2012 Kobzar Literary Awards
Capturing Canadian Contributions Through Literature
By John Pidkowich
In celebration of reading literature and books, the Ukrainian and Canadian literary community once again came together to applaud the literary arts in Canada. The sold-out Kobzar Literary Award 2012 Ceremony and Dinner, presented by the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko, was held on March 1 at the Palais Royale Ballroom located on Toronto’s Lakeshore Blvd. West. The decor and ambiance glittered with Hollywood styled Academy Awards’ effects.
The finalists for the 2012 Kobzar Literary Award were: Myroslav Shkandrij (literary analysis), Jews in Ukrainian Literature: Representation and Identity, Yale University Press, London, 2009; Larissa Andrusyshyn (poetry), Mammoth, DC Books, Montreal, 2010; Myrna Kostash (non-fiction), Prodigal Daughter: A Journey to Byzantium, University of Alberta Press, Edmonton, 2010; Shandi Mitchell (fiction novel), Under This Unbroken Sky, Penguin, Toronto, 2009; and Rhea Tregebov (fiction novel), The Knife Sharpener’s Bell, Coteau Books, Regina, 2009.
Co-Masters of Ceremonies actor/producer/writer Fred Keating, and actor/producer/director Andrey Tarasiuk together led an extraordinary award evening programme, the pace of which was kept in tempo by Alexander (Sasha) Boychouk at the piano and by his multi instrumental performances during dinner interludes. The dinner menu itself was a fusion of traditional Ukrainian and Canadian food items excellently prepared by gourmet chef Steffan Howard.
Between dinner courses, the audience was presented with readings by the Award’s 2012 finalists who in-turn read passages from their short-listed books. These readings in the authors’ voices were personable and lifted the works from the page by bringing them to life. Appealing to the listener’s imagination of the mind, the upfront telling of one’s story made it enticing for the audience to acquire and read each author’s book from cover-to-cover.
In the introduction, A Tribute to the Kobzar Tradition, the audience learned that Ukraine’s bard Taras Shevchenko had his volume of 8 poems titled Kobzar published in 1840 that sparked the passions of the Ukrainian nation, and inspired generations of writers and readers to come. In this context, it is only appropriate for the Kobzar Award Ceremony to be held during the month in which Taras Shevchenko was born (March 9, 1814) and died (March 10, 1861).
In his greetings, Shevchenko Foundation President Andrew Hladyshevsky asserted that literature by and about Ukrainians in Canada is in fact Canada’s own literature. Further, he reminded everyone to kindle this notion by signing out from the library any Ukrainian book, especially on Ukrainian Literature Day, March 9. This national initiative by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress has events to raise awareness among Canadians that Ukrainian literature is vibrant and growing. Also to everyone’s delight, he announced that the Shevchenko Board of Directors had agreed that this year, each short-listed finalist will receive $1,000 in addition to the Kobzar Award winner’s $25,000 prize, $5,000 of which is to be shared with the publisher to promote the winning work.
The Shevchenko Foundation first presented the biennial Kobzar Literary Award in 2006 with the goal to contribute to the literary arts of Canada by providing writers with an incentive to explore Ukrainian Canadian themes. The 2012 Award’s five short-listed authors who best presented the theme with literary merit through fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and well-documented research were chosen and deemed worthy by an esteemed adjudication panel of the writers’ peers: Denise Chong; Nino Ricci; MG Vassanji; and Randal Maggs, also the 2010 Kobzar Literary Award winner for Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems (Brick, 2004).
In true awards night anticipation and excitement on stage surrounded by the Ceremony’s cast of players, renowned Canadian author Nino Ricci, joined by fellow Honourary Patron Joy Kogawa, announced the 2012 Kobzar Literary Award winner: Shandi Mitchell for her fiction novel Under This Unbroken Sky, a narrative that “honours the ancestry of many Canadian Ukrainians,” whose “memorable characters valiantly face betrayal and every hardship that prairie life renders in their search for a better life.”
Among special guests present at the Awards event were Ontario’s Minister of Citizenship & Immigration Charles Sousa; Antanas Sileika, Artistic Director, Humber School for Writers; Geoffrey Taylor, Director of Authors at Harbourfront Centre, as well as authors Dr. Marusia Bociurkiw, Richard Truhlar and film maker Orest Sushko.
Recognized by Andrew Hladyshevsky and acknowledged by applause from attendees, the success of the 2012 Kobzar Literary Award event was due, in part, to the tireless work by Dr. Christine Turkewych, Literary Arts Director, who encourages all Canadian writers to keep writing and all of us to keep reading books on Ukrainian Canadian themes. Without a readership/market, Canadian publishers will not accept Ukrainian Canadian themed manuscripts. Of course, no appreciation for success would be complete without the recognition of the dedicated hard work by the Award Ceremony Committee with Chair, Alla Shklar, and seventeen professional “literati with white roses”: Irene Bilaniuk; Odarka Chudoba; Sonia Holiad; Irene Hordienko; Dr. Christine Kowalsky; Winn Kuplowsky; Oksana Kuryliw; Nadia Luciw; Daria Olynyk; Olesia Romanko; Liijanna Shklar-Kushnirenko; Sonia Solomon; Lesia Stefaniw; Zenia Turkewych-Miner; Krystina Waler; Karen Yarmol-Franko; and Oksana Zakydalsky.
Special gratitude was extended to the event’s corporate sponsors for their generous support of the Kobzar Literary Award: Ian Ihnatowycz and Dr. Marta Witer; the Temerty Family Foundation, Mitchell, Bardyn & Zalucky LLP, Buduchnist Charitable Foundation, Ukrainian Credit Union Ltd., as well as numerous donors such as Erast and Yarmila Huculak, Rosewood Estates, Turner & Porter Funeral Directors, and individuals like John Warburg of Toronto and Nell Nakoneczny from Winnipeg, who were recognized in the programme.
For more information about the finalists and the contents of their shortlisted books, please visit the website www.kobzarliteraryaward.com.
1 – Larissa Andrusyshyn
2 – Myrna Kostash
3 – Rhea Tregebov
4 - Shevchenko Foundation President Andrew Hladyshevsky presents the 2012 Kobzar Literary Award to Shandi Mitchell for her novel Under This Unbroken Sky
5 - Dr. Christine Turkewych
6 - Prof. Myroslav Shkandrij