Ukrainian Canadian Program promotes awareness

of the rich history of the Ukrainian diaspora

EDMONTON - Just as it is a widely held misconception that Canadian history is dull, the Ukrainian experience in Canada often gets dismissed as an exotic ethnic sideline to the "real" story of Canadian life. The Ukrainian Canadian Program (UCP) of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies is quietly working to challenge these assumptions, both within academia and among the public at large, including the Ukrainian Canadian community.

During the past year UCP co-directors Jars Balan and Andrij Makuch have used numerous opportunities to address audiences about different aspects of the Ukrainian experience in Canada.

For instance, both Ukrainian Canadian specialists have taken an active part in Canada's premiere meeting of scholars and graduate students, the Congress of the Social Sciences and the Humanities. Formerly known as the Learned Societies Conference, this annual assembly attracts several thousand Canadian academics working in a wide range of disciplines.

In 2002 the congress met at the University of Toronto, where Messrs. Makuch and Balan delivered papers at sessions of the Canadian Association of Slavists (CAS). The latter also gave an additional talk at a meeting of the Shevchenko Scientific Society of Canada, reading an English-language version of a paper on Ukrainian-Romanian relations in Canada, which he had earlier presented in Ukrainian at a conference in Chernivtsi, Ukraine.

This year the congress convened at Dalhousie University in Halifax in the last week of May. Mr. Makuch spoke about the breakaway Danylo Lobay faction of the Ukrainian Labor Farmer Temple Association during the 1930s as part of a Ukrainian Canadian panel chaired by Mr. Balan, with Myron Momryk of the National Archives acting as discussant.

Other papers were given by Dr. Serhii Cipko, who examined the "Return to the Homeland Campaign" promoted in the diaspora by the USSR in the 1950s, and by doctoral student Aya Fujiwara, who described Ukrainian-Japanese relations in the Opal-Egremont area of Kalyna Country in Alberta.

Later that same day, Mr. Balan gave a presentation to members of the Association for Canadian Theatre Research (ACTR) on the theatrical legacy of Myroslaw Irchan, a left-wing Ukrainian author and activist who spent six and a half years in Canada before returning to Soviet Ukraine, where he was subsequently arrested, sent to the gulag, and later shot.

Taking advantage of invitations that he received from Ukrainian community groups, Mr. Balan has also spoken in the past months at very different public functions at opposite ends of the country.

In November of 2002 he took part in Toronto's revived William Kurelek Memorial Lecture Series, sponsored by the Ukrainian Professional and Business Federation. Titled "William Kurelek's Literary Legacy," his talk dealt with the popular painter's large output of books and his collaborative projects with Canadian writers like W.O. Mitchell, John Robert Colombo and Gloria Kupchenko Frolick.

A month later Mr. Balan traveled to Kelowna, British Columbia, where he gave a well-received luncheon address on the Rev. Ahapii Honcharenko to members of the Okanagan Valley's Order of St. Andrew. The California radical and maverick Orthodox priest played a little-known role in the formation of the pioneer-era Ukrainian Canadian intelligentsia.

More recently, Mr. Balan has been invited to give a paper in early October at a conference to be held in Reykjavik, Iceland, to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Icelandic Canadian poet, Stephan G. Stephansson. His presentation will compare and contrast the development of Icelandic with Ukrainian writing in Canada.

At the same time, Mr. Makuch will be speaking at the Canadian Ethnic Studies Association Conference in Banff on the cultural activities of the ULFTA in the interwar years.

Then, in November, both men will be presenting papers in Toronto, along with UCP researcher Orest Martynowych, on different aspects of the Ukrainian Canadian experience between the wars. The three Ukrainian Canadianists will appear together on a panel at the annual conference of the American Academic Association of Slavic Studies, which will be meeting in Canada for the first time.

Much of the research conducted in preparing these different talks will eventually be used in preparing the multi-volume history of Ukrainians in Canada and in other scholarly, journalistic and documentary undertakings.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, August 3, 2003, No. 31, Vol. LXXI

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