Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Pra-Baba's Woven Willow Basket

The ancient willow, it is said, grows with wet feet. To harvest the soft spring grown willow, you have to get your feet wet, and learn to bend. Then you weave.

Little Foxes Village, Лисичники is located in Beyond the Woods County, Заліщики, near the southern border of Halychyna Галичина where it meets Bukovina Буковина. The chutora (хутір farmstead) is a climb up a steep rocky hill, higher up the valley where Little Foxes begins. Steep, rolling hills climb up the river valley. The road? No more than the width of a car, it is lined with picket and willow fences - near enough to touch through a car window.

Old log homes built in the late 1800's still stand, repeatedly repaired and whitewashed over the years. Here and there the beautiful, old painted designs of rozpys розпис are hidden under the eaves and over windows.

On that beautiful May evening in 1887, Dmetro and Kateryna were so pleased to welcome their first born little girl, Anna. She would be the first of their five children who survived into adulthood. Times were hard, but Anna and Paraska, Maksym, Onufrey and John (who would be the 5th child) grew up loving the farm life.  

The villagers knew each other well, and worked together on the fields for the landlord. They worked for the 17th sheaf! That is, after stooking 17 sheaves of wheat for the landlord, he granted them permission to take one sheaf home for their growing family needs. Poverty was everywhere.

Sad news came from the neighboring village of Kashpertsi Кашперці. Yurij and his lovely wife had also had a little girl whom they called Anna. Tragically, his wife and next baby died during childbirth. Widowed and sorrowing, Yurij was blessed to have the neighborhood ladies care for his baby daughter Anna, but it was clear he needed a more permanent arrangement. Little Anna needed a mother, and poor Yurij needed a wife to take care of his child and make a home for his family.

Kateryna and Dmetro knew of Yurij's plight but they had problems of their own. Their children, Anna and younger siblings Paraska, Maksym and two year old Onufrij were soon going to be joined with another baby, and poverty was knocking at their door. Anna needed to be settled into her own home life very soon.

Barely 14, Anna married the widower Yurij. Wife and new mother to Yurij's daughter Anna, they made a family. By age 17, Yurij and Anna had a son, at 21 a daughter, and with three little children they realized the family plot wouldn't feed their growing family needs. Really, the term "farm" hardly encapsulates the size, they were small plots of land, not even acreages, about the width of a city lot and running perhaps a quarter mile in length!  Emigrating to the "free lands" of  Canada, they sold all their belonging in 1900 to pay for the steamship voyage from Hamburg to Halifax.

Not knowing what to anticipate ahead, Anna packed her hand-woven basket full of important necessities, eating utensils, seeds, a kerchief, sewing needs - all tools for the various roles she would play in the life ahead - doctor, veterinarian, tailor, carpenter, midwife and hunter. Oh, and dreams!


Time has not been very gentle with this basket. Anna was my pra-baba. The basket was woven in her little village before she left home. It served as her Paska Basket but at one point it was in danger of being discarded. Unable to burn the family heirloom, my dido's supple fingers strengthened the broken weave with willow. When that wouldn't serve, he lovingly wove wires through the broken places to preserve this beloved family treasure. 

On Easter Sunday the basket will cradle my family's hopes and dreams again, as it has for 113 years here on Canadian soil. Paska - the Resurrection, babka - the ancestors, kovbasa - the sacrifice of blood, cheese - the first fruits of the soil, eggs - the symbol of eternity, red beets horseradish khrin- both bitter and sweet, and the beautiful pysanky - the universe unfolding as it should. Happy Easter! Христос Воскрес!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

A Kitten Story

A mother cat was dozing one spring morning.  Warmed by the sunshine, her fur softly ruffled in the breeze.  Her days-old baby kittens were playfully tumbling over one another.  Buzzing insects with little wings fluttered over their heads, taunting them towards the river bank.  The kittens pawed playfully, and rolled down the embankment.  Mother cat heard a soft meowing, and bounded to the bank of the river.  Her little ones were sopping wet in the cold rushing water.  A willow tree dipped her long slender branches into the water, and the kittens grabbed on eagerly to pull themselves out.  From that day forward, and every spring thereafter, the willow branches would sprout their little furry catkins at the places where the kittens had once clung for dear life.  

The Ukrainian tradition of pussy willows goes back to before Ukraine's Christian Baptism in 988.  The custom of pouring water is an ancient spring rite of cleansing, purification and fertility. After the hopeless cold of winter, the window of time where the dust of the past is washed away with living water calls for a renewal of promise. For Ukrainians it is a celebration of the first baptismal sprinkling of water! It is an end to the fast and a milestone in the human journey. Being switched with pussy willow branches is a gentle reminder of both the internal and external cleaning ahead. 

Halushky - the Gluten Free Varennyk (Pyrogy)


Craving pyrohy (varenyky) is an issue for people with gluten intolerance issues. But there is a way around it - truly there is. Here is a recipe to try, delicious and easy. Tastes almost like the real thing!! Enjoy!
Potato Halushky
1 cup mashed potatoes
½ cup flour (try non gluten flour with 1/8 tsp of xanthum gum)
1 egg beaten
½ teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Shape mixture with fingers into finger lengths. If you get creative, try varenyk shaped, little half moons or tiny triangles.  They will be sticky, but resist the temptation to add more flour. (makes about 10 fingers)

Drop them into rapidly boiling water. Cook for 5 minutes.

Remove with colander. Place on a serving dish with melted butter (margarine). (fried onions optional)

This quick and simple meal is for those who like pyrohi (vareniky) but are concerned about the amount of flour needed for the dough. With only ½ cup flour to one cup of potato, this is a good alternative. It’s probably not wise to make a big recipe.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Osvita Ukrainian Summer School 2013

Incredible opportunities abound for learning and travel this summer - for students and grownups!  Once again, Osvita's exciting Ukrainian Summer Immersion Program is offering high school Ukrainian language credit, and a trip to Ukraine for a fascinating, first hand experience in the culture, traditions, and to visit historic sites.  A totally fabulous experience awaits - make sure to contact the numbers listed below.   

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Ukrainian Easter Bread - Babka Recipe

Babka by Roma Nowakowski
One of the traditional Ukrainian Easter Breads is the Babka.  It is a classic, sweet, yeasted bread rich in eggs, and milk.  Sometimes the babka, already yellow from the many yolks in the recipe, is given a rich suntinted color with saffron, orange zest, or even pumpkin puree.  Sometimes raisins are added to the dough which is then baked in cylindrical tins, soup cans, or coffee tins, which represents the dome of heaven, much like the domed cupola of an Orthodox Christian church.  

I have been thinking that the Ukrainian Easter babka bread is also probably linked to the intentionally mounded heaps of earth used in ancient burial places across Ukraine that in former times were marked with stone stelae babas.  Cutting slices of the mounded, cylindrical bread (slicing from the bottom)  will reveal a round shaped, sun-yellow tinted bread, a reminder of the ancestors who await the rising sun.   Interesting! 
This is a great recipe, well recommended and well tested.  The method will deliver a finer textured Babka..
Prepare soup tins, coffee tins (4-500 g tins), or tall cylindrical baking tins.  Generously buttering the tins or shortening with a dusting of bread crumbs will help the baked goods release.  Alternately, use parchment paper or wax paper.
Prepare ingredients: 
1 cup milk
1/3 cup flour
2 tsp. sugar,
3 packages yeast
12 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups icing sugar
1 cup butter, melted
Grated rind and juice of 1 orange
5 1/2 to 6 cups flour.
1 cup raisins (optional)

Bring milk to a boil and remove from stove top.  Add hot milk gradually to the 1/3 cup flour beating thoroughly until smooth.  Press the mixture through a seive to remove any lumps remaining.   Cool to lukewarm. Dissolve the sugar in lukewarm water, sprinkle the yeast over it, and let stand until yeast is softened.   Combine yeast mixture with flour, milk mixutre and beat well.  Cover and let this rise in a warm place until light and bubbly.  This is the sponge.   Beat the egg yoks and whole eggs, add salt, and sugar gradually until light.  Then stir in the butter, orange juice and grated rind.  Combine this mixture with the sponge and mix well.   Add the flour to this mixture, cup by cup to make a very soft dough, kneading it into a soft, almost sticky, supple dough for 10 minutes.  The dough will remain very soft, smooth and elastic. If raisins are to be added, this is the moment to incorporate them, after the dough is kneaded.. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.  Punch down the dough and let it rise again.  Knead again and let it rise yet again.   Fill the baking tins only 1/3 full.  Cover and let the dough rise in a warm location until the dough rises to the lip of the tin.   Brush the loaves with beaten egg diluted in 2 tablesppons of water.  Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees F. for 10 minutes.  Lower temperature to 325 degrees F for 30 minutes.  Then lower the temperature yet again to 275 degrees, continuing the bake for 15-20 minutes.  The baking time is dependent on the size of loaf.  Covering loaves that darken too quickly is a good idea, sheltering them with aluminum foil is easy.   Remove the baked goods from the oven and let the babka rest for 5-10 minutes before removing them extremely gently, tipping them gently onto a soft, cloth covered pillow.  Do not cool the loaves on a hard surface as they will become misshapen, fall or settle.  Change their resting position frequently as they rest and cool. Babka is always sliced in rounds across the loaf starting from the bottom. 

Traditional babka has a plain, domed top, and is sweeter than the braided Ukrainian Easter Paska Bread.  Enjoy!

Monday, 22 April 2013

The Blessings of Baba

Photo: Oleksandr Dirdovsky
Did you know that among Ukrainians the term for grandmother is Baba?  While the name Mama is universal it seems, Baba is a special term, loved among Ukrainians for her empathy, care and love.

It makes me so happy to read that Ukraine is reinterpreting for herself, the archeological treasures scattered in museums of former colonizers.  Re-assessing the ancient stone steppe stelae called babas is an important step in reclaiming her mystical and unique past. 

At one time in history, stone babas dotted the horizon in Ukraine - standing as sentinels over mounded earth funeral structures.  From a time 5-6 thousand years ago, ancestral graves on the lands of Ukraine were marked with a limestone or sandstone slab, like the sentinels at Stonehenge.  The stone babas perhaps personified the deceased within the mounded grave, and standing to witness the sunrise, performed the same function for the souls of the dead as the pyramids in Egypt. 

With economic possibility came new technology, and after a time people started carving shoulders, heads and faces into the stones, the image of the person within.  Equipped with the tools of life, perhaps they indicated high status too. 

Do the stone babas reveal gender?  Not in all cases.  And because so much of Ukraine's archeological history is being re-assessed through contemporary thought, in a time of relative freedom, with increasingly more sensitive use of technology I would reserve judgement.  It is obvious that the material culture of the period would venerate the gift of ancestors.  It is also obvious that material affluence would indicate longevity.  Longevity would indicate women lived beyond their childbearing years, and would through their unique talents assist in the nurture, survival and education of children born to a younger woman. 

The ancient stone babas are authentic expressions of gratitude for some person's generosity of spirit in life.  I like to think that all the ancients, the ancestors, made a significant contribution to the world's cultural achievement.   From the very edge of archeological history,  here's a thank you for the BLESSINGS OF BABA.

Have a glance at this artcle about how the stone stelae are being appreciated as Art in Ukraine.  http://www.artukraine.com.ua/eng/articles/1051.html

Amd here the Smithsonian is also reconsidering the role and value of women, beyond their child bearing years. http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2012/10/new-evidence-that-grandmothers-were-crucial-for-human-evolution/

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Spring Songs and Dances Haivky Гаівки, Веснянки

The cold, frosty breath of winter is fading. A glimmer of sunlight, a warming breeze, and soon the hand of time will rise, enticing spring over the horizon. The continuous walk of life, on the meditative prayer of song rises over sacred groves near the water, and we dance!

This is the Ukrainian sacred tradition from eons ago - the ancient tradition of Haivky, Vesnianky, the ritual group dances, songs, games, and dramatic scenes which chase the winter away!  It is the season of hope, a renewal of love, the gifts of nature return - and we are here - we are happy - we have survived to see the cycle of life return!

Вийди, вийди, сонечко,              Veydi, veydi, sonechko,        Come out Mr. Sun,
Ha дідове полечко.                       Na deedove polechko,          Shine on Grandpa's field,
На бабине зіллячко,                     Na babine, zeeliachko,          Shine on Baba's herbs,
Ha ваше подвір'ячко,                   Na vashe podveeryachko,     Shine on our farmstead,
Ha весняні квіточки,                    Na vesnianee kveetochki,     Shine on the spring flowers,
Ha вeceлi дiтoчки                         Na veselee deetochki,           Shine on the happy children,
Tам вони граються,                      Tam voni hrayout'sia,           They are playing together,
Tебе дожидаються.                       Tebe dozhidai-yout'sia.        They are waiting for you, Mr. Sun.


Ukrainian folk songs of the spring tradition are part of the Ukrainian Scouts programs in Calgary, whether in PLAST or SUM.  Both these organizations foster a love of the Ukrainian idea, and what a great idea they have this year!

On the afternoon of Sunday, May 5, 2013, aftter Easter Morning Liturgy -Великдень- the PLAST Ukrainian Scouts of Calgary are celebrating Paska - a communal meal спільне свяченне of blessed foods from the Easter Basket.  Easter is a time to awaken the positive forces within us, join the ritual, the cycle of life, and connect together through the circle dance of time.  An event full of singing, dances, folk games, spring rituals and dramatic folk tales, they are Calgary's Ukrainian children, celebrating the Good News!

For more information about Ukrainian Scouts in Calgary and their programs, or more information about the event,  please contact these great organizations at http://www.plast.ca/calgary/  and http://cym.org/ca/calgary.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Be a Willow

Не я б'ю, верба б'є,
Віднині за тиждень
Буде Великдень.
Будь великий, як верба,
А здоровий, як вода,
А багатий, як земля!

The Ukrainian folk calendar is opulently layered with sophisticated, elegant expressions of insight. Encountering the coded messages over the course of a long life gives one ample opportunity to plumb their depths, to meditate upon their ancient meaning.  What were the ancients trying to tell us?  And why? 

Ukrainian prehistory is a deep well of experience, but the wise ones say that "in the fulfillment of time", Ukrainians encountered Christ. Prepared by the ancients to see the cycle of life through nature, logic linked the season of spring to the Christian Easter message. It is a time of renewal, on so many levels.

Signs of hope are everywhere, the snow is melting, the days are longer, the smell of sap begins to run in the trees - these are nature's messages. Palm Sunday, or Pussy Willow Sunday before Christian Easter is an expression of the joyous Entrance of Christ in Jerusalem, festivity ensues! Happy times, cheering, waving of palm leaves (willow branches) - it is good news!

The traditional Ukrainian folk greeting on this day is cheerful, hopeful and happy! The classy simplicity of the words are simply a veil of mystical poetry over a momentous message. Really, prepare for the Day is coming!

Ritual petitions, incantations richly layered with symbolism, carry messages of hope, faith, wisdom and often wry humour in the face of the human condition. All of nature can act like a mirror to the human condition, the cycle of life is everywhere. 

Grow tall like a willow, as healthy as the water, and as rich as the earth!

Grow tall like a willow - doesn't that say something about being tall in character? Isn't the pussy willow the first flower of spring? Isn't the pussy willow the most hopeful blossom in nature? Doesn't the willow extend its reach further, and bend the most willingly? Isn't it the first food for eager bees seeking their first nectar? What does the first nectar of spring taste like to the bees?

Be as healthy as the water - doesn't that sound like a gushing wellspring from which thirsty travellers could benefit? Are we not made mostly of water? Is the gushing wellspring of health nurturing our healthy journey? Clean, pure, healthy water?

Be as rich as the earth - fed by the sun and the rain, bear a plentiful crop, harvest it in the course of a good life, be fruitful and multiply, lead a bountiful existance, prepare for the Day!


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Awards, Rewards, Recognition - April 19, 2013

Some people have personal ambition, on the other hand, some people live their lives in service of others, and a greater cause.  So just how does one award, reward or recognize people for their generosity of spirit? We take example from leaders around us.
As Canada's Governor General is the representative of the Queen of England on North Amerian soil, the influence of the Queen's 60th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee Award is among the most celebrated awards among Canadian citizens.  Without Royal patronage, Canada may have potentially taken another course through history.  Whether actively, or through her network of agents, the influence of the Monarch with a wholistic vision of the world has indeed shaped our experience here.  Through the effects of a democratic, civil society, we are called to take part, take responsibility, and create a place that is bigger, better and more enriching than ourselves. Some consider Canada among the most respected nations for precise these reasons, for its serious committment to becoming the best "homeland" possible - I among them.  
Over Canada's rather short nationhood, Canadian communities have grown, and been shaped the efforts of her citizens.  But "community" doesn't just happen.  Through the contributions of many, we have evolved into a generous, forward thinking, inclusive society that embraces the best parts of its individual components.  Of course that involves grassroots community builders, and community leadership, vision and dogged perseverance in the face of doubters.  Big vision people take pleasure in meeting challenges, making seemingly small gains that accumulate drop by drop, for every droplet eventually meets with others, creating a wave of possibilities.  The individuals being honored at the Diamond Jubilee Awards ceremony to be held in Calgary on April 19, 2013 are examples of just that kind of leadership.  .   

I met Mike Hantzch through my experiece at St. Vladimir's Sadochok, when our children were little and our ambitions for them involved a Ukrainian linguistic enrichment.  A group formed around this idea - Calgary Parents for Ukrainian Education - and we coaslesced around an idea of promoting Ukrainian bilingual schools to our public school boards.  Public schooling took some complicated turns at the time - our proposals were not welcomed.  So Mike threw his considerable passion for youth programming into high gear - through PLAST Ukrainian Scouts here in Calgary.  And of course there are many more accolades for this already recognized UCC Alberta Hetman Award recipient.   

Halia Wilson is another equally committed, soft spoken but stalward community builder.  A communicator, she has developed strong ties in SUM Ukrainian Youth across Canada and in the Ukrainian community abroad.  She is an includer, a communicator, a promoter and widely embraces diversity.  For the entire time I have known her, she has quietly but effectively promoted the Ukrainian idea, graciously welcoming everyone she meets. Her generosity of spirit is felt here among her professional peers, and in Calgary's Ukrainian community.  From promotions for youth programs to bandura, music, film and the arts, Halia's impressive vitae has already gained her the UCC Alberta Hetman Award too.   

Congratulations to these wonderful people on the recognition presented to them this April 19, 2013 through Canada's Diamond Jubilee Award.  From the hand of Queen Elizabth II, through the hands of Canada's Governor General, through the hands of Ukrainian Canadian Congress National President Paul Grod to Calgary, not only are they being recognized individually, but as members of their respective communities here in Calgary as well.  Leadership, community builders, peacemakers, kindlers of the fire at the ancestral hearth, their promotion of and contribution to the culture of our great city, and the Ukrainian idea,  we thank you!! 

The Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Association of Canada (Calgary Branch)graciously invites you to a ceremony and wine and cheese reception in honor of these recipients of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Award on  Friday, April 19, at 7 PM at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary church hall.  For further information, tickets and to RSVP contact 403-670-5477  or to admin@ucpbacalgary.org



Saturday, 13 April 2013

Taxing Ukrainian Folk Songs

Interesting news from Ukraine lately about their need to fill the government treasury is puzzling and perhaps troubling - not sure yet.  It seems that with the rising popularity of Ukrainian folk songs, their government is eyeing opportunities to cash in.

Ukrainian folk songs express the accumulated wisdom of a people.  The rhythms of folksongs accurately represent syllabic stress in the language, subtle inflections in phrase, and the syntax is clearly expressed.  Over the years, the melodies of Ukrainian folksongs have evolved from a small range, with many repeated simple motifs, to a grander use of diatonic and altered scales.  The more "native" the melody, the more authentic it may be.  And authentic folk songs travel through the generations with ease, taking on the transitions of language, and subtle melodic influences in its vicinity. When you "straighten out" a folk song, you are messing with antiquity. 

Ukraine's young people are beginning to recognize the powerful truths jam packed into the folk songs of their ancestral memory, and enjoying their ancestral identity.  With available technology for recording, manipulation and marketing of their native folk music, Ukrainian folk songs are taking their place in the modern culture.  Their government has recently opined their desire to cash in on this national treasure chest - and I am a bit concerned, if not bewildered. 

There are international laws protecting authorship, composers, performers, etc.  Music over 50 years old is generally considered "in the public domain".  Copywrited music requires licensing, and the list goes on.   Even composed songs with authored lyrics can fall into the public domain but this is more touchy, again I am not an expert.  But Ukrainian folk songs are way older than that!  They belong to the people, shared from generation to generation,  primarily through an oral tradition.  So very much of the Ukrainian language, spirit and lifestyle is revealed in its folksongs - there is a song for every moment of one's life. 

Conceptually, the Ukrainian government taxing Ukrainian folk songs concerns me.  In conversation with a person far more versed than I, the question was - is this an attempt to limit permission or to censor the folk culture of Ukraine?   One can only wonder whether this is a truly benevolent attempt to honor and protect the cultural identity and ancestral treasury wantonly usurped by manipulators of history! On the other hand, is this another way of preventing wide consumption and access to tradition, culture and the place where authentic language has evolved as a descriptor of the people and her dreams?  Or, on the other hand is this a way to validate and champion, bringing recognition, legal support, and financial recompense to the keepers of the hearth, the keepers of ancestral culture?  The ancestral babas and didos who continue to live close to the land, authentically engaged in lifestyle practices foreign to city dwellers may be both a target and recipients of attention - gotta watch out for the tax man.

This is a bizarre attempt to fill the government treasury with the lifeblood of a nation in my eyes.  Can you imagine the government trying to license a community choir performance of Taras Shevchenko's The Last Testament?, and where do you draw the line between folk songs and communal singing at a liturgy?  Really?! Wouldn't it be better for Ukraine to tax real estate? or use some muscle to collect income tax first, especially from those who have hidden their billions in off shore banks? 


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Ukrainian Community Convention 2013

Back before the Soviet adventure in Ukraine, two generations of Ukrainian immigrants had already settled into the Canadian rhythms of life.  These people were here to build a life in this land of political freedom, relishing economic opportunity. By 1918 Canada was home to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, registered under Canadian law and thankful of its abiding security.  So that meant a церква українського народу existed under Canadian Charter.  War struck, and Canadians of Ukrainian ancestry were themselves often awestruck at their fierce pride and attachment for their new homeland.  Many were detained in Canada's first War internment operations, it is true, however a huge contingent of them voluntarily enlisted in Canada's wartime services!  According to statistics 10,000 newly minted Canadians of Ukrainian descent served in the Canadian Armed Forces in WWI.

The times were very Canadian, but also truly, and resiliently Ukrainian. Momentum grew in a "self reliance movement" here.  Independent of governmental decree, religious oppression, and fear of political reprisals, Canadians of Ukrainian descent agreed their children's interests were not best served when forced into assimilation.  Rather, they felt cultural, linguistic and religious impoverishment.  With thousands of years in the making, Ukrainian culture was a way of life, but in Canada the living culture was "other".

The problem was, how to live in one world of economic freedom and democracy, yet convey ancestral wisdom to future generations who would not be able to visit the homeland for....til the end of Sovet times? It was a really avant-garde thinking to be "of two cultures", to be equally faithful to both at the same time.

Supercharged with purpose, the unique structures of The Ukrainian Self Reliance League of Canada gathered steam, and the Ukrainian diaspora changed forever.  No longer "renamed", no longer ache-ing for sights, sounds and smells of home, it is now easy to find a -chuk, -ski, or an -enko, in Canadian institutions of power and influence.  Many of them got their starts in public service through the example of groups like The Ukrainian Self Reliance League of Canada, who are inviting participants to their 87th Anniversary 2013 Summer Convention in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on August 21 to 25, 2013 for "Embracing Change". 

For complete information contact http://www.usrl-cyc.org/2013convention.htm

Friday, 5 April 2013

More on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

When I was a child, my parents made a real effort to immunize me and my siblings from ethnic prejudice and discrimination.  It was only when we received phone calls asking for someone who bore an English name, when my parents would pick up the phone and have lively conversations with someone I had never met, that I realized my parents had two identities.  One of them, I knew, and the other was a foreign construct - someone whose name was English.  Later on, when the conversation came up, I came to understand that both my parents who bear beautiful Ukrainian names, were "re-named" upon entry into public school.  And it turns out, the more I ask around, it wasn't such a rare practice - actually it was the practice! 

The immigrant experience is never soft and easy, but for generations of Ukrainians up until very recently, it has been doubly tough.  Change your name, lose your culture, stop associating with people from your ancestry, and make sure never to show recognition of any cultural artifact from your past - the reason why there were so many "Ukrainian jokes" in the past... 

I haven't toured the Winnipeg located Canadian Museum for Human Rights yet, but as a Canadian citizen of Ukrainian descent I know this taxpayer-funded museum is dedicated to the human rights stories that will inform and include all parts of the human community.  I also know that the Ukrainian Canadian stories around Canada's first national internment operations and the Holodomor in Ukraine during the 1930's, and crimes of communism are human rights stories that need to be told. 

Citizens collaborate in the creation of a just society. Inclusion, diversity, and recognition of each other's humanity is part of the social fabric everywhere I cherish.  Schools, churches, community events, and my neighborhood are inclusive, diverse and respectful of the human condition - at least we try. It is all about balancing a variety of interests, and needs these days. Ignoring one or the other needs or interests invariably leads to someone feeling left out.  The great thing about our Canadian system is our attention to individual inclusion.  Everyone has the right to speak, champion a cause, and draw attention to inadequacies that require redress. 

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights has a responsibility to make all Canadians feel belonging within its walls.  As a tax-funded institution, the content in its galleries, and pertinence of its message is compromised without adequate focus on the important stories brought to its attention by Canadian citizens of Ukrainian descent.  In consideration of Canada's historic openness and generosity of spirit, much less its moral standing on freedoms and respect for humanity, Canadians can accept no less. 

You can find the contact information for your Member of Parliament at: www.parl.gc.ca
or make your opinions known to www.friendsofcmhr.com. 

Flat Head Screws

If you are ever in New York City, as I was recently, you undoubtedly paid a visit to the amazing Metropolitan Museum of Art embraced by the beauty of Central Park. However, you may not have known to pop into another treasure find just kitty corner away. 

The Ukrainian Institute of America is housed in a turn of the last century mansion across the street from Central Park.  Thanks to a Ukrainian industrialist, inventor and philanthropist, this beautiful mansion with its prestigious address and unique architectural style has become a hub for seminars, symposia and conferences about news, political events and policy in Ukrainian organizations both here in the diaspora and in Ukraine. 

An anecdote retold by a friend enticed me to enter this fabulous building - this impressive Institute was made possible through the generosity of a person whose claim to fame involved the invention of a very needed flat head screw, designed especially for airplane construction.  It says something special about the Ukrainian dream in the diaspora that such an institution should be doing its work, quietly and effectively, nestled as it is in the most wonderful location on museum trail in New York City.  http://www.ukrainianinstitute.org/about.php# 

The grandeur of its architectural style is in stark contrast to the amazing modern art treasure we found inside on its gallery walls.  Twenty eight three-dimensional geometrically shaped, constructed relief sculptures were in the exhibition that welcomed us. And when we looked closer, it was the very interesting, contemporary art-works of professor of Fine Art at the University of Calgary, Ron Kostyniuk.

Ron Kostyniuk is a Canadian artist of Ukrainian descent whose work has been widely exhibited. His sculptures are included in many private and museum collections in Canada. We were glad to have the opportunity to view his exhibition, Art as Nature Analogue, and have another special place to visit the next time in New York - the Ukrainian Institute of America.  



Thursday, 4 April 2013

Lucky Embroidered Tunic?

A distinctive fashion trend is coming more into focus lately.  Combing the fashion magazines for favorite or representative voices of incredible and ikonic design, one cannot help but notice how intricately embroidered, luscious handiwork is really becoming a high end choice.  In fact if one scours the marketplace, or watches fashion television, or reads the mazagines lately, everyone from great fashion houses to the more affordable shops are promoting embroidered blouses!

Season after season, year after year, the most enduring fashion choice is one that flatters universally.  And what could be more flattering than ethnic, cultural and traditional fashion? Designed to flatter every body, styling too, that fits the female form beautifully -  isn't it incredible that it is time to bring out that delicately loved embroidered blouse again!

Wear it with a little tank top.  Wear it with jeans.  Wear it under the structured blazer or jacket - even a vest!  Whether gauzy, or structured cotton or linen, it seems the ikonic embroidered blouse is back!  Check out the latest Lucky magazine,  published by luckymag.com.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Rising Opportunity for Ukrainian Publishing House

Ukrainian Calgary is home to many fascinating people including authors, painters, pedagogs of every sort who rub shoulders at local social events, with little fanfare or attention.  Some of these have been pioneers in the Ukrainian publishing craft.  One of these is Lesia Savedchuk, who, while in Winnipeg, wrote a series of Ukrainian children's books that were the staple in my home for a long time!  With her success, and others including Nina Mudryk-Mrits in South America - and Halyna Koszarycz of Edmonton, and painter illustrator Larisa Sembaliuk Cheladyn, and teacher-writer Lena Gulytsan - well the list goes on.  These pioneers helped to promote an approach to Ukrainian childhood, special Ukrainian children's literature here in the diaspora.  In Ukraine, of course things have been different.

Every year for the past 50, a growing group of publishers of children's literature (literature for children) have gathered at an international trade fair to promote their wares, and gain access to international readership.  This year's event at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, a very special entry from the Ukrainian pubishing world participated - for the first time.  What a positive sign that «Грані-Т» and «Видавництво Старого Лева» were there as the first ever representatives of the entire Ukrainian language readership.  From March 25th to 28th, 2013 publishers, writers, illustrators, translators and purchasers from 1200 companies, and 75 different linguistic groups came to promote their work on an international stage. 

Chief Editorial staff members Marian Savka, and Olena Movchan were clear to describe their company as a personal initiative with personal investment.  The company is open for business on the world's market, publishing authentic product, interesting literature for children of the world, not only for Ukraine, and not only for the Ukrainian cultural and linguistic diaspora.  What a breath of fresh air - and a sign of great successes to come!  As the two say - If you want it done well, you have to do it yourself!

Purchase from the featured company at http://www.grani-t.com.ua/books.

Lesia's books can be purchased at http://www.kootaooma.com/catalogue/easy-to-read-books/ or http://mpue.ca/Dzvin/website/products_page3.htm

Monday, 1 April 2013

Healthy Transformations

Healthy living is about feeling love, happiness and belonging.  Ukrainian community celebrations in Calgary have traditionally been full of these!  And scientists know that these feelings are related to the good hormone levels, among them, the "mothering hormone" oxytocin.  Of course there are other hormones involved, things like dopamine and serotonin but the point is, these all enhance emotional bonding so necessary for a transformative experience in the world.  Transforming information received from social contact, and converting it into healthy, sustaining energy is that "interior decorating" plan we all undertake over time.

Ukrainian Calgary is more than just an idea for me.  It is a sense of place, of personal relationships, of friendship and family.  Participants in Ukrainian Calgary are processing information all the time. And because everything is new for newcomers, first impressions matter perhaps more than we think!  Aesthetics have a huge impact!  Familiar sights, sounds, smells all give an impression.  We know what we like, love and what attracts us.  We all recognize beauty, skill and craft.  Like connoiseurs, experience has taught us what is good and beneficial for our life journey.  Does Ukrainian Calgary exhude that sense of "home away from home" for newcomers?

Many of Calgary's Ukrainian newcomers and others are quietly visiting "Ukrainian Calgary".  Impressed,  many are taken aback at the organizational vision and personal leadership of the pioneer generations.   Most are astounded at the love, purpose and cultural bonds of Ukrainian Canadians of three and four generations, much less the unity of purpose!  Satisfied with visiting?  Perhaps.  

The linguistic, cultural traditions of the first Ukrainian Canadians has become a small part of the Western Canadian way of life.  "Ukraina" exists here in every pysanka, every "Carol of the Bells", in every braided bread and embroidered sorochka.  "Ukraina" exists here in the dancers, onion domed churches, and pyrohy available in every grocery store.  But newcomers can call home, go on the internet, purchase online - anything they "need" is available for purchase. But can you get "mothering hormones" via email?

What next? Well, relationships have a way of evolving. Transformation is the dance of life. Meditation and spiritual life is but a start; lifestyle changes that stimulate youthful thinking involves having fun together; leading to stress management and positivity, which helps to gain the skill to make new connections. Youthful new Ukrainian Calgarians are looking for these in their new life in the diaspora. 

Is Ukrainian Calgary welcoming new energies, new ideas and lifestyle changes that could transform our dance of life here on the Canadian prairies?  What would a huge embrace of newcomers do for Ukrainian Calgary's future? What are your "interior decorator" plans for Ukrainian Calgary?