As in most of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic did not spare Ukraine in 2020 and even reached a Chilean research center in Antarctica in December. In March, the same month that Ukraine recorded its first case of the coronavirus that originated in China in 2019, authorities in Kyiv imposed strict restrictive measures to stave off the spread of the highly transmissible disease.
Only essential stores were allowed to stay open, and even the Kyiv subway was closed; public transportation was limited for a while in the early spring. Medical workers were trained to treat COVID-19 patients, and special hospital wards were established as the country’s dilapidated health-care system braced for hospitalizations.
The year 2020 was, what can we say, a follow-up to the unusual year that preceded it as regards U.S.-Ukraine relations. There were plenty of ups and downs, and oftentimes it seemed the Trump administration and Congress were on opposite sides when it came to Ukraine. Sometimes, different positions were articulated by members of the administration and the president himself.
A case in point: While members of Congress and the administration kept up the pressure on Russia for its invasion and occupation of Ukraine, President Donald Trump was willing to ignore Russia’s violations of international law when he suggested on May 30 that he wanted to invite Russia to rejoin the Group of Seven. “I don’t feel that as a G-7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world,” Mr. Trump said, adding, “It’s a very outdated group of countries.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic putting the planet on freeze for most of 2020, the year presented an opportunity for reflection and Canada’s Ukrainian community spent considerable time looking back at history.
As part of its “Heroes of Their Day” initiative and during 75th anniversary year of Victory in Europe (V-E) Day, the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation (UCCLF) released the Almanac of Ukrainian Canadian Servicemen online (https://www.ucclf.ca/heroes-of-their-day), a Ukrainian-language digest (with an English foreword), produced in 1946 by the Ukrainian Catholic Brotherhood of Canada, which provides information about many of the thousands of Ukrainian Canadian men and women who volunteered for service overseas with the Canadian Armed Forces during World War II, including photographs and casualty lists. News of the online documentation was reported in February.
Champions. Ukraine had many of them in 2019, as the sports world continued to witness Ukrainians achieve outstanding athletic performances. Lady Ukrainian tennis stars volleyed to victory, Ukrainian boxers punched their way to knockout wins, Ukrainian judokas threw down opponents into triumphant pins, and Zhan Beleniuk was selected as No. 1 in the world of Greco-Roman wrestling. The surprises of the past year were team efforts: Team Ukraine winning soccer’s U-20 World Cup, the Ukrainian national team winning Group B to qualify for Euro 2020 and Team Ukraine’s phenomenal third-place showing at the 2019 European Games. Individually and collectively, it was yet another banner year for Ukrainians in sports.
Notable in Ukrainian academic circles were topics such as the Holodomor, Ukrainian-Jewish relations and history, and the role of women in politics, society and culture. Author Anne Applebaum was interviewed on January 16 by Marta Baziuk, executive director of the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta), about her latest book, “Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine.” Ms. Applebaum reflected on the overwhelmingly positive response the book received in the U.S. and U.K press, as well as across European states, with translations in French, Italian and Portuguese editions released in the fall of 2019.
This section features the noteworthy events and people of 2019 that defy easy classification (or could fit under more than one of our Year in Review categories). — After Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched its #CorrectUA campaign October 2018, appealing to foreign media and airports to use “Kyiv” rather than “Kiev,” 2019 saw marked progress in this area. In April, Toronto’s Pearson International Airport – the largest in Canada and the only one with direct flights to Ukraine – changed the spelling on both its arrival/departure boards and website. Airports across the globe followed suit, and by July 1 some 50 international airports had announced the change. On August 14, the Associated Press Stylebook notified its users that the name of the Ukraine’s capital would now be spelled Kyiv, “in line with the Ukrainian government’s preferred transliteration to English…”
Іn case you missed it (ICYMI), here is a noteworthy excerpt of the obituary headlined “Mark von Hagen, Critic of Times’s Stalin Coverage, Dies at 65” (The New York Times, September 19, 2019). The author of the obituary, Sam Roberts, writes: The New York Times had long distanced itself from Walter Duranty’s reporting from the Soviet Union in 1931 when it received a letter in 2003 from the Pulitzer Prize board asking whether the prize awarded to Mr. Duranty for that coverage should be rescinded.
During 2019 our community mourned the passing of many of its prominent members: artists, church leaders, soldiers and community activists. Among them were the following, listed in order of their passing.
Thank you. We feel it’s important to begin our year in review section about The Ukrainian Weekly with these words. As a community newspaper, we are grateful to our partners in this endeavor. First of all our publisher, the Ukrainian National Association, without whom The Weekly and our sister publication Svoboda would not be possible. Second, to our subscribers, who are the raison d’etre of any publication. Third, to our benefactors, whose generous donations go a long way toward helping this newspaper continue its mission. And fourth, to our advertisers whose advertising dollars also are key to the bottom line.
For Ukrainians in the U.S., notable events included Holodomor commemorations and exhibits, the 75th anniversary of the United Ukrainian American Relief Committee (UUARC), the 125th anniversary of the organized Ukrainian diaspora, the centennial of the unification of the Ukrainian National Republic and the Western Ukrainian National Republic, and the expanding work of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA). The United Ukrainian American Relief Committee sent the first humanitarian aid shipment of 2019 to Ukraine on January 12. The shipment included medical equipment and supplies, medical consumables, surgical instruments, patient hospital beds with mattresses, regular and electric wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, canes, adult diapers, hygiene products, equipment for children with severe disabilities, clothing, shoes, linens and books. The items were distributed to Ukrainian soldiers and civilians who are suffering from the ongoing war in Ukraine.