While Lenin statues were crashing down all over Ukraine in 2014, huge murals were being erected on multi-storied apartment buildings in Kyiv, Kharkiv and other major cities, decorated with images of the archetypal symbol for all Ukrainians, their own Homeric poet who sang epics about their heroic past and illuminated the way to a future of freedom and equality – Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861). Facing the Russian military juggernaut, Ukrainians stood united behind one solitary man who was born into bondage and servitude, who was persecuted by the Russian tsarist regime for his political and humanistic views, and who was imprisoned and sent into brutal exile in Central Asia. The Soviets had always realized what a dangerous rallying point Shevchenko was for the Ukrainian spirit and attempted to delete or downplay every strong Ukrainian nationalist expression in his verses. Shevchenko’s writings formed the foundation for modern Ukrainian literature, and he is considered the founder of the modern written Ukrainian language. His influence on culture and national consciousness is still felt to this day.
Not surprisingly, 2014 witnessed unprecedented culture wars on both sides of the Atlantic over Russian-sponsored terrorism and invasions of Ukraine. Pro-Putin musicians who continued to parade their support for Kremlin policies included soprano Anna Netrebko, conductors Valery Gergiev and Vladimir Spivakov, pianist Valentina Lisitsa and over 500 other artists who signed an open letter in support of the Crimea annexation and Vladimir Putin’s other aggressive policies. The global web of musical artists who support Russia was outlined in an article by Adrian Bryttan in The Weekly on December 14. This same article also revealed how the propagandistic art exhibit “Material Evidence” in Berlin and New York City was financed by the extremist far right in Moscow in order to spread disinformation about the Maidan under the pretext of “photo documentary.”
Many high-profile Ukrainian artists took advantage of their cultural eminence to promote their support for Maidan and the Ukrainian state. For example, on September 19, Volodymyr Koshuba, chief organist of Kyiv’s National Concert Organ Hall, interrupted his concert at St.
The situation in Ukraine was the primary spark in stimulating conversations and multiple collaborations between academia in the diaspora and Ukraine. Columbia University’s spring semester started with an offering of eight courses in Ukrainian studies. Two of these courses were taught by Dr. Oksana Mykhed, a historian who obtained her Ph.D. from Harvard University, while another course was taught by Prof. Alexander Motyl, one of the most active and respected Ukrainian studies scholars in North America today. Another six courses were offered during the fall semester, when Dr. Anastasiia Grynko from the Mohyla School of Journalism in Kyiv returned to teach and Ambassador Valeriy Kuchynskyi lent his expertise on the topic of Ukraine’s foreign policy. In addition, arriving in the fall and visiting for the entire 2104-2015 academic year was Fulbright scholar Dr. Tetiana Shestopalova, professor of the Department of Ukrainian Literature and Method of its Teaching at Luhansk Taras Shevchenko National University.
During 2014 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. Olga Stasiuk, 58, Warm Mineral Spring, Fla., teacher at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic School in Newark, N.J.; activist who, after moving to Florida, continued her community involvement as a literacy teacher to newly arrived Ukrainians in her community – January 2. Bishop Cornelius Pasichny, 86, Weston, Ontario, served various pastoral and administrative charges in the Canadian Basilian Province of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, including spiritual director of the newly formed Holy Spirit Seminary in Ottawa in the 1980s; appointed bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon in November 1995, ordained a bishop in January 1996; appointed in 1998 as bishop of the Eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada, retiring from that position in 2003 – January 30.
This section features the noteworthy events and people of 2014 that defy easy classification. (They appear in the order in which they were reported in our newspaper.)
• Ruslana Lyzhychko was honored by the U.S. Department of State as one of 10 “International Women of Courage,” for her “commitment to the Euro-Maidan community and her steadfast commitment to nonviolent resistance and national unity in the fight against government corruption and human rights abuses.” Presented annually since 2007 on March 4 – International Women’s Day – the awards recognize “women around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk.”
• Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash, long wanted by U.S. authorities on suspicion of bribery and criminal conspiracy, was arrested in Vienna on March 12. Mr. Firtash, one of Ukraine’s richest men, made his money in the gas, chemicals, media and banking sectors, and was a key backer of recently ousted president Viktor Yanukovych. The U.S. requested extradition, against which Mr. Firtash filed an appeal. Bail was set at $174 million, with the understanding that Mr. Firtash would remain in Austria if released on bail.
We at The Ukrainian Weekly started off 2014 with an explanation of our new prices that went into effect on February 1. The announcement had been made a couple of weeks earlier, at the conclusion of our “2013: The Year in Review.” Our publisher, the Ukrainian National Association, made the decision to set the prices for yearly subscriptions at $80 for UNA members and $90 for non-members. It was a steep increase from the previous $55/$65 prices for members/non-members, but it does not cover the cost of producing and getting our newspapers to you. Our editorial of February 16 explained:
“…last year, when it was made known that the UNA was considering switching to an all-digital format for The Ukrainian Weekly (a similar format was not being talked about for Svoboda), it was calculated that the cost to print and mail our newspaper to your home or office was about $110. At the same time, readers were told that, if the print edition were to be continued, it was probable the UNA would have to raise the price for a print subscription to $100 for UNA members and $125 for non-members.
For the Ukrainian National Association, 2014 began with the announcement in January of the UNA’s 38th Regular Convention to be held May 15-18 at the Soyuzivka Heritage Center. It was also the year the UNA, the world’s oldest and largest Ukrainian fraternal organization, marked the 120th anniversary of its founding. Our readers know this organization as the publisher of this newspaper (founded 1933) and our sister publication, Svoboda (founded 1893). Others know the UNA as the owner of the Soyuzivka Heritage Center. Many others know the UNA as the provider of solid life insurance, endowment and annuity products.
Anation marred by deadly political protests received a desperately needed victory when the Ukrainian women’s biathlon team won an Olympic gold medal in the 4×6-km relay. The Semerenko twins, Vita and Valj, Juliya Dzhyma and anchor Olena Pidhrushna missed five targets, but avoided penalty loops to finish in 1 hour, 10 minutes, 2.5 seconds. It was Ukraine’s second medal in the Winter Games and second medal in women’s biathlon. And it was Ukraine’s first gold medal at a Winter Olympics in 20 years. Earlier, Vita Semerenko had won a bronze medal in the women’s 7.5-km sprint.
Besides manifesting deep concern with developments in Ukraine, Ukrainian Canadians were active during 2014 in myriad ways – from book publishing and education to museums, and from solemn anniversaries to celebratory festivals. Some of the most noteworthy events and developments are given below in chronological order. The play “Luba, Simply Luba” was presented with the fifth Kobzar Literary Award, during a ceremony at the Palais Royale in Toronto on March 5. “Luba, Simply Luba” was written by playwright Diane Flacks as a stage presentation for the Ukrainian comedienne Luba Goy. The book chronicles the life of one of the best known and successful Ukrainian Canadian actors, a 35-year veteran of the CBC’s political and cultural satire “Royal Canadian Air Farce,” while weaving through it a poignant immigrant story.
Ukrainians in the U.S. were active in advocacy events, protests, commemorations and various other actions largely focused on the developments in Ukraine. The year 2014 began with a meeting that was organized on January 2 by the Ukrainian National Association with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at his office in Newark, N.J., to express to the senator the ongoing concerns of Ukrainian Americans who reside in New Jersey in light of the widespread Euro-Maidan protests in Kyiv and throughout Ukraine. Sen. Menendez stated: “We stand with the citizens of Ukraine who meet in Kyiv’s Maidan Square seeking their human rights and dignity.”
Presentations were made by Prof. Alexander Motyl, as well as by Myroslaw Smorodsky and Victor Rud of the Ukrainian American Bar Association. Tamara Olexy, president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, urged U.S. government sanctions against the corrupt Ukrainian government officials, as well as against Russia for its involvement and economic aggression toward Ukraine. Sen. Menendez promised to raise the issue at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington and pushed for Magnitsky Act-type legislation targeting Ukrainian and Russian government officials.