can be found at the film's website.

Irene is still in need of funding to complete her project. Please consider supporting her efforts with a donation.

On May 1, 2011, Irene was a guest on Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio. We talked about her film and her travels to the Chornobyl Dead Zone to research and shoot the film. You can listen to the interview here.

Today is the 26th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Human beings are not good at learning from the mistakes of the past. But at least on this day in history, once a year, let us not forget ... and let us not make light of the awful legacy it left behind.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Canadian MP speaks out against Ukrainian government's recent attack on Tymoshenko

During Question Period in the House of Commons today, James Bezan, Member of Parliament for Selkirk-Interlake asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, for an update on the state of affairs in Ukraine. 

MP Bezan has been vocal on the human rights situation in Ukraine during its period of democratic regression, and has called for strong actions to be taken against the Ukrainian government. 

Highlighting the Ukrainian government’s dismal record as of late, MP Bezan specifically brought to light allegations of physical abuse of former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko in his question to Minister Baird.

“There have been reports that former Prime Minister, Yulia Tymenshenko was injured while forcibly removed from her prison cell. This is yet another example of the mistreatment that Ms. Tymoshenko has faced at the hands of the Ukrainian authorities.”

Ukrainian authorities deny it of course. But, according to a recent BBC article, they don't have a lot of credibility these days in the west.

In addition to Ms. Tymoshenko, MP Bezan also shed light on the increasing number of political prisoners in Ukraine stating that, “Last week we learned of yet another disturbing arrest in Ukraine of former defence minister, Valeriy Ivashchenko, who was sentenced to five years in prison. The situation of Ms. Tymoshenko and other political prisoners in Ukraine is deeply concerning.”

Minister Baird responded, “Our government is deeply troubled by the latest report emanating from Ukraine on Ms. Tymoshenko’s situation. We call upon the Ukrainian authorities to ensure that Ms. Tymoshenko receives the medical attention and treatment that is needed for her well-being.”

Baird added, “The current trend of politically motivated prosecutions and persecutions in Ukraine is unacceptable. These acts undermine the institutions upon which a peaceful, prosperous and democratic society depends. We call upon the Ukrainian government to strengthen its democratic institutions and respect the rights of its citizens.” 

Last week, Minister Bezan called on the Canadian government to impose economic sanctions against Ukraine in response to the Ukrainian government's ongoing and escalating human rights abuses.

Canada recognizes Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky's courageous actions

Today Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney introduced a motion in the House of Commons expressing Canada's recognition of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky's courageous actions and compassion for his oppressed Jewish Ukrainian countrymen during World War II.

The motion was passed unanimously.

“Metropolitan Sheptytsky is an enduring example of commitment to fundamental human rights as humankind's highest obligation,” said Minister Kenney.

Metropolitan Sheptytsky (1865-1944) of the Ukrainian Catholic Church was the leader of Western Ukraine's largest faith group during the Second World War. Throughout this darkest period of Europe's history, he spoke out eloquently against anti-Jewish violence and urged his congregants in a famous homily: “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. He rescued and provided shelter to Jews by allowing them to hide in Ukrainian monasteries, saving over 160 of his compatriots.

This morning, the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies (MASI) at St. Paul University in Ottawa held a symposium to examine Sheptytsky’s ethical action in extreme conditions.

The event, organized by the Toronto-based Ukrainian Jewish Encounter Initiative, in cooperation with the MASI, hosted a delegation of representatives of the Jewish community along with leaders of the Ukrainian Catholic, Ukrainian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Evangelical and Adventist churches, along with the leader of the Ukrainian Islamic community.

They were present in the House when Minister Kenney proposed the motion.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Nash Holos archives updated to 22April2012

Here’s what’s on:

In a nutshell:

Sylvia Molnar shares rhubarb facts & recipe. Keith Perron has news on Euro2012 hotel price gouging, a new nuclear co-operation agreement with Japan, & bride selling in Ukraine. Irena Bell on Ukraine-Canada twinned cities. Ukrainian proverb, music & more!

Show Notes:

Ukrainian Food Flair ... with Sylvia Molnar:

• Growing & harvesting rhubarb
• When rhubarb can taste like red wine 
• Sylvia’s recipe for fresh rhubarb cake 

Ukraine News Outlook ... with Keith Perron:

• UEFA slams Ukraine for hotel price gouging durning Euro2012
Japan and Ukraine sign nuclear disaster co-operation agreement
• Bride-selling: one of Ukraine’s fastest growing industries

Чи знали Ви? (Did You Know) ... with Irena Bell:• Twinned cities - Canada and Ukraine
• Courtesy Irena Bell, of the Ukrainian Radio Program in Ottawa

Other items of interest:

• Proverb of the Week
• Upcoming local events
• Great Ukrainian music!


· Millenia (Edmonton)· Molodtsi (Winnipeg)· Oksana Bilozir (Ukraine)
· John Stetch (USA)
· Tyt i Tam (Saskatoon)
· The Ukrainians (UK)
· Dumka (Edmonton)
· UB (Edmonton)
· Volyn (Ukraine)
· The Female Beat (Winnipeg)
· Ukrainian Old Timers (Winnipeg)

Audio files & music lineup available at


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Canadian MP calls for sanctions against Ukraine

Drastic actions call for drastic measures, according to James Bezan, Member of Parliament for Selkirk-Interlake.

Bezan made the following statement after learning that Ukraine’s former defence minister Valeriy Ivashchenko was sentenced to five years in prison:

“The conviction of Mr. Valeriy Ivashchenko, the third political opponent of President Yanukovych to be imprisoned without due process, is a sad reminder that democracy is under attack in Ukraine and judicial independence in Ukraine has completely eroded. I am deeply troubled by President Yanukovych’s continued disregard for human rights and democracy in Ukraine.” 

“Canada must send a clear message to the Yanukovych administration that the Ukrainian government’s direct assault on their political opposition is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. In my opinion, it is now clear that a strong signal must be sent from Canada, and hopefully the international community, or the Ukrainian government’s blatant disregard for democracy, the rule of law and human rights will not end nor be reversed." 

“In order to stop the Ukrainian government’s attack on democracy, I am asking the Government of Canada to freeze foreign assets held by Ukraine’s leadership and cancel their travel Visas as well.   Canada must send a robust delegation of election monitors for this fall's Ukrainian Parliamentary elections. I also believe we need implement economic sanctions, and suspend talks on the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement. Diplomacy to date has not worked and we must pressure President Yanukovych to change course from what appears to be draconian Soviet-era policies.”

Here are a couple of brief video clips of Bezan condemning the Ukrainian government's ongoing assault on democracy under the current president:

I personally agree with the idea of sanctions against Ukraine, or any country for that matter, whose rulers violate human rights. It's the most practical and effective method of dealing with thugs and mercenaries who take over the reins of power from the people.

In private conversations, I have been shot down for suggesting sanctions against Ukraine. The primary argument given to me is that by restricting trade, economic sanctions will just end up hurting "ordinary" Ukrainians.

But in reality, how many tickle-down benefits of foreign trade do "ordinary" workaday Ukrainian citizens actually enjoy when their corrupt-to-the-core bureaucracy gets first dibs on all the goodies?

Many people think that politics is the route to prosperity and independence in Ukraine, rather than the free rein of free-market capitalism (or the weak facsimile that is the best we have to date). I dunno. Maybe it is. I'm certainly no expert on politics.

But if politics is the answer, then care must be taken to not cross the very fine line between helping a country develop ademocracic system, and meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation. Let's be careful what we wish for!

The Ukrainian diaspora has a wealth of experience in helping ordinary people in Ukraine survive oppressive governments — and even to triumph personally over them.

So why not support economic sanctions while putting that experience to work even more diligently?  IMHO, the best way to undermine corrupt rulers is to empower the grassroots. And today, as in the past, there is no reason it can't be done under the noses of the current corrupt regime running Ukraine ... which is so caught up in its own self-importance that it won't notice until it's too late.

It wasn't long ago that the Ukrainian people defeated a cabal of political thugs under the slogan "разом нас багатою" (razom nas bahato ... there's strength in numbers).

Why not help them to do it again, while the memory is still fresh?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Canadian government comments on most recent blow to democracy and human rights in Ukraine

"Canada is concerned that yesterday’s conviction of former acting defence minister Valeriy Ivashchenko may call into further question judicial independence in Ukraine," said Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird  upon learning that Ukraine’s former defence minister, Valeriy Ivashchenko, was sentenced to five years in prison..

“A troubling trend is continuing in Ukraine," said Baird in a statement. "Like previous, apparently politically motivated prosecutions, this undermines the institutions upon which a peaceful, prosperous and democratic society depends.

“I reiterate my call for the Ukrainian government to strengthen judicial independence and capacity. Canada will continue to advocate freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law for all Ukrainians.”

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sacred choral music for Easter

Nash Holos archives updated to 08April2012. Here’s what’s on:

Ukrainian Food Flair ... with Sylvia Molnar:
• Ukrainian tradition of baking
• Different types of babka 
• Sylvia’s basic Easter babka recipe

Ukraine News Outlook ... with Keith Perron:
• Ukraine helps India upgrade its air force
• Updates on Yulia Tymoshenko, Euro2012 and nuclear security

Other items of interest:
• Proverb of the Week
• Upcoming local events
• Great Ukrainian music! This week: sacred choral music for Easter

•  Kyiv Chamber Choir (Ukraine)
•  Episcopal Choir (Ukraine)
•  Heruvymy (Edmonton)
•  Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral Choir (Winnipeg),
•  Heavenly Hosts (Ukraine)
•  Mlada (Ukraine)
•  Anytchka (Ukraine)
•  The Female Beat (Winnipeg)

Audio files & music lineup available at


Saturday, April 07, 2012

Horseradish - A Ukrainian Easter tradition

Zesty horseradish is a traditional accompaniment for Easter meats such as ham, sausage, pork, and duck.

Horseradish when grated gives off volatile
oils, so whenever grating fresh horseradish
make sure your room is well-ventilated.
Horseradish is grown for its pungent roots, which are generally grated, mixed with vinegar and salt, and used as a condiment or relish. One tablespoon of horseradish has only 2 calories, is low in sodium, and provides dietary fiber.

Although it is not clear when horseradish originates, some scholars believe it is indigenous to Eastern Europe. A traditional Ukrainian Easter condiment, it can be enjoyed any time of year.

Here are two recipes for horseradish sauce, which Sylvia recently shared on Nash Holos:

Horseradish Sauce

6     tbsp    grated fresh horseradish
2     cups    sour cream
2     tsp     salt
2     tbsp    sugar
2     tbsp    vinegar

1. Mix all ingredients in a glass bowl.
2. Adjust seasonings to taste.
3. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before serving so flavours can develop.

Makes about 3 cups.

Easter Horseradish

1     cup     ground horseradish
1     tbsp    butter, softened
1/4   cup     liquid honey
10    eggs    hard-cooked    
1. Mix horseradish, butter and honey until smooth.
2. Mash eggs with a fork (or process until fine, or put through a fine sieve).
3. Add to the horseradish mixture.
4. Mix well.

Makes about 3 cups.

Try it's Ukrainian!

Friday, April 06, 2012

Easy Baked Easter Ham

Ham is central to Easter dinner for Ukrainians... along with  kovbasa (Ukrainian garlic sausage), studenetz (headcheese), eggs (of course!), holubtsi (cabbage rolls), noodle casserole, beets & horseradish, and who knows what else!
Natural slow smoked ham and sausages

In the old-country tradition, hams were dried and smoke cured, and required special soaking and cooking.

I vaguely recall this process from my childhood years on the homestead farm just outside of Arran, Saskatchewan.

It was a messy business, especially the soaking in the brine part. But there was always an air of excitement along with the wonderful smell in the air.

The hard work was worth the end result: a delicious shynka (шинка), as ham is called in Ukrainian.

Today’s commercially cured hams are wetter and heavier, and despite the “ready-to-eat” label do require some additional preparation.

Here's Sylvia's recipe which has been featured on Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio and on this blog in the past.

This method is ideal for busy cooks preparing an elegant festive meal.

Easy Baked Easter Ham

Hard boiled eggs and horseradish ... traditional
complements for Ukrainian Easter ham

6-8 lb ready-to-serve smoked ham

For glaze:
¼ c prepared mustard
½ c brown sugar

For baking liquid:
1 ½ cups apple cider
2 whole cloves
1 small bay leaf
1 sprinkle of freshly ground pepper

1. Skin the ham and score the fat in diamond shapes so the glaze will soak in and stick to the ham.

2. Mix the mustard and sugar and spread on the ham. (For extra beauty and flavor, place a clove into each diamond of fat.)

3. Place the ham and other ingredients in a large roaster

4. Bake at 350˚ F for 1 – 1 ½ hours, basting three times during the last half hour of baking.

5. Tent with foil and rest for 15 minutes before carving, if serving warm.

6. Serve hot or cold, thinly sliced with beet relish, mayonnaise with horseradish and/or mustard assortment.

Try it ... It's Ukrainian!

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