Archives of the Ukrainian Canadian Experience launched in Winnipeg

by Alexandra Pawlowsky

WINNIPEG - With the April 9 launch of the Archives of the Ukrainian Canadian Experience, the University of Manitoba here has undertaken a project that will benefit the Ukrainian Canadian community. The new archives will assist in the preservation of the memory and heritage of Ukrainian Canadians who played a vital and active role in helping to shape the fabric of Canada.

The launch was co-sponsored by Archives/Special Collections of the University of Manitoba Libraries, the Center for Ukrainian Canadian Studies and the department of German and Slavic Studies. It took place in the Iceland Reading Room of the Elizabeth Dafoe Library, with approximately 100 people in attendance.

Opening remarks were presented by Carolynne Presser, director of libraries for the University of Manitoba, who outlined the projects mandate "to gather papers, documents, photographs and other archival information on Ukrainian life in Canada from [those who] share our belief in supporting the teaching and research programs at the University by depositing their precious materials in the archives."

She added, "We know that the Ukrainian culture is steeped in tradition and that the lives of Ukrainian Canadians is rich with memories and we would like to take a step towards ensuring that those memories are preserved."

Dr. Shelley Sweeney, head of the Library-Archives/Special Collections then detailed what "memories" will be preserved in the archives, specifically, "the stories of [those] who were so critical to the building of this province and this country."

The featured presentation at the launch was by Orysia Tracz, Collections Management of the University of Manitoba Libraries, who is an expert in Ukrainian folk culture and tradition. Her topic was titled "Pysanka: More than Just an Egg; Symbolism of the Ukrainian Easter Egg." She first showed Slawko Nowytski's classic film "Pysanka" and then discussed the long historical tradition of the pysanka and the significance of its varied motifs.

The topic of the pysanka was especially appropriate to open the new archives, the speaker noted, since the pysanka represents a beginning, and this indeed is the beginning of a new venture. A short question period followed the presentation.

After the presentation the guests were given the opportunity to view the "Pysanka: More than Just an Egg" exhibit at the Elizabeth Dafoe Library, to see demonstrations of pysanka-writing and to part take in a reception.

The University of Manitoba now is poised to join the many voices that are being raised to preserve the past in recognition of the fact that, as we move into the 21st century, it is imperative that documents which can tell the story of the past contributions of Ukrainian Canadians not be lost or forgotten, but are preserved professionally for future generations.

Alexandra Pawlowsky, Ph.D., is acting director of the Center for Ukrainian Canadian Studies at the University of Manitoba.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, April 27, 2003, No. 17, Vol. LXXI

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