Giving thanks and giving

Two years ago, in mid-December 2013, our editorial encouraged readers to remember the courage of the people of Ukraine who were on the barricades of the Euro-Maidan. At that time, what was most needed was immediate humanitarian aid – medications, food, clothing, blankets, thermoses, hygienic necessities, etc. – for the hundreds of thousands of cold and hungry Ukrainians who had taken to the streets and squares of Kyiv, Lviv and many other cities beginning in November to protest the Yanukovych regime’s decision to suspend Ukraine’s Euro-integration. In 2014, our Christmastime editorial noted that Ukraine was in a war for its continued existence and that Ukraine’s defenders – its soldiers and members of volunteer battalions – desperately needed our assistance. We cited countless fund-raising initiatives in our local communities geared toward soliciting monetary donations and/or supplies for these brave men and women.

November 30, 2013

Following the clashes between protesters – who had been demonstrating against President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to not sign an Association Agreement with the European Union – and police that resulted in hundreds of injured on November 30, 2013, Kyiv erupted with the biggest social unrest since the country regained its independence in 1991. Initial crowd estimates ranged from 200,000 to 1 million in outrage over the police’s excessive use of force. In an action dubbed the “Euro-Maidan,” the protesters had taken control of several strategic sites in Kyiv, including Independence Square, the adjacent Trade Union Building and the Kyiv City Council. The protest demands by then had grown beyond simply Euro-integration. The movement demanded a complete overhaul of a government system plagued by corruption and mismanagement, and change was to include the ouster of President Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.

Portnikov: Russia with its current borders and values will remain a threat to Ukraine, Europe and itself

That only 3 percent of Russians say that Crimea should be part of Ukraine shows that Ukraine’s main problem in dealing with Russia is “not in Putin and his kleptocratic regime but in the chauvinistic madness of the majority of the population of Russia,” Kyiv-based journalist and political observer Vitaly Portnikov says. And that pattern in turn means that if Russia retains its current borders and “does not get rid of its imperial swagger, Russian-Ukrainian relations will never normalize,” he notes in a recent column, even if Vladimir Putin’s successors give Ukraine back (rus.newsru.ua/columnists/23 Nov2015/cifrachvanstva.html). It is significant, Mr. Portnikov says, that the percentage of Russians who consider Crimea Russian “coincides with Putin’s rating, and therefore it is easy to trace a reverse connection: They love Putin because he stole Crimea” since they have no need for Crimea as such. “The majority of Russians are proud of theft as their greatest national achievement,” he writes, adding that this feeling is “the typical reaction of poor marginalized societies which don’t have anything else to be proud of.”

He gives as an example of this Indonesia. There, to the delight of the population, Suharto annexed East Timor.

UCCA calls for increase in pressure on Russia

Below is the text of an appeal to the international community that was released by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America on November 19. The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), the representative organization of the over 1 million Americans of Ukrainian descent, strongly condemns the recent surge in the shelling of the Ukrainian army positions by the Russian-backed terrorists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. According to Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russian terrorist forces have carried out over 350 shellings and provocations since November 1, resulting in the death of seven Ukrainian servicemen. Such actions by the Russian-backed terrorists are in gross violation of the Minsk agreement. The UCCA calls upon the United States and the international community to immediately increase pressure on Russia in order to prevent the renewal of full-scale hostilities in the Donbas, and renews its calls to the United States to immediately supply Ukraine with defensive weapons to help the country defend its borders.

UWC calls upon Ukrainian communities to help document Russian disinformation

TORONTO – The Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) is calling upon Ukrainian communities to join the international effort to combat Russian disinformation by helping to document such incidents. The East StratCom Team of the European External Action Service, the European Union’s diplomatic service, was tasked with analyzing Russian disinformation, revealing its fundamental aims and tendencies, and reacting and effectively preventing further similar steps by the Russian Federation. Recently, East StratCom created a network for de-bunking myths of the Russian Federation, which includes representatives of mass media, think tanks, individual experts, officials and non-governmental organizations that are to be the source of facts on Russian disinformation. The UWC is requesting that individuals and organizations send any discovered incidents of Russian disinformation with a link to the relevant source to the UWC liaison officer to the European Union, Maryna Iaroshevych (m.iaroshevych@ukrainianworldcongress.org), who will, in turn, submit such materials to East StratCom for analysis. “We call upon Ukrainian communities to join the effort by East StratCom to compile examples of disinformation that attempt to justify Russian aggression in Ukraine and threaten democratic principles and European values,” commented UWC President Eugene Czolij.

Letter from religious leaders to President Barack Obama

Below is the text of the November 9 letter from representatives of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations to U.S. President Barack Obama. (Copies of the letter were sent to members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.) A story about this letter appeared on the front page of last week’s issue, dated November 22. Dear Mr. President:

We, the undersigned of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, and representing Ukraine’s diverse religious community appeal to you on behalf of our people to help address the humanitarian catastrophe gripping our country. The needs are enormous, ranging from medical supplies to everyday items such as food, water, and clothing. While the global news media regularly reports on Russia’s war against Ukraine, government reforms and financial challenges, there is rarely any mention of the extraordinary dimensions of the human suffering caused by military action in the east of Ukraine.

UCCA statement on Ukraine’s Day of Dignity and Freedom

The statement below was released by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America on November 20 (after The Ukrainian Weekly’s November 22 issue went to press). We publish it here for the record. For a land with centuries of tradition, November 21 is only a recent commemorative date in Ukraine’s history. On this Day of Dignity and Freedom, the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America joins our brethren across the world in celebrating the indomitable Ukrainian spirit that manifested itself in the growth of European identity among the Ukrainian electorate during the historic 2004 Orange Revolution, and the defense of these democratic values, rights and freedoms for which the Ukrainian people “laid body and soul” during the 2013-2014 Revolution of Dignity. These historic revolutions transformed not only the lives of those living in Ukraine, but those of the worldwide Ukrainian diaspora as well.

Taras Shevchenko: Aral Sea expeditionary

We’re all familiar with Charles Darwin’s ’round-the-world voyage of the Beagle in 1831-1836 and his role as naturalist on that voyage. That voyage helped to shape his concept of natural selection as the basis of evolution. There were also two topographical artists on the Beagle, and their watercolors are similar to those of Taras Shevchenko’s remarkable collection of sketches of the Aral and Caspian seas. Not until the 18th century were artists commissioned to accompany naval exploratory expeditions. Capt. James Cook revolutionized the notion of exploration by including scientists and artists who advanced public understanding of the planet’s geography, anthropology, and fauna and flora.

COMMENTARY: Re-counting Holodomor losses

The recent unveiling of the Holodomor Memorial in Washington was an important event in the history of the Ukrainian nation as a whole, as well as the Ukrainian diaspora. Naturally it renewed much discussion of this tragedy of the Ukrainian people which took place more than 80 years ago. Some of the discussion centered on issues of somewhat disproportionate significance. The Russians once again spread distractions, insisting that this was not a genocide and made attempts to minimize the size of the tragedy. The number of Ukrainian victims of the Famine of 1932-1933 in the USSR is certainly more than 4 million and probably less than 10 million.

Vesnivka liturgy premiere celebrates 50 seasons of song

TORONTO – The Vesnivka Choir treated music lovers in the Ukrainian community and many others in the Canadian music community to a unique heavenly choral experience to commence its 50th anniversary season. Vesnivka presented the world premiere of Roman Hurko’s Liturgy No. 4 conducted by Vesnivka’s founder, choral and artistic director Halyna Kvitka Kondracki on Sunday, October 18, at St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church in Toronto. This has been Vesnivka’s home base since it was founded as a girls’ choir at the parish’s associated Ukrainian School.