Ukrainian Canadians, Canada, Ukraine, and the popular imagination.
--Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, as reported by the Canadian Press, May 24, 2014
This special issue of Canadian Ethnic Studies is being published at the intersection of two momentous events. In Canada the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian settlement will be celebrated in 2016. Although it is highly likely that individual Ukrainians came to Canada much earlier, 1891 is generally accepted as the beginning of the first wave of mass migration from Ukraine. Canada is now home to the third largest population of Ukrainians in the world (after Ukraine and Russia), numbering over 1.2 million or approximately 4% of the population in 2011. In Ukraine, contemporaneously, a battle is being waged to preserve an independent, integral Ukraine.
As recently as a quarter-century ago and for centuries before, the preceding reference would have been to "establishing," not "preserving," an independent Ukraine. In the century preceding 1991, when Ukraine declared its independence, Ukraine's cultural heritage was under threat--as it had been for centuries before--but a variant of it was preserved and developed in Canada. This fact was noted with some surprise by Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine's second president, when he was serenaded in Ukrainian by school children enrolled in the English-Ukrainian Bilingual program in Edmonton on October 25, 1994.
With Ukraine's declaration of independence, Ukrainian Canadians at last had an independent homeland with which they could identify. Older generations--especially the so-called "DPs" (Displaced Persons) who had been forced to leave Ukraine during and after World War II--returned to visit the country that had been preserved only in their memories. They came back to Canada having realized that their true homeland was Canada and were grateful for it. This realization was no doubt helped along when their naively offered, unsolicited advice on various matters was rebuffed by Ukraine's first president, Leonid Krawchuk, who told them in no uncertain terms not to meddle in Ukraine's affairs.
Now, finally, we all seem to be on the same page. A younger, more sophisticated, worldly, and English-speaking leadership has emerged in Ukraine--a leadership that has recognized the importance of gaining the support of the Western world of which it wants to be a part. This change in attitude and outlook is exemplified by Ukraine's national anthem: the first stanza was slightly modified in early 2013 and the result was the transformation of a dirge sung in a minor key in Canada to a triumphal hymn. (1)
Canada has responded positively and supportively to the most recent events in Ukraine, thereby eliciting President Putin's dismissive and ill-informed comment. Canada had done the same in 1991 when Canada was the first country to recognize the newly-independent Ukraine. Of course, one does have to admit that the Canadian government's response in both instances may not have been wholly altruistic since Ukrainians constitute the ninth largest ethnic group in the country and arguably exert more influence than their numbers might suggest because they are well organized and because of the younger, more activist leadership of their umbrella organization, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. (2)
However, what is most striking is that Ukraine has caught the attention and the imagination of the Western world for arguably the first time in its entire history. The United States and Western Europe, as well as Canada, are concerned about Russia's annexation of Crimea and incursions along the eastern border of a country they would like to see in NATO. Poland and the Baltic countries are concerned that incursions into Ukraine are a portent of what could happen in their own countries. (3) Germany and France are concerned about their gas and oil supplies as Russia periodically threatens to shut down the pipeline at the Ukrainian border. With the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines plane over eastern Ukraine by Russia-backed "rebels" (July 17, 2014), Western Europe--indeed most of the world--has realized that the crisis centering on Ukraine far outstrips the merely political and economic. This tragedy has claimed the world's attention not least because the dead were citizens of so many countries. Ukraine, which seemed not to have left the front page of newspapers for at least the past eight months, now commanded the entire front page of the Globe and Mail (July 18, 2014) and then the top half on July 21. Ukraine was again the lead item on the BBC television news as it had been for months, only briefly displaced by other tragedies such as the disappearance of an airplane in the Far East and the kidnapping of over two hundred girls in Africa, and, later, the crisis in Gaza and the ebola epidemic in Africa. British and American reporters had been trying for months to interpret events from various locations in Ukraine. Michael Bociurkiw, a Ukrainian Canadian working for the OSCE, was interviewed frequently regarding the shooting down of the plane. President Obama was joined by the prime ministers of the Netherlands and of England and the foreign minister of Germany (among others) in discussing events in Ukraine on television. At a ceremony in Liege commemorating the hundredth anniversary of Germany's invasion of Belgium (Aug. 4, 2014), Prince William and several other speakers compared that event with the current situation in Ukraine vis-a-vis Russia. Thus, it is not surprising that Ukraine would be discussed by Charlie Rose and assorted guests and, less eruditely, on the McLaughlin Group.
But how does one explain the fact that Ukraine--this poor country caught between East and West and devastated by both at one time or another, this cradle of a great civilization which, until a few months ago, few could locate on a map--had also caught the popular imagination? Could anyone have imagined that David Letterman would be talking about Ukraine with Vera Farmiga, who would use a scatological proverb in flawless Ukrainian in reference to Putin--with the censored English translation appearing almost simultaneously on the screen? (4) Or, that Letterman would comment that he had a friend who was Ukrainian? (5) Indeed, could anyone have imagined that a Ukrainian American actress would become famous enough--and without changing her name!--to appear on Letterman's show? (6)
In the past, Canadians and, to a lesser extent, Americans had become familiar with Ukrainian names through hockey broadcasts on radio and television. "Turk" Broda, Bill Barilko, John Bucyk, Terry Sawchuk, Mike Bossy, Dave Andreychuk, Dave Babych, and Dale Hawerchuk were prominent players during the last sixty-seventy years. Juliette, whose variety show was broadcast for many years on Saturday nights was at least as famous as the hockey players. Luba Goy was known throughout Canada, as were politicians like Steve Juba, Roy Romanow, Roman Hnatyshyn, and, more regionally, Sylvia Fedoruk, and Peter Liba. (7) There was even a Ukrainian Canadian astronaut--Roberta Bondar!
However, in American (and Canadian) films and on television series--with their huge international audiences--Ukrainian and Ukraine were mentioned in passing, if at all. John Hodiak and Jack Palance had been famous movie stars without anyone having paid much attention to their names or their origins. Nick Adams, who had changed his name, was not as famous nor as long-lived as they had been. But by the beginning of the twenty-first century, the attentive viewer might have wondered if a writer on a show had some kind of Ukrainian connection (a friend, like Letterman, an acquaintance, an employee, a wife/husband, a parent, an in-law) or simply wanted to make a character--especially a villain--more "exotic" than a Russian would have been. For example, there was a passing reference to a Ukrainian villain on an early version of Law and Order. By 2007 one of the "good guys" (but still a minor role) in David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises was the heroine's Ukrainian uncle and self-described former KGB officer. (This would make the leading woman character, played by Naomi Watts, at least partly Ukrainian.) By 2012 the events at Chernobyl were well enough known internationally for a movie title to include the name. Chernobyl Diaries (2012), which, ironically, could not be filmed there due to the radiation, (8) is shown repeatedly on television. It concerns "humanoid mutants," which result from the nuclear explosion. The trend of Ukrainians as villains continued with Banshee (premiered on Jan. 11, 2013), but the roles were now more prominent. Rabbit, the powerful crime lord, is Ukrainian, and his daughter, Anastasia, is one of the leading characters. Helena, one of the eleven clones of the leading character on the critically acclaimed Orphan Black (premiered on March 30, 2013), was raised by nuns in a Ukrainian convent. Helena's heavy accent is definitely Slavic though she mispronounces the one Ukrainian word she speaks at the end of the first season! (9)
Tatiana Masliany, who plays all the clones, has won critical acclaim and been the subject of a long article (complete with colour photo) in the Sunday New York Times, (10) without needing to change her obviously Ukrainian name. Like Masliany and Formiga, Matt Czuchry, who co-stars in yet another critically acclaimed series, The Good Wife (premiered in 2009), chose not change his name. (11)
In a more positive vein than the preceding fictional characters, Carrie Roman, a resident on Nurse Jackie (also a critically acclaimed series which premiered in 2009) reveals, to the surprise of her colleagues (and to the viewers) that she is Ukrainian and speaks the language fluently, having learned it when she was sent to camp as a child. The revelation comes when she suddenly begins to translate an ER patient's dying (he thinks!) confession to his wife that he has a second wife and two sons. The confession is in Ukrainian--presumably because the patient has reverted to his native language as a result of his accident. Although we do not hear Dr. Roman speak Ukrainian, there is no doubt that the patient (and, most likely, the actor playing him) is indeed a native speaker of Ukrainian.
It is, of course, difficult to judge what impact any of the preceding has had on the so-called "average" viewer. If nothing else, all these references had to have had a cumulative effect since each of these programs/films are viewed by millions of people. And, if Ukraine and Ukrainians were not part of the American and Canadian lexicon, it hard to imagine that programs like David Letterman's, which pride themselves on their broad appeal and timeliness, would have ventured into this area. Even programs like Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, which supposedly appeal to a younger demographic, also included sketches relating to Ukraine. The former included a sketch (March 9, 2014) in which the great action hero Liam Neeson tries to help "President Obama" convince President Putin to stop invading Crimea! The program also featured a recurring character, the Russian Olya Povlatsky, commenting at length on the situation in Ukraine. The Tonight Show featured sketches centering on phone calls relating to Ukraine between actors portraying Presidents Obama and Putin (March 19, 2014) and President Putin and Sarah Palin (April 2, 2014).
However, the most telling examples of how much Ukraine has entered American and Canadian popular culture are two incidents involving private citizens. In one, the young man who got just a little too close to Brad Pitt was described in news reports as "a former reporter on Ukrainian television." (12) In the second, Mike Tyson is quoted as telling Russian reporters that Russia should get out of Ukraine. One can only surmise how Tyson learned about the situation in Ukraine. Perhaps it was simply a case of one world heavyweight boxing champion talking to another world heavyweight boxing champion--whose brother happens to be mayor of Kyiv! (13)
Contrary to what President Putin said, Canada and the United States are not too far from Ukraine to be vitally interested in events there. For almost 125 years there has been an irrevocable bond between Ukrainian Canadians and Ukraine. This bond has been extended by successive federal governments to include Canada as a whole. More surprising, in view of Ukraine's tragic past, is the fact that Ukraine is now being championed by the United States and Western Europe. Indeed, the news coverage in the Western world of events in Ukraine--including the horrific downing of a passenger plane and its aftermath--has caught the interest and the imagination of the Western world to the extent that Ukraine has become part of the West's popular culture, as evidenced by movies and, especially, by television.
All in all, this would seem to be a propitious time for this particular issue to be published, dealing, as it does, with Ukrainian Canadians, Canada, and Ukraine.
This special issue--The Ukrainian Canadians--follows the standard format of Canadian Ethnic Studies issues--articles, review articles, reviews--with the exception that all the material in each section is devoted to one theme--the Ukrainian Canadians. All the material is written by scholars and researchers working in this field. And, throughout, there are reverberations of Ukraine.
The articles fall naturally into two sections, the first dealing with art, literature, language, and material culture, and the second, with historical and political events.
The first article (by Marilyn Baker) resulted from an exhibition of the work of William Kurelek at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the concurrent publication of the large, beautifully illustrated catalogue. What was originally intended as a review of the catalogue became a larger study of Kurelek's exhibition history, illustrated books, and the role his art dealer played in Kurelek's career. Kurelek, who spent his formative years in Manitoba and graduated from the University of Manitoba, became a prolific and now a highly prized artist, whose works (when they became available) sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Although Kurelek's subjects vary, many very obviously reference his Ukrainian heritage.
The next two articles discuss Ukrainian Canadians in the context of Canadian English-language literature. Arguably, the first work of Canadian fiction in English to depict Ukrainians was Ralph Connor's The Foreigner, published in 1909. Since then, some of Canada's major writers, including Margaret Laurence, Margaret Atwood, Morley Callaghan, Sinclair Ross, and W. O. Mitchell, have depicted Ukrainians in their works. Gabrielle Roy, writing in French, also created Ukrainian characters. Beginning at least in 1954 with the publication of Vera Lysenko's Yellow Boots, writers of Ukrainian origin began to break through into the pantheon of CanLit. The publication of works by writers of Ukrainian origin increased dramatically following the adoption of Multiculturalism and the resultant infusion of government funding into the "culture industry."
My article considers the depiction of the Ukrainian immigrant in two plays (Paper Wheat, written by a collective, and Gwen Pharis Ringwood's A Fine Coloured Easter Egg), in several novels (Frederick Philip Grove's Fruits of the Earth, Arthur G. Storey's Prairie Harvest, and Vera Lysenko's Yellow Boots), and in Gabrielle Roy's "The Well of Dunrea."
Lindy Ledohowski deals with the multiculturalism debates of the 1960s and 1970s when Ukrainian Canadian groups successfully pushed for the recognition of other ethnic identities, which ultimately resulted in a shift from Biculturalism and Bilingualism to Multiculturalism and Bilingualism. She argues that by placing Ukrainians and other ethnic groups as "first" inhabitants of the Prairies, "the preexisting Aboriginal presence on that landscape" was removed. She uses contemporary literature to "[theorize] the relationship between the homesteaders and their descendants vis-a-vis Aboriginal presences in the prairie provinces."
The article by Veronika Makarova and Khrystyna Hudyma discusses the results of a study of reported ethnic self-identity of Saskatchewan residents with Ukrainian ancestry and the role of the Ukrainian language in identity, and "the correlation between the factors of ethnic identity, Ukrainian language proficiency, age, gender, and generation."
The article by John Lehr and Brian McGregor discusses place names on the Canadian Prairies. The authors note that it was difficult for agricultural immigrants from Europe to mark their presence in the landscape by naming settlements. However, since school names were generally assigned locally, otherwise powerless groups from Eastern Europe were able to mark their presence by naming schools.
The next three articles deal with material culture. Natalie Kononenko discusses the collecting of folk art associated with heritage and the desire on the part of the collectors to connect to a past, with which they may have had no direct contact, but one "they feel they need to understand in order to make sense of their own identity." Her case studies are Peter Orshinksy and Leonard Krawchuk, two important Canadian collectors of Ukrainian folk arts and crafts. Orshinsky's collection is now housed in the Royal Alberta Museum; Krawchuk's is awaiting a suitable home.
Natalia Khanenko-Friesen's article discusses transatlantic family correspondence--specifically letters written in Ukraine to relatives who had immigrated to Canada--as cultural artifacts. She focuses on the Wakarchuk collection (1949-89), which is housed in the Personal Sources Archives of the Prairie Centre for the Ukrainian Heritage at St. Thomas More College, the University of Saskatchewan.
The article by John Lehr and Serge Cipko compares the cultural landscapes created in Western Canada and southern Brazil by Ukrainian immigrants. The landscapes reflected environmental differences between these two countries, on the one hand, and the Ukrainian homeland, on the other, with the settlements in Brazil displaying the more immediate response to the environment. However, because the Ukrainian settlements in Brazil were more isolated than those in Canada, traditional folkways and material culture were able to survive longer in Brazil.
The second half of the articles focuses on Canada's and, specifically, Ukrainian Canadians' perception of and involvement in events relating to Ukraine, beginning in the mid-1920s and continuing through World War II. These papers emanated from the conference "Becoming Canadian: Ukrainian Canadians and the Second World War," which was held in Winnipeg, November 11-12, 2011.
Three of the articles--by Jars Balan, Myroslav Shkandrij, and Serge Cipko--deal with mainstream Canadian press coverage of events in Ukraine and of topics relating to Ukrainian Canadians. The other two--by Orest Martynowych and Roman Yereniuk--deal with Ukrainian Canadians who played significant roles in events leading up to and during World War II. The articles are in chronological order with respect to the dates on which the events discussed took place.
Jars Balan's article deals with mainstream Canadian press coverage of the Soviet Union between 1924 and the end of 1930, when Stalin inaugurated the first Five-Year Plan in an attempt to fundamentally reshape "the economic, political, social, and cultural fabric of the former Russian empire," with particular attention to events in Ukraine on the eve of the Holodomor.
Myroslav Shkandrij's article examines Canadian press reports on the Carpatho-Ukrainian autonomous state (Nov. 1938-March 1939) and "how fears that Hitler was about to create a 'Greater Ukraine' internationalized the issue of Carpatho-Ukraine, which some feared would be the first step in Germany's destabilization of the Soviet Union."
Vladimir J. Kaye/Kysilewsky, the subject of the next article, had a storied career as one of Canada's first civil servants of Ukrainian origin, as an academic who was the first president of the Canadian Association of Slavists, as a mediator in the formation of the Ukrainian Canadian Committee, and as a researcher who wrote the first scholarly history of Ukrainian immigration to and settlement in Canada.
In his article, Orest Martynowych discusses the nine-year period (1931-40) when Kaye/Kysilewsky, then director of the Ukrainian Bureau in London, tried to bring the famine in Ukraine to public attention, while at the same time contending with what Martynowych describes as "the Bureau's obstreperous Ukrainian emigre rivals, in particular the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN)."
Serge Cipko's article discusses the coverage of Ukrainian Canadian topics by the Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Bulletin during World War II, including Ukrainian Canadian participation in the war effort, the banning of the Ukrainian Labour Farmer Temple, the formation of the Ukrainian Canadian Committee, the question of Ukrainian independence, and the Canadian conscription plebiscite.
Roman Yereniuk discusses the creation of the office of Ukrainian chaplaincy in the Canadian military during World War II. Seven chaplains--four from what is now the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada and three from the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Canada--served approximately 32,000-35,000 military personnel. The work of the chaplains is outlined in the article.
The review articles are critical assessments of groups of books on related subjects. The first of Mary Kirtz's articles is a study of the representation of Ukrainians and Ukraine in novels and short stories from Canada, the United States, and Ukraine. In her second article, she discusses two novels dealing with Ukrainian immigrant families and the prejudices and hardships they encountered after settling on the Canadian prairies. Natalie Kononenko assesses three books about "objects and practices of the Canadian past," including the material culture of the Ukrainian pioneers, early Canadian folk art, and Ukrainian folk remedies.
Robert Klymasz looks at Ukrainian-Aboriginal cultural interrelations in Canada.
The collection concludes with reviews of recent books on a variety of topics relating to Ukrainian Canadians.
I would like to thank the three people most closely involved in the production of this special issue--Claire Hutchinson, Jacqueline Barral, and Rachelle Painchaud-Nash. I was very fortunate in assembling this team soon after I became the editor of Canadian Ethnic Studies. Their dedication, precision, and attention to detail helped to ensure that each issue was as close to perfection as possible.
I would also like to thank Genia Bozyk and her staff at St. Andrew's College for providing all kinds of assistance as I worked on this issue.
Many thanks to the Centre for Ukrainian Canadian Studies, the University of Manitoba and the Ukrainian Pioneers' Association of Alberta for their financial assistance in publishing this issue.
Finally, I would like to thank all of the contributors to this issue. Thank you for your contributions and for your patience during what was a lengthy gestation, but which has resulted in an issue of which I am sure we can all be proud.
(1.) The anthem's music was officially adopted on January 15, 1992, following Ukraine's secession from the Soviet Union; the lyrics, on March 6, 2013. The original words, from a poem written in 1862 and set to music in 1863, were:
Shche ne vmerla Ukraina, Ni slava, ni volia Ukraine has not yet died, Neither has glory, nor freedom
The words--somewhat questionable grammatically--adopted on March 6, 2013 (the changes are highlighted):
Shche tie vmerla Vkrainy; I slava i volia Ukraine's glory and freedom have not yet died.
Changing the words of a national anthem is not a new phenomenon; see, for example, the Canadian and the American anthems.
(2.) For a positive assessment of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's statements on President Putin's comments and actions vis-a-vis Ukraine, see). L. Granatstein and William Kaplan, "Harper saw through Putin from the start," Globe and Mail, July 22, 2014, A11.
(3.) The Baltic countries--Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia--have sizable Russian populations consisting of people who preferred to remain in these countries post-independence, rather than to return to Russia.
(4.) The David Letterman Show, April 28, 2014.
(5.) Ibid. Letterman's wife, Regina Lasko, is reputed to be of Ukrainian origin, as her name suggests.
(6.) Although perhaps not quite a household name, Vera Farmiga is a lead in the television series Bates Motel. In 2009 she appeared in the movie Up in the Air opposite George Clooney. She has been nominated for an Oscar, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors' Guild Award.
(7.) Juba was Winnipeg's longest serving mayor; Romanow was premier of Saskatchewan; Hnatyshyn was a cabinet minister and governor general of Canada. Fedoruk and Liba were lieutenant-governors of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, respectively.
(8.) It was filmed in Belgrade.
(9.) Helena repeats the word sestra (sister) several times, but the stress should be on the second syllable (sestra). If she were using the vocative case as would be appropriate here, she should be saying sestro.
(10.) Arts and Entertainment, April 20, 2014. Masliany, a native of Regina, has identified herself as being of German origin or having a diverse background. According to sources in Regina, her mother is of German origin; her father and grandfather identify as Ukrainian.
(11.) Wikipedia lists many actors and actresses as being of Ukrainian origin, but does not distinguish between Ukrainian ethnicity and Ukrainian nationality. For example, Katheryn Winnick, a guest on such series as Nikita, Criminal Minds, Law and Order, House, and Bones (2010), is Canadian-born of Ukrainian origin. Olga Kurylenko, a "Bond girl" who starred in Quantum of Solace (2008), was born in Ukraine and inherited her Ukrainian surname from her father with whom, apparently, she rarely had contact. Her mother is not of Ukrainian origin. Oksana Lada, whose first and last names are Ukrainian, played the recurring role of Tony Soprano's Russian mistress. The Ukrainian Canadian actor Lubomir Mykytiuk plays primarily character roles in Canadian movies and on Canadian television series. Anyone following the fashion industry will be familiar with the "super-model" Daria Werbowy, who is Ukrainian Canadian.
(12.) Winnipeg Free Press, June 3, 2014, C2.
(13) Tyson, a former world heavyweight boxing champion, reportedly made the remark at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in April, 2014. (Others reported to have indicated their support for Ukraine at the festival were the Scorpions, Milla Jovovich, and Madonna.) See www.belsat.eu/en. Wladimir Klitschko is the world heavyweight boxing champion. His brother is the mayor of Kyiv.
NATALIA APONIUK--SPECIAL GUEST EDITOR
NATALIA APONIUK is a Senior Scholar in Slavic Studies at the University of Manitoba. She was the editor of Canadian Ethnic Studies for six years and served on the executive of the Canadian Ethnic Studies Association in various capacities, including two terms as president.
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|Publication:||Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2015|
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