Response to letter from Zenon Zawada

Dear Editor:

I have read Zenon Zawada’s fine reporting from Ukraine for many years. But I want to give a counterview to his passionate letter to the editor “ ‘False binaries’ and naivety” (January 10). The fact is that legalizing homosexual marriages or not permitting prayers at government meetings or public schools will not hasten the decline of Western civilization. Separation of Church and state has been a boon to America and Western Europe for it avoided many bloody conflicts. Just take a look at what is going on in the Middle East and its trampling of human rights in the name of religion.

Another response to Zawada’s letter

Dear Editor:

In his letter to the editor (January 10), Zenon Zawada proclaims that there is an “ideological battle to annihilate traditional Western and Christian values” being waged in the U.S. According to him, the “defenders of Western, Christian values are on the losing end so far, unless we fight back.” Mr. Zawada claims that the “Left,” among other deplorable undertakings, is “ostracizing” traditionalists as “homophobes and transphobes.”

When I read the letter, the content and tone reminded me of someone issuing similar pronouncements and to some readers the surprise may be that it is Vladimir Putin. In a similar vein, Mr. Putin said: ”Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values. Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation.” Fellow “warrior” on the side of the “traditionalists” Pat Buchanan made it clear: “Putin is saying the new ideological struggle is between a debauched West led by the United States and a traditionalist world Russia would be proud to lead. In the new war of beliefs, Putin is saying, it is Russia that is on God’s side.

125 years in Canada: What now?

This year marks the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian settlement in Canada. Not too many plans have been shared to date, hence I am offering some of my ideas on how to mark this important historic year and going forward. 1. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights might develop a historic time line marking Canada’s development in human rights based on lessons learned from its harsh treatment to Ukrainians; Canada’s first major non-Anglo-Celtic, non-Francophone settlement. This would be a fine tribute to a founding Canadian community and a history of progress in human rights.

Ukrainian choral concert celebrates Marika Kuzma’s career at Berkeley

BERKELEY, Calif. – On December 9, 2015, in Hertz Hall on the University of California, Berkeley campus, Marika Kuzma led two concerts that marked her retirement from the university choirs. It was one of many culminating events in the 25 years of her teaching there. The year 2015 was marked by several milestones in her career as a choral director and Slavic music scholar. Her edition of the Bortniansky Choral Concertos will soon be published by the international publisher Carus Verlag in Germany.

2015: Ukrainian National Association: a year of changes, milestones

For our community’s oldest and largest fraternal organization, the Ukrainian National Association, 2015 was a year of some welcome changes and financial milestones, as well as the continuation of fraternal benefits and programs geared toward helping Ukrainians here and in Ukraine. The best news came in early December, when it was reported that the UNA would soon reach a financial milestone: net admitted assets would exceed $200 million by December 31. On December 11-13, the UNA General Assembly met at the Soyuzivka Heritage Center for its first regular annual meeting since the UNA convention of 2014. The highest decision-making body of the UNA between its quadrennial conventions, the General Assembly reviewed the UNA’s activity for the past year and adopted a plan of action for 2016. The weekend’s sessions were marked by good news about the UNA’s progress during 2015.

2015: Ukrainians in the U.S.: Active on many fronts

Ukrainians in the United States were active in 2015 with protests, demonstrations, rallies, political and cultural events, as well as anniversaries. Following is a chronological account of the major developments. On January 23-26 Ukrainian Americans converged on Washington to mark the 1919 “Day of Unity” of Ukraine. Events included a protest in front of the White House that attracted more than 100 people, another protest in front of the Russian Embassy that called for the release of Nadiya Savchenko, as well as a reception at the Embassy of Ukraine. The Ukrainian community in Chicago honored Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) on January 25 with an award presented by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) – Illinois Division at Ss.

2015: Ukrainians and Canada: A solid partnership

The main event in Canada in the year 2015 was one that potentially touched every citizen: the federal election held on October 19. It not only brought victory to the Liberal party – which gained a majority and governing position – but Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau’s 184-member Liberal caucus included at least seven Members of Parliament with Ukrainian lineage. Alberta-born Chrystia Freeland beat her rival 27,806 votes to 15,969 in her new riding of University-Rosedale. Joining her in the caucus is Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who returned to Parliament after losing in the previous election (by 26 votes). While outgoing Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a huge supporter of the Ukrainian government and its fight against Russian-backed rebels, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) said it expects his Liberal successor to take a similar stand.

Proposals to resolve armed conflict in Donbas fail to impress experts

KYIV – Top U.S. and Russian officials were literally brainstorming on new ways to resolve the armed conflict in Donbas on January 15, as described by Russian presidential aide Vladislav Surkov. A solution has yet to emerge from the meeting in Kaliningrad between Mr. Surkov and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, the details of which were not made public. Instead, other creative proposals have surfaced in recent weeks to solve the conflict, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) taking control of the Ukrainian side of the occupied border, as well as the United Nations dispatching humanitarian missions and possibly peacekeepers. They haven’t made Ukrainian political experts any more optimistic. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has yet to propose to the Europeans an alternative to the current plan, which involves local elections in occupied Donbas, followed by de facto autonomy, said Oles Doniy, the head of the Center for Political Values Research in Kyiv.

Poroshenko has 25% support, 70% disapproval, poll reveals

KYIV – About 25 percent of Ukrainians approve of the job President Petro Poroshenko is doing, while about 70 percent disapprove of his performance, particularly his administration’s handling of the war in the Donbas. As president, he’s the commander-in-chief of the military and has led the negotiations with foreign leaders to resolve the conflict. “He has quite strong support, particularly when compared with [Prime Minister Arseniy] Yatsenyuk,” said Petro Oleshchuk, a political science lecturer at Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv. “The public is banking on Poroshenko to resolve this war and his rating reflects certain hopes and expectations. I would even say that they’re a down payment.”

The poll, released on January 12, was conducted by Rating Group Ukraine between November 19 and 30, 2015, in cooperation with the International Republican Institute’s Center for Insights in Survey Research and was financed by Global Affairs Canada.

EU document reflects concerns about pace of reforms in Ukraine

BRUSSELS – Kyiv has touted the promise of a visa-free regime for Ukrainians traveling to the European Union as evidence of its success in carrying out reforms, but behind the scenes several key European Union member states are bemoaning the country’s slow progress of implementation and lack of engagement both with its citizens and with Brussels. A discussion paper supported by nine EU member states and seen by RFE/RL declares that the government and Parliament in Kyiv “urgently need to respond to public demands and reinforce their efforts to adopt and implement effective reforms, in particular in the area of anti-corruption.”

The paper suggests that the establishment of a vice prime minister for European integration could foster the creation of a “transparent and effective coordination structure for reforms.”

The document acknowledges that substantial progress has been made as regards the passage of new laws but highlights the many problems still facing the country. “In some areas the actual implementation of reforms lags behind and is hampered by vested interests and lack of capacity,” the paper said. “The complex processes of change and perceived lack of tangible results create disappointment and frustration among Ukrainians.”

The document is backed by EU heavyweights Germany and the United Kingdom; the Netherlands, which is the current EU holder of the rotating EU presidency; and Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Sweden, countries that are generally supportive of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership. The discussion paper emerged as President Petro Poroshenko boasted to journalists on January 14 about Ukraine’s implementation of a wide range of reforms in 2015, the success of which was evidenced by the EU’s executive backing visa-free travel to Ukrainian citizens.