Ten Reasons for Optimism

By Volodymyr Kish

I have frequently used this column to address the serious challenges facing the Ukrainian community here in Canada. This week I would like to take a somewhat more positive tack and give you ten reasons why I think there is cause for hope and optimism for Ukrainians in this great country of ours.

1. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) and the Ukrainian World Congress (UCW) are both riding high in terms of their political influence and stature on the national and international stages respectively. Under the dynamic leadership of Paul Grod and Eugene Czolij, they have largely risen above the corrosive, internecine ideological battles that used to dominate these bodies in the post war émigré era, and both are having considerable success in advancing our common Ukrainian goals and causes with the powers that make the world spin politically.

2. The Ukrainian Credit Union system in Canada, though smaller in the absolute number of credit unions that there used to be, nonetheless has grown to a position of impressive financial size and clout, now managing an asset base of about one and a half billion dollars. They have also become a dependable prime supporter of the educational, cultural and social life of the Ukrainian community.

3. Ukrainian organizational and cultural life in Western Canada continues to be strong and vibrant, despite the fact that a majority of the Ukrainians there are now fourth and fifth generation Canadian born. Assimilation is not as inevitable as some people think.

4. Ukrainian dance ensembles are booming across the country and are attaining a level of professionalism and artistic recognition that is on a par with some of the leading groups in Ukraine itself.

5. The two premiere annual Ukrainian festivals – Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival in Dauphin and the Toronto Ukrainian Festival (Bloor West) are as successful as ever, and continue to grow in both popularity and attendance. Hundreds of thousands of Canadians flock to these festivals every year, as well as to smaller though also well attended folk festivals in Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton, St. Catharines, Oshawa, Kingston and other places, to experience the best in Ukrainian food, culture and entertainment.

6. The Shevchenko Foundation continues to grow its support of Ukrainian artistic, literary, musical and cultural projects, ensuring that talented Ukrainian Canadians are able to develop their creative potential. A fine example of this is the biennial Kobzar Literary Award gala, which has become a “must attend” event on the calendar of prominent Ukrainian events. Just this past week, the foundation announced the awarding of some $183,000 in grants.

7. The Holodomor is now a well-known, recognized and appropriately commemorated event throughout Canada. Thanks to the efforts of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress over the past decade, everyone, and not just Ukrainians, are aware of the tragedy of this engineered Stalinist famine. Of particular note are the excellent educational materials and teaching programs that have been developed and are now being incorporated into the regular school curriculums throughout the country.

8. Similarly, we should laud the success of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association for succeeding in gaining official government recognition of the shameful internment of so-called Ukrainian “enemy aliens” in Canadian concentration camps during the First World War. This has translated into the funding of a number of memorial installations and documentary centres such as at Spirit Lake in Amos, Quebec and the Basin and Cave site in Banff, Alberta.

9. Ukrainian studies in Canada’s universities continue to be very active with endowed chairs and/or centers of Ukrainian studies at numerous universities, including the University of Alberta, Grant McEwan College, the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Manitoba, the University of Toronto and the University of Ottawa. Also encouraging is the fact that university Ukrainian students clubs (SUSK) are enjoying a revival in recent years, after having almost disappeared in the past decade.

10. Lastly, it is commendable that philanthropy is alive and well amongst the more successful members of the Ukrainian community with individuals such as James Temerty, the late Erast Huculak, Eugene Melnyk, Ian Ihnatowicz, Borys Wrzesnewsky, Eugene Roman, Michael Kalimin and many others demonstrating their generosity and commitment to their Ukrainian heritage in a very tangible way.

Something definite to celebrate this Canada day!