OTTAWA – Mary March figured something was up when her friend and fellow Ukrainian Catholic cantor Larisa Galadza was warmly greeted by fellow Ukrainian Canadian, then-Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, at the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’s recent triennial congress in Ottawa, where Ms. Galadza was given a front-row seat in a group photograph taken at the conference on November 2.
The next day, Ms. Freeland announced that 48-year-old Ms. Galadza had been appointed Canada’s ambassador to Ukraine, its 10th representative since Ukraine gained its independence in 1991.
Ms. March, the choir director and president of the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Shrine in Ottawa where Ms. Galadza has been a regular parishioner, said that Canada’s new ambassador to Ukraine offered no hint about her new job.
The art of diplomacy requires the discipline of discretion, and Ms. Galadza waited for the official government announcement before she revealed, in an e-mail to friends, that the foreign posting they heard she would get would be as Canada’s envoy in Kyiv.
“This is an immense honor and privilege,” Ms. Galadza wrote, “and I sincerely hope that in our 3-4 years in Kyiv, many of you will come visit.”
While Ms. March was surprised that the successor to Roman Waschuk – a career diplomat who served as Canada’s ambassador to Serbia prior to being named Canada’s official representative in Ukraine in 2014 – was chosen from outside the foreign service, she also believes Ms. Galadza is up to the task.
“She is incredibly focused, which has made her very good in her public-service work,” said Ms. March.
Born in the southern Ontario city of Welland, Ms. Galadza joined the Canadian National Defense Department as a policy officer in 1996, the year she graduated with a master’s degree from Ottawa-based Carleton University based on her thesis “International Democratic Development Assistance in Pursuit of Security: An Evaluation of the Canadian Record in Ukraine,” completed at the university’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs.
Ms. Galadza’s career with the Canadian government to date is marked by a heavy focus on policy, at a senior level, with various departments, including as operations director with the Privy Council Office, in which her advice on social development policy was shared with the prime minister (at the time, Conservative Stephen Harper).
Her most recent assignments have been consequential. From 2014 to 2016, Ms. Galadza served as director-general (DG) of admissibility policy for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada during a time when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government launched an initiative to resettle Syrian refugees – more than 50,000 of whom have arrived in Canada since the Trudeau Liberals won the 2015 election.
Prior to being named ambassador, Ms. Galadza was the DG of the peace and stabilization operations program at Global Affairs Canada, the country’s foreign affairs department. There she led a team of 75 employees in a program with an annual budget of $150 million (about $112 million U.S.), which directs the implementation of Canada’s commitments to United Nations’ peace operations, as well as the Canadian Police Arrangement, through which 40 Canadian police officers are being deployed to Ukraine.
This is experience which Ms. Galadza could draw upon if Canada assumes a peacekeeping role in eastern Ukraine following peace talks scheduled next month in Paris involving the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine.
“Larisa is highly intelligent, very hard-working and tenacious – and she’s had a lot of cross-cultural experience, flying around the world – from Addis Ababa to Brussels to Kyiv on Global Affairs business,” said the Rev. Peter Galadza, Ms. Galadza’s paternal uncle, who is a Ukrainian Catholic priest and director of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at the University of Toronto.
“In one sense, Ukraine may be an easier place for her to live because the cultural differences between Middle Eastern and African countries are probably more significant than the ones between Ukraine and Canada, especially since she’s of Ukrainian background and speaks Ukrainian very well,” he added.
All four of Ms. Galadza’s Ukrainian-born grandparents immigrated to the United States in 1949. Konstantyn and Sophia (Lazurko) Bishko settled in Amsterdam, N.Y., while Mychajlo and Theodosia (Nych) Galadza made their home in Ambridge, Pa. Her parents, Roman (who is also a Ukrainian Catholic priest) and Irene (Bishko) Galadza, were married at Soyuzivka in Kerhonkson, N.Y., in 1969 and immigrated to Canada that year
Although Ms. Galadza was unavailable for an interview, she credited her mom, in an e-mail to The Ukrainian Weekly, as a strong influence in her forthcoming journey in Kyiv. “She’s where I get my diplomatic skills, and is a force of nature in her own right,” Ms. Galadza wrote.
Her dad gets credit for Ms. Galadza’s musical talent. It was Father Roman Galadza, pastor of St. Elias the Prophet Church in the Toronto-area multicultural city of Brampton (where Ms. Galadza was raised), who taught his daughter cantoring skills when she was a child.
“She is one of the best cantors in any of the Ukrainian churches we have in North America,” boasted Father Peter Galadza.
In addition to serving as a cantor at St. John the Baptist, Ms. Galadza has also been a member of the Sheptytsky Institute Choir, where its director, Brian Butcher, lauds her for “raising the bar” of the music used in liturgical services at the shrine-parish.
“She introduced new pieces in the choral tradition from Ukraine that encouraged people to challenge themselves with a different repertoire,” said Mr. Butcher, who is also a cantor, a sub-deacon and teaches theology at the Sheptytsky Institute.
“The true genius of cantoring is being able to lead in such a way as to blend in with those singing around them – and that is Larisa,” he commented.
He added that Ms. Galadza has a “combination of a commitment to liturgy and corporal works of mercy,” the latter the result of her spearheading a five-year initiative to engage St. John the Baptist parishioners as volunteers in a Saturday-morning soup kitchen run by the Shepherds of Good Hope homeless shelter in Ottawa.
“She is a true servant-leader,” said Father Peter Galadza of Ms. Galadza, who departed for Kyiv on November 21.
Joining Ms. Galadza in Ukraine will be her husband (and high-school sweetheart), Kenneth Cronin, a businessman who co-owns Crag X, a rock-climbing gym in Victoria, British Columbia. Their university-aged children, Finnian, Nikolai and Taissa, will remain in Canada.
In Kyiv, Ms. Galadza will have other kin. Her cousin, and Father Peter Galadza’s son, Daniel Galadza, a Ukrainian Catholic deacon, serves as a member of the Patriarchal Liturgical Commission in the Ukrainian capital.
Canada’s new ambassador is also bringing a piece of family history with her to Ukraine.
As a going-away gift, Father Peter Galadza gave her a framed copy of a certificate of merit Metropolitan Sheptytsky presented her grandfather, Mychajlo Galadza, in 1937 for his service to the Church as a cantor and which he brought with him when he crossed the Atlantic a decade later.
As Father Peter Galadza pointed out, the first Galadza to earn the ambassadorial honorific, “Your Excellency,” has a visual reminder of “one of the proudest possessions in the Galadza family” as she represents her home country in the land of her ancestral roots.