Thursday 18 June 2015

Kupalo in the Park 2015

Well the amazing people at St. John's Institute in Edmonton are doing it again!  Another fantastic community growing event to embrace and welcome friends of the Ukrainian idea!

This event is called Kupalo in the Park - and will take place on Monday, July 6, 2015 at Emily Murphy Park in Edmonton.  A beautiful and ancient holiday, Ivana Kupala welcomes the change of the seasons at a summer solstice festival that coincides with the traditional religious holiday of St. John.  Dedicated to the ancient powers of water and fire, it celebrates capturing the powers that led to civilized life. Intriguing and ancient, and woven into the religious cycle over millennia, it has always held a powerful place in Ukrainian cultural life.  So extremely pleased that St. John's Institute is hosting the 2015 Ukrainian Summer Family Tradition - Ivana Kupala.  Admission is free.  

Contested Grounds

I have already mentioned my disappointment with North American University professors and academics who continue to espouse a tainted history of Eastern Europe post WWII. How do you like this phrase, given recent events in Canadian history - I like to refer to myself as an "aboriginal Ukrainian"! With genealogical roots (based on National Geographic's Genome Project) of some 9 thousand years in Western Ukraine, what else could you call me? Like many of us "aboriginal Ukrainians", whether we live in Ukraine or not, our familial narrative is replete with the strangely twisted history of Ukraine and Ukrainians. Of course to the neophite it all sounds gobbled. And sound bits definitely do our ancestry disservice. So I am glad to share news of some impressive initiatives with you!

Our community's good friend Bulba is now working on a committee organizing one of the most significant Ukrainian/Eastern Europe themed International Conferences ever held in Western Canada - this October 23, 24, 2015. The Ukrainian academic community is uniting to help educate the world about Ukraine and Eastern Europe in the light of Russian policy. One could say it is about the information gap between those who write history and those who live it.

This is the Edmonton Conference to Examine the Impact of WWII on Ukraine and Eastern Europe - scheduled to take place at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies October 23 and 24, 2015. Titled “Contested Ground: The Legacy of the Second World War for Eastern Europe,” the gathering will take place at the University of Alberta on 23-24 October 2015 and will be open to scholars, students and members of the general public. Please consider your participation!

The immediate and long term repercussions of the Yalta and Potsdam agreements, Moscow's "sphere of influence", the Ukrainian post-war experience, the Warsaw Pact, and Cold War - the conference will also consider how narratives of war intentionally shaped by international forces have acquired a new relevance.  My eyes were recently enlightened by Jerrold Schecter's recent article in European Affairs  to as the "Bolshevik Code" (  Such thinking contributes to the train of thought, richly underscored by memories of veterans, survivors and the Ukrainian international community.

A distinguished group of scholars has already agreed to present papers at the Edmonton conference. These include such experts from overseas as Paul Goble (Tartu University, Estonia), Yitzak Brudny (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Hakan Kirimli (Bilkent University, Turkey), and former Polish Minister of Defense Janusz Onyszkiewicz (International Centre for Democratic Transition). Among the American participants are Norman Naimark (Stanford University), Mark Von Hagen (Arizona State University), Janusz Bugajski (Centre for European Policy Analysis) and Ariel Cohen (Institute for the Analysis of Global Security). These will be joined by Ukrainian scholars like Yuri Shapoval and Vladyslav Hrynevych of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, as well as leading specialists from several Canadian universities. James Sherr of Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs) in the United Kingdom will be the featured speaker at a public banquet to be held on 24 October to mark the conclusion of the conference. A worldrenowned authority on Russia and Ukraine, he will address the theme "The 'Peace of 1945' and the Current State of Affairs in Ukraine." More details to come!  

Kudos' to these distinguished contributors who will also help mark the 40th anniversary of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies.  More information at

DakhaBrakha at Calgary Folk Music Festival 2015

Calgarians know that our summer folk music festival is one of the best ways to spend a summer's evening! Warm, summer breezes, Prince's Island Park, the Bow River and fabulous international artists conveying the eternal beauty of life through music! Thou, a bottle of wine, and music of course!  And of course, tickets to Calgary's Folk Music Festival - this July 2015!

One of the special guest artist groups to perform this summer is DakhaBrakha is a world-music quartet from Kyiv, Ukraine.  Their unexpected new music comes from the heart and soul of the chaotic, centuries-long give and take of Ukrainian life.  Created in 2004, this avant-garde theatrical approach opens up the potential of Ukrainian melodies, and leaves a distinct impression upon its audiences.  Bright, unique, astonishingly powerful musicianship, their deeply rooted understanding of Ukraine's pivotal place in world consciousness is a testament to all the travellers who ever crossed its soil. Fusion,yes - but oh so much more!  Phenomenally rich music!

Get your tickets soon!

July 23rd-24th (at 6:20 p.m.) - solo concert
Calgary Folk Music Festival
Prince's Island Park
Calgary, AB CANADA

The Winding Road

photo by Lorraine Alford
A while back when I started this blog, before any of the UkrainianVancouver, or UkrainianChicago blogs were up and running, I felt an urge to write.  There seemed to be so much information emanating from the north of Ukraine, and very little cross-North America news.  I know that Bohdan at Yevshan started a Ukrainian community events calendar shortly after, but there wasn't anybody just chatting about stuff. So I found my niche.

Father Taras Krochak
Meandering thoughts about community, connections, long tendrils of acquaintance-friendship-relationship circled in my mind.  It seemed that so many of the people in the Ukrainian community knew each other!  Sadly, across time and distance we would mostly say - haven't heard about them for a long time!  Quiet moments full of rich memories....where are those formerly dear friends now?

My dearest friend, Mom, is up to her eyeballs in garden, grandchildren, and genealogical studies. I took a photo of her glorious bar-v-nok to use as my blog's calling card.  Long, tender yet resilient vines of green bursting out of the ground and reaching with their endlessly beautiful periwinkle coloured blossoms - stretching across the garden path.  Seeking what? Seeking the future?

Korovai by Luba Macewko
Preparing for my daughter's wedding last summer, many dear friends contributed their garden bar-v-nok, to braid and curl, twine and twist the pliable filaments for the traditional regalia to be used at their Marriage Sacrament - the Crowning.  I couldn't believe how long the vines stayed beautifully green!  No wilting, no drooping, the crowns retained their vitality well into the second week after the wedding and further!  I am reminded that they are evergreen, but wow do they stay long!

When I got married, my grandmother had laboriously tended and babied a myrtle plant in her house in Manitoba to use for my wreath! Smaller vines, grown on a firmer stock, but equally beautiful, if more fragile looking.  She watered the vines judiciously to exact the precise firmness - not too tender and slender, but not too tough or impliable - retaining the family wisdom about a proper match, of course.  Then my friend Ken, the florist thought to apply gold leaf to the myrtle leaves, which Baba, in all humility thought would be too ostentatious. Ken did apply miniature white blossoms though - the wreath was simply stunning.

The resilient vines of barvinok in my garden took on a deep, thick green over the winter, but now their gyrating filaments are warmed and nourished in the spring rains. It is hard to tell where one slender shoot ends and another begins.  Life is like that too.  Grafted onto the vine of life, the barvinok reminds us to stay connected to the vine, even in the cold of winter because the spring will return with its luscious growth, time, after time, after time.......

Friday 8 May 2015

The Treasure of Community - Calgary Ukrainian Festival 2015

Giving back to the community is high priority for Ukrainians in Canada. Socially, economically, spiritually, intellectually and culturally our community provides profoundly rich experiences for its many, many participants. In the century and more of Ukrainian diaspora in North America the community has overcome remarkable challenges, and flourished in ways we will only appreciate from the vantage point of future times.

A treasured legacy of profound love, dedication of resources and time - this is the Calgary Ukrainian Festival. And how can you be a part of it!!

Maybe this is your year for adopting a class? Could you provide for Ukrainian lessons for a needy child? Could you provide for someone's Ukrainian dance lessons this year? Could you contribute to a family's spiritual journey via their membership in a church? Could you touch the hearts of the needy through their sense, especially their stomachs - send a meal of pyrogies and holubtsi? Contribute to the Ukrainian Canadian Community's advocacy for the homeland? Promote the professional and intellectual resources at the Ukrainian Library at St. Vlads? Get involved in outreach and education through the Pioneer Program at the Ukrainian Museum of Canada Branch here in Calgary?

So many ways to get involved - so many wonderful sights, sounds, and smells - remember to bring the kids for a very friendly, kid centered day, and then plan for the evening zabava - korchma, and dance (of course!! bring your boots!!)


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