Meeting Michael Ignatieff

By Morris Lewicky

I am constantly amazed by the placidity of our Ukrainian people. We accept insults, belittling and stand by placidly. My reference is the recent debacle surrounding MP [and Liberal Leader] Michael Ignatieff. It’s surprising how even some members of the Ukrainian press try to justify his actions regarding the dismissal of MP Boris Wrzesnewskyj from the Liberal shadow cabinet. While it is true that the leader of a political party is within his rights to select [a critic], this move was a blatant disregard of Ukrainians and our place in Canadian society.

Unfortunately, any published comments on this episode zeroes in on one issue only. However, anyone who has read Ignatieff’s book, Blood and Belonging, and observed his total opinions of Ukraine and Ukrainians as he has detailed in a chapter, will find how pro-Russian and anti-Ukrainian he is. There are many references in this chapter that are biased and incorrect. He distorts history in favour of his Russian roots. The following are some observations from his book which illustrates this fact.

Ignatieff is educated in the United States, he has lived in Great Britain, France, [the former] Yugoslavia and [spent] minimal time in Canada. He is well known for his disdain for anything Ukrainian with his claim to nobility, his father being a prominent Russian Count. This was very evident in his book Blood and Belonging and particularly, the chapter on his trip to Ukraine in 1992. Therein he referred to Ukrainians as people dressed in embroidered peasant shirts, phoney Cossack cloaks and boots, the nasal whine of [their] ethnic instruments, and as nasty anti-Semites. These events are bad enough in themselves. This was covered in The New Pathway newspaper and in a press release by the League of Ukrainian Canadians. However, there are more erroneous statements and misinformation.

Ignatieff talks about smelly Ukrainian hotels but doesn’t mention that this was a throwback of Soviet rule and that this was only one year after Ukraine gained independence. No wonder they were still using USSR Passports with Ukraine red stamped across the face. He goes on to state that “Russian Orthodox” Christianity was brought about in 987. It was in 988 and it was Rus’, as Ukraine was then known, and not Russian [Orthodox] as they refer to themselves. He claims that it was the Russian Prince Vladimir who brought Christianity. In fact it was the Kyivan-Rus Prince Volodomyr. He keeps referring to Ukraine as a new country, ignoring the fact that Ukraine was founded in 482 AD - long before Russia appeared.

There are many references of a contemptuous nature throughout this chapter. He needs to be brought to task for this. All the members of his party of Ukrainian heritage must demand an apology for his portrayal of Ukrainians and the reinstatement of Mr. Wrzesnewskyj. Barring that it would behove them to resign. Show him the strength and resolve of a true Ukrainian patriot. Nothing less should suffice. 

“Kudos” to Ihor Broda for his letter to The Edmonton Journal (March 17, 2009). In this letter, he describes very well the contradictions of the man. Even more shocking was the feeble attempt by Wrzesnewskyj to justify Ignatieff’s actions and to further admit that he organized the meeting in Edmonton. I wonder how many in attendance had read his book that prompted them to warmly welcome Ignatieff? Re “no other current national leader has held such a meeting”. No other leader has insulted any ethnic group as he has. Besides, he is fighting for his political life in the Western provinces. Just out of curiosity, how many were in attendance?

It’s time we Ukrainci stood up and be counted. For too long, we have stood by to be humiliated without even a whimper.


Morris Lewicky is a subscriber to The New Pathway and lives in Oakville, Ont.