The legacy of Taras Shevchenko lives on in Canada

Every year, around March 9 (the date of his birth in 1814) and March 10 (the date of his death in 1861), Ukrainians throughout the world celebrate the life and legacy of Ukraine’s national bard, Taras Shevchenko.

Biden’s early executive orders cause concern for Canadians

There is no doubt that Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump in November’s presidential election was welcomed by the vast majority of Canadians. After all, in a poll held during the last month of the campaign in which Canadians were hypothetically asked how they would vote, 84 percent of decided respondents picked Mr. Biden. But two executive orders Mr. Biden signed right after his inauguration have caused considerable concern.
One of these is the “Buy American” policy setting up rules for U.S. government spending, which added a caveat that exceptions to those rules will be allowed only under “very limited circumstances.

Advancing U.S-Ukraine relations in the Biden Administration

Part I

The advent of the Biden Administration brings with it the promise of more robust ties between the United States and Ukraine. No incoming U.S. president has had the knowledge and track record of support and commitment for Ukraine that President Joe Biden does. His foreign policy team is also second to none when it comes to Ukraine. This especially holds true at the State Department, where the three most senior officials – Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, and especially Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland – all have familiarity with Ukraine and the challenges it faces, external as well as domestic. Also, the many officials below this level who deal with Ukraine on a daily basis, and therefore are critical in the formulation and execution of Ukraine policy, are among the best that I have seen.

The 2020 election and its aftermath

In my last column, I wrote I would be commenting on the election.  I had no idea how much there would be to consider, both pre-November 3 and post.  So, this column will be actually two.  And by the time it’s published and distributed, it may well be superseded by rapidly advancing events.  But here goes.

I supported Joe Biden from the very beginning of the campaign.  I believed his vast experience, moderate approach to politics and record of achievement set him up to be the best leader for America.  As a House staffer in the 1980s, I worked with Mr. Biden’s Senate office and became aware of his life-long association with Ukrainian Americans and his deep commitment to Ukraine.

Faith in the future

Our post-World War II wave of immigration set itself the goal of preserving the Ukrainian language, culture and churches until Ukraine should be free. It succeeded. For our churches, it is now time to concentrate on their primary mission.

Statistics for the Ukrainian Catholic Church, however, are not encouraging. In 1980 there were some 700,000 people in the United States who considered themselves of Ukrainian or partly Ukrainian origin. In 1981, the Ukrainian Catholic Church counted about 245,000 members. Today, Ukrainian Americans number over 930,000. According to the eparchial websites, however, the number of Ukrainian Catholics has fallen to about 52,000. In 1981, the Church had 27 elementary and three secondary schools; today, it has a half-dozen. In 1981, the Archeparchy of Philadelphia had 98 active eparchial and mission priests; today, it has 37.

Hope for the new year

By just about any measure, 2020 has been a difficult year.  The COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump’s unfounded allegations of elections fraud and stubborn refusal to concede the election, and Russia’s recent massive cyberattack, are just a few of the bad news stories of the year.

But there is hope for 2021.  The rapid development of COVID-19 vaccines suggests that, as the year progresses, life will return to some semblance of normality.  And Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20 will also usher in a degree of sanity in our politics.  Our country, indeed, the world, needs it. 

My Ukrainian literary dinner party

The election is over and I have a few thoughts, but I’ll wait until Joe Biden’s inauguration to share those. For now, I’d like to reflect on a favorite topic: Ukrainian literature and the beauty and complexity of the Ukrainian word, as well as the horrific associated politics, with the language frequently banned, writers arrested, indeed killed.  And revel in how the culture, the literature has nonetheless survived and is blossoming today. 

So, for respite from the most horrible American election (and post-election) I’ve ever experienced, allow me to share a Sunday relaxation:  The New York Times Book Review, where authors relate their reading history, the interview ending: “You’re organizing a literary dinner party.  Which three authors, dead or alive, would you invite?”  Invariably, the list includes those whose works I’ve read with pleasure: Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Virgil, Emily Dickenson, James Baldwin and others.

Family Futures

In the opening scene of Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s 1958 novel “The Leopard,” beautifully rendered by Luchino Visconti’s 1963 film of the same name, it is May 1860, and the Sicilian Prince of Salina’s family has gathered to recite the rosary. When I first saw that film, I was impressed by this archaic Old-World custom. Growing up among nominal Protestants and secular Jews in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1950s and 1960s, I had never witnessed anything like it. I had only a couple of Roman Catholic classmates, one of whom lived in a large family that seemed to be in a state of perpetual pandemonium. It appeared to confirm the stereotype of Catholics as poor and ignorant – ignorant because they were poor, poor because they were ignorant. Large families were considered a sign of ignorance.

Opportunities abound!

Dear Readers! Welcome to The Washington Notebook, a column compiled by the Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS) to provide perspective and insight on activities in Washington that concern the Ukrainian community.

What did the November 3 elections prove in the United States? Firstly, an unprecedented number of citizens went to the polls to cast their vote for our elected officials. But more importantly for the Ukrainian community, many of our “Friends of Ukraine” in Congress have been re-elected, while those newly-elected to Congress have had opportunities to interact with community representatives during the campaign period.