Pope Francis meets with Ukrainian Church leaders over two days

An unprecedented event took place in Rome on July 5-6. Desiring to demonstrate support for the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church at a time of war, shifts in interconfessional relations, fluctuating hopes amid heightened tensions, and humanitarian and social crises, Pope Francis invited the head, metropolitans and members of the Permanent Synod of the UGCC to a personal meeting at the Vatican.

A Ukrainian political prisoner for the ages

Just over a year ago on July 7, 2018, a Ukrainian moral icon was laid to rest. Levko Lukianenko was a Ukrainian nationalist by his own appellation, a freedom fighter, dissident and one of Ukraine’s longest termed political prisoner. After independence Lukianenko became a politician, diplomat, but frankly he was never suited for that line of work. Politicians and diplomats are rarely moral icons.  

I knew Levko Lukianenko personally, having had  many opportunities to meet and converse with him. I attended his funeral in Kyiv and bade him farewell on behalf of Ukrainians abroad.

At home in Kingston, Ontario

Some remarkable things have happened in Kingston lately.
For the 50th time I found myself on a stage facing a large audience attending the annual “Lviv, Ukraine” pavilion at the Folklore festival. The first time I did this I was a student at Regiopolis-Notre Dame High School. Now I am a senior citizen.

‘Youngest Soviet defector’ tells his tale nearly 40 years later

Wife, two kids, house in the suburbs of Chicago, job as an office manager for the last 20 years. The life of Volodymyr, or Walter, Polovchak sounds like a completely ordinary existence of a Midwestern American. But rewind nearly 40 years and Mr. Polovchak was at the center of a Cold War row after he refused at the age of 12 to return to his home in Soviet Ukraine, won over by the freedoms and opportunities he discovered during a family trip to the United States. To Washington at the time, he was the “youngest Soviet defector.” To the Kremlin, he was a “hostage” along with his older sister, Natalia, who also balked at returning to the Soviet Union. Mr. Polovchak was soon caught up in a media frenzy, an accidental pawn in the struggle between Washington and Moscow.

“Cherez tu Banduru” – Unforgettable meetings in Kyiv

As the song goes, “Cherez tu banduru, bandurystom stav” (Because of the bandura, I became a bandura player). That led me to three fantastic experiences while in Kyiv in early June. First let me explain the context. I started to play the bandura at age 12, taught in Cleveland by the venerable Hryhory Kytasty. In my teens and 20s I played in the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus and the ensemble Homin Stepiv, and taught bandura at countless courses and summer camps.

Akcja Wisla’s intent: “To solve the Ukrainian problem in Poland once and for all”

Despite much pleading from the Ukrainian community and promises from Polish authorities, the wrongs of Operation Vistula have not been redressed, except perhaps for the return of a deteriorated Ukrainian National Home in Przemyśl (Peremyshl). After the establishment of new borders between the USSR and its new satellite, the Polish Peoples’ Republic, as a consequence of World War II, only 700,000 Ukrainians remained on the territory of Poland. Between the two world wars on the territory of the Second Polish Republic the Ukrainian population was over 5 million. With the establishment of new borders, a Soviet-Polish joint action of “voluntary resettlement” was initiated. Soon the facade of the action’s “voluntary” nature was dropped in favor of “forcible repatriation.” Yet in January 1947, when the joint action seemingly had been completed, the Polish government realized that more than 150,000 indigenous Ukrainians remained in Poland.

The word “maidan”: Where it comes from, what it means

Philologists, who chase
A panting syllable through time and space,
Start it at home, and hunt it in the dark,
To Gaul, to Greece, and into Noah’s Ark. William Cowper (1731-1800)
For a short period in 2014, the name of the central square in Kyiv called the “Maidan” became known throughout the civilized world. That was because it was the place where the Ukrainian people gathered to overthrow the unpopular regime of Viktor Yanukovych, who appeared to be attempting to set up a new dictatorship in Ukraine with renewed ties to Russia. This pro-Western, pro-EU, democratic movement, came to be called by Ukrainians the Revolution of Dignity, or “the Euro-Maidan.” The “Euro” part of this word was clear to all. But for Westerners the “maidan” part required some explanation by visiting journalists who, however, generally ignored it or, at most, stated simply that it was a Ukrainian word for “town square.”

Little did the Western public know that this was only a very small part of the story, for although the word “maidan” was used in Kyiv and some other eastern Ukrainian cities with the meaning of town square, it was less used in western Ukraine, where the old Slavonic word “ploshcha” (square) and the loan from German via Polish “rynok” (marketplace), were more frequently employed.