Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Phantom Pain and Empathy

My grandmother experienced many changes in her life.  Baba's parents arrived in Canada at the turn of the last century, without the three sons who travelled with them.  The boys died on the ship.  Imagine the difficulty immigrating, decisions to leave home and family, the physical hardship on the ship, and the tragedy of loss, not just one son, but then a second, and then a third.  Arriving in port, disembarking without the children, questioning everything.  Imagine the misery, distress, torment, torture and wound of having lost all your little ones! Why? How could they go on?  How could they continue on their journey to a new life, without their beloved little boys?  With nothing but hope and faith, they did.

Pra-baba and Pra-dido ventured out from the train station in Strathcona, across the river from Edmonton by buggy, to the piece of land that would break their hearts even more.  But the two of them persevered, and over the course of time, a lovely little girl, my grandmother was born.   

Baba was an only child.  Well loved, and well educated by the day's standards, she married an adventurer, schooled, and enthusiastic for life. 

Confidently growing through the challenges of farming, they felt a sense of prosperity, at least until one day baba's arm reached into a piece of farm equipment.  She had been standing beside the "sichkarnia" (straw cutter), and called out to the men to come in for supper. Bending over the cutter she noticed some straw peeking out, and flicking the straw into the machine, a thread from the sweater got caught. Caught in the tines of the machine which kept twisting, in excruciating pain, the only way of saving Baba was to cut it off her arm.  It must have been devastating.  (The doctors tried to reattach the arm, but it was not possible.  The limb was lovingly cremated and the ashy remains were buried with her, when she died.)  But she persevered, they all did. 

It was simply a part of her, and as grandchildren we hardly noticed. The stump of her arm, cleverly disguised in the sleeve of her sweater, the other arm busily and dextrously kneading bread dough, milking the cow, picking eggs, caressing her grandchildren.  The conflict between signals from her limb, and the visual information created a mental confusion for her, I am sure.  Painkillers were ineffective, so she kept on living.

Today, when I think of her, deep inside me flinches with empathy and pain. I wonder whether my deep sense of empathy is something others feel, and whether it is pity or love.  Actually it feels deeper than that.  The loss of her limb involved a series of compensations, and compromises, unspoken but real.  There were times when the phantom pain in her fingers was something you could read in her eyes.  So Dido pinched pyrohy, rolled holubtsi, and made tea for Baba and me when I visited the farm. And the aunties washed and braided Baba's long hair, she couldn't do it alone. And in photographs of Baba, she always stood sideways so nobody would notice.

The need of that arm affected everything. Even the simple act of lovingly caressing her newborn grandchildren was disrupted.  I remember her fierce embrace. 

The Ukrainian heartland also experienced prosperity in the 1920's, but hopes for culture and nation were shortlived, disrupted by droughts, which affected the Soviet bottom line.  Couldn't have anticipated their vicious "masterplan" for the intentional, and genocidal restriction of food, and the subsequent Holodomor which destroyed millions of Ukrainians.  An entire limb was dismembered!

Can people fathom how many compensations, compromises, and clumbsy acts of self determination have been derailed by the phantom pain caused by loss of this essential limb?  Is soul jerking empathy enough?  How does one regain "whole-ness"?  How does Ukraine regain its "whole-ness"?  Just asking. 


Harvest Gala - A Tryzub Zabava

Save the date for Tryzub's Annual Zabava 'Harvest Gala' on November 3, 2012.
Early bird tickets are now avaialbe until September 15 at $75/person (regular price $90/person). For tickets please e-mail zabava@tryzub.ca or call 403-720-4840.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Calgary Celebrates 100 years of PLAST

PLAST is Ukrainian Scouts - and this year (2012), is the hundredth anniversary of its beginnings.  Calgary PLAST is participating in the world celebrations with a full evening of activities on September 22nd, 2012.  The evening will begin with a Divine Liturgy celebrated at 4PM at St. Stephen the Protomartyr Ukrainian Catholic Church at 4503-45 Str. SW, followed by a blessing of the centennial tree, supper and zabava.   For more information or tickets, the contact numbers are below. 
Шановні пані та панове Просимо переглянути приєднану афішу з приводу святкування 100-річчя Пласту 22 вересня 2012 року. Просимо, також, не забувати зголошувати свою присутність за цією ж електронною адресою. До зустрічі!

Medivnyk - Honey Cake of the Gods

My Dido had an apiary on the farm.  For many years there was a place at the far end of the garden that was “out of bounds", at least when I was little.  I could freely pick peas, or pull out little carrots, but that was the extent of things for a child.  Then one day, one warm sunny fall day, it was “time”.  It was time to take the honey from the bees.
It was a delightful opportunity, and I was more than a bit terrified.  But when Baba and Dido ask for you to help, what can you do? 
First Baba insisted we had to be clean, no stinky perfumes. (too young for deodorant) But we had to wear long sleeves and long pants – it was hot.  Dido got on his overalls and pulled out the smoker.  He lit the stuff in the can, waved it over the bees and they fell asleep! Mostly they got lazy and slow, but it worked like a charm!
So now we could go to the bees, and pull out the boxes.  Moving the boxes was big people work, so we watched as they pulled out the frames, and with a knife, sliced the wax off the top of the honey, both sides of the frames!  Then they put the frames, dripping with honey already, into the spinner.  I remember standing over the spinner and loving the smell – actually the smell of bees wax, warm breeze, and sweet honey that came in little flecks over the top of the spinner onto your face. 
So we worked while the lazy bees slept. (actually they were just lethargic, but sleeping sounds better)  That is, until the wild bees from the bush got a whif of the business going on!
Dido’s bees were light in color, “tamed” he would say.  But the bees from the trees around the farm were dark in color, and they didn’t look sleepy at all! In fact they were rather aggressive and noisy, flying back into the woods to call their friends and family to join the party with us!
They got into the honey, sinking greedily until they drowned, while others buzzed menacingly around my face.  But I had to trust my elders and try to stay calm.  Why are you so concerned?  You aren’t a flower?  And when they get drunk on the honey, they will leave us alone to our work.  It will be fine.
Having dark bees crawl up my arms and onto my chest, this was not something I bargained for! So I ran off into the house. Think! What would capture the bees?!  I ran into the closet and grabbed the vacuum cleaner! Great idea!! It would suck up all the bees and leave me in peace.
Well, the aunties laughed themselves silly as I sucked up bee after bee, angry bee after angry bee.
Long story ....but the short story was that I was essentially fired from "taking the honey".
I still can hear the sound of "pop-pop", the buzzing in the vacuum canister bag and the aunties laughing.
So when my brother took over the farm, the farmer previously renting the land continued with his bee-keeping. Thanks to this, we still get a few pounds of honey each year, from the bees, which are still doing their pollinating on the family farm.   Yup!  The farm which has now been in the family for almost 110 years! 
Medivnyk- Honey Cake of the Gods
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
1 cup dark honey
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg each and ground cloves
½ cup butter, softened
2 tsp baking soda
1cup dark brown sugar, packed
5 egg yolks
4 cups sifted flour
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup currants
1/3 cup chopped pitted dates
3 T. chopped candied orange peel
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or blanched almonds)
5 egg whites, stiffly beaten with 1 T. sugar
Mix the honey and the spices in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and cool.  Beat the butter, baking soda and sugar until frothy, add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.   Sift the flour, baking powder and salt mixture.  Add the flour mixture to the honey, to the butter  mixture and stir thoroughly.  Add the fruits and nuts, stirring well.  Then stir in the stiffly beaten egg whites.  Pour into two buttered, papered loaf pans and bake for 2 ½ hours.  Check with a toothpick to confirm.  Remove pans and cool gently, removing the paper.  Let the cakes mellow for two days before cutting.  Makes 2 loaves.



Sunday, 26 August 2012

Kenney Interview on KONTAKT

Privet! or Dobrijden'!
These are greetings of welcome among Ukrainian and Western Canadians. And they are open opportunities to conversation about (among other realities) one's experiences with language, culture, religion, community values, volunteerism, services, employment, new social circumstances - all because of a life decision to make a change. Establishing oneself economically, socially, culturally, sometimes a person is glad to tap into the experiences of the Ukrainian Canadian community. There is much to learn, on both sides of the equation.

The Ukrainian Canadian television show KONTAKT recently aired an interview with Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. The program contains some very valuable information about our Canadian government's role in making the world a better place for everyone.

Canadian democracy is a participation sport, it is the citizen's responsibility to be the change we hope to see in the world - speaking truth to issues. I hope you will take a moment to view the interview, and take an active role in Canada's future.

Immigration Issues in Canada  -  Super Visas and family sponsorship  -  Canada’s position on democracy in Ukraine  -  Asylum of former KGB operative Mikhail Lennikov  -    http://www.ukrcdn.com/2012/08/24/jason-kenney-on-canadian-immigration-ukrainian-documentary-and-kgb-op-lennikov/

See you for discussion and companionship in Calgary's Ukrainian community!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Ukrainian Canadian Television in Calgary

It isn't always easy to keep up with the news!  Seems like everything changes, moving at a pace.  I like to think change is good, and that it is the small acts of positivity that keep our community vibrant.  That's why I continue to support the free sharing of information and hope you will too.  Please share this with your friends and family, and ask the kids to set up the PVR (personal video recorder) on the TV for you. No excuse when you have access to such fabulous technology.  Byd'mo!


ECHOES OF UKRAINE on SHAW Multicultural Cable 89 - Calgary Production echoesTV@shaw.ca

Tuesdays  6:30 pm Wednesdays 10:30 pm           Thursdays  1:00 pm                Saturdays 3:00 pm (1/2 hr shows)

KONTAKT SATURDAYS, 1-2 PM & SVITOHLAD 2-2:30 on ONMI TV from Toronto on Channel 4 Repeated Thursdays at noon-1:30 on ONMI TV from Toronto on Channel 4 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Kyiv Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Calgary September 19, 2012

Music Mission Kyiv is committed to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to and through Ukrainian musicians to the world.  So says the website at www.musicmissionkiev.org.  They are announcing this fall's arrival of the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra and Chorus to the United States and Canada this fall.  Calgary will host the KSOC on September 19, 2012 at First Baptist Church, at 7 pm.  (Edmonton's Beulah Alliance Church on the 20th at 7pm)

What a delightful opportunity! 

More information about their tour - an article from the Yakima area news  http://www.yakima-herald.com/stories/2012/09/14/kiev-symphony-and-chorus-bringing-its-uplifting-music-to-yakima

2012 National Black Ribbon Day August 23

The Central and Eastern European Council of Canada, representing nearly 4 million Canadians of European heritage, have announced plans to commemorate National Black Ribbon Day on August 23, 2012 in cities across Canada. 

The resolution declaring Black Ribbon Day to honor and remember the victims of Communism and Nazism in Europe was passed unanimously in Canada's Parliament in November 2009.  This day commemorates and brings international attention and understanding of the plight of the nations whose diaspora (eminating from Central and Eastern European communities) settled this vast, freedom loving, democratic Canada.

Evening ecumenical services are planned for Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Montreal (I haven't heard about any such service planned for Calgary yet, but please share any information you have with the readers of this blog in the comment box below.)

For more information go to www.ucc.ca

Ukraine's Independence Day August 24

In 1991, on August 24th, in the city of Kiev, the Ukrainian parliament adopted The Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine, establishing it as an independent and democratic state.  The act was supported overwhelmingly by the House.  A national referendum on independence was held on December 1, 1991, and the electorate voted in favor (90%). 

Since 1992, August 24th is celebrated in Ukraine and its diaspora as Independence Day.  On December 2, 1991, Canada became the first western country to recognize Ukraine's independence.

In 2006, there were an estimated 1,209,085 persons of full or partial Ukrainian origin residing in Canada (mainly Canadian-born citizens) comprising the ninth largest ethnic group in Canada, giving it the world's third largest Ukrainian community, behind Ukraine and Russia.  Western Canada is the home of most self-identified people of Ukrainian heritage. 

the Verkhovna Rada of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic solemnly declares
the Independence of Ukraine and the creation of an independent Ukrainian state – UKRAINE.The territory of Ukraine is indivisible and inviolable.
From this day forward, only the Constitution and laws of Ukraine are valid on the territory of Ukraine.
This act becomes effective at the moment of its approval.
Having looked everywhere, I have not found any information about whether Calgary will honor this event in any public way.  If you have information to share, please leave a comment for the readers of this blog. Diakuyou!                                                 

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Zhyto Band CD Release Party

Zhyto Band of Calgary is having
a CD release party this Friday at Lord Nelson Pub located at
1020 8 Ave SW, Calgary AB, Phone: 403-232-6704.

Friday night is a time to be a booster for our friends in the Ukrainian Community of Calgary!  You may have heard of Calgary's most recent Ukrainian Band, they are great!  Band members Stephan Bots, Toma Lebedovich, Erik Smistad, Jordan Welbourne (yes he is Ukrainian too) have created a unique sound, a hybrid of sounds like Gogol Bordello, Great Big Sea, Mad Heads XL - УкраїнSKA / UkrainSKA, Flogging Molly, Vopli Vidopliassova.  This Friday evening is Zhyto's Home CD Release at Lord Nelsons Bar, with some Special Guests! 
Bring your friends and remember to purchase a CD for the parents!!  Or maybe take the parents out to the bar!!
They are also performing in Regina on August 25th at the Victoria Park, and at the Toronto Ukrainian Festival on September 14th!  Get your dancing boots on!


Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Freedom of the Press - In Canada

Freedom of the media is a dear and treasured part of our western thinking. Protected by law, citizens have a right to speak and be heard.  As nation builders, Ukrainian Canadians have contributed a lot of backbone, hard labour, community institutions, cultural and educational treasures, as well as a trustworthy citizenry. 
Ukrainian Canadian radio and television programs have done much to support community,  Canadian community.  Protecting these media channels is important for all Canadians. 
Recently OMNI/Rogers cancelled the Ukrainian television programs Svitohlad and Objekty. A community session to discuss OMNI's cuts and various possibilities for new programming has been scheduled in Toronto for the 16th of August, 8PM (Toronto time) in the Foyer of Trident Hall, UNF, 145 Evans Ave, Toronto, ON.
As participants in this great Canadian democracy, your voice is is a welcome contributor to assist in developing a viable Ukrainian television program.  Those of us outside Toronto may call in to the community session via Telephone Conferencing at the numbers listed below. 
Local Ottawa 613-212-9004
Local Vancouver Dial-in Number: (604) 630 0213
Local Calgary Dial-in Number: (403) 770 0861
Local Edmonton Dial-in Number: (780) 701 5553
Local Winnipeg Dial-in number: (204) 272 6780
Local Toronto Dial-in Number: (416) 342 1900
Participant Code: 8036406

Should you wish to speak directly with the President of the National Ukrainian Canadian Congress, please consider the information below. 
Paul Grod, LL.B., MBA President
Ukrainian Canadian Congress
Direct (905) 625-9900 ext 225
National Office (613) 232-8822
Head Office (204) 942-4627

So Proud to be Canadian!

Canada is a great country!  Canada is a welcoming land whose embrace is the envy of so many freedom loving people in the world.  We have freedom to pursue our dreams, with dignity, human rights, and freedom to collaborate with our countrymen in the betterment of society.  When citizens perform public service, whether employed or volunteer, empowered to "be the change we wish to see in the world" (Ghandi), this has an impact on the future. We live in a global village, and we can apply our accumulated assets of time, talent and treasure to raise the children of tomorrow. 
Canada's responsive government is committed to helping Ukraine on its journey to a transparent and more accountable government, a strong democratatic government. In response to internal and external voices of concern with regards to the credibility of recent elections in Ukraine, Canada's government is looking for the strategic application of Canada's nation-building assets -its citizenry.
Calgary Member of Parliament, Honorable Jason Kenney, on behalf of the Government of Canada,  has just recently (August 9, 2012)  announced that Canada will be sending 500 observers to play a part in monitoring the upcoming Ukrainian parliamentary election (October 28, 2012).  This mission from Canada's Civilian Reserve calls upon us to volunteer wholeheartedly, stand up for freedom, truth and the rule of law.  People who have language competency, knowledge of electoral politics, election systems and international experienced may apply to be an observer.  
CANADEM: International Election Observation Project:
CANADEM: Apply to be an International Election Observer:
described below
The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Bob Dechert, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lois Brown, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation, and Ted Opitz, Member of Parliament for Etobicoke Centre announced today that the Government of Canada is sending 500 observers to help monitor Ukraine's parliamentary elections scheduled to be held in October 2012 – Toronto, Ontario

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Beets Yum!

It seems that most Eastern Europeans enjoy beets, and have a huge repertoire of recipes that please them!  I grew up enjoying Ukrainian borsch lovingly prepared by mama, baba's, aunties, and extended family.  Each borsch has a slightly different combination of vegetables, and are truly Ukrainian in style.  I even discoverd a borsch broth served as a light thin soup at Ukrainian feasts where there are already a lot of other vegetables served.  And ingenious women know how to use every part of the beet in recipes - including the leaves, used as a wrapper around rolls of dough, rice, buckwheat and such.

A lovely recipe my family enjoys does just that.  It uses all the beet, in a delicious way that is both sweet and like pickled beets.

First you harvest fresh beets (or go to the farmer's market, or store).  Choose beets that are not huge, with a lot of fresh green leaves.  At home slice off the leaves, wash, shred, and reserve.  Slice the stems in one inch pieces and reserve.  Wrap the unskinned beets in tinfoil and roast in a moderate oven for an hour or more (depending on the size).  Remove the beets to cool a bit. Warm some oil into a large pan, saute the beet stems, and drop a few tablespoons of water over them.  Cover and let them steam briefly until almost soft.  Then add minced or smashed garlic, the beet leaves, a quarter cup of water, and steam/fry until almost soft. Sprinkle with lemon juice to hold the dark green-leaf color, a very few flakes of dried red pepper, salt and pepper to taste.  In the meanwhile, prepare a pasta serving bowl with about a tablespoonful of capers, oil and red wine vinegar.  Slip the beets out of their skins and slice on a mandolin, straight into the dressing.  Toss gently and season.  Place the greens around the beets decoratively. Sometimes I drop a little goat cheese over the salad for a colorful contrast.  Enjoy!

Monday, 13 August 2012

By the Campfire

Help us raise funds for "При Ватрі," a commemorative CD for Plast's 100th anniversary, with the objective of giving each UMPZ participant a CD.

In August 2012, over 2,500  Plastuny will meet from around the world in Ukraine to celebrate the organization’s 100th anniversary. Over the years, life in Plast has been marked by songs that describe the life and activities of Plastuny.

The Lviv stanytsia of Plast, founded in 1995 and boasting some 2,000 members, has produced a commemorative recording in honor of the 100 Anniversary of Plast, called "При Ватрі," with the objective of giving each UMPZ participant a free copy of a CD that they may bring home and listen to with friends and family in all corners of the world. For many, this will be the first recording of Plast songs that they will own. The proceeds from this project will benefit the Lviv stanytsia.

*** Donate Today! ***

The organizers of this recording need your financial support in making this project a reality. Since Plast kurini from around the world have already spent considerable sums for the logistics of UMPZ, the Lviv stanytsia needs to raise an additional $6,000 in the next two weeks (before mid August) in order to pay for the manufacturing of 2,500 Plast 100th anniversary commemorative CDs.

This last minute appeal is a result of insufficient funding from donors in Ukraine, and the organizers are turning to Plastuny around the world to step in and help out, to make the CD a reality. Donations are also accepted on the Yevshan site.

As a thank-you gift for your donation, The Lviv Stanytsia (via Yevshan) will send you:

1 Commemorative “Pry Vatri” CD for a $25 donation - http://www.yevshan.com/main.asp?cid=450&pid=27724
5 Commemorative “Pry Vatri” CDs for a $100 donation $100 - http://www.yevshan.com/main.asp?pid=27725
20 Commemorative “Pry Vatri” CDs for a $250 donation $250 - http://www.yevshan.com/main.asp?pid=27726

The Lviv stanytsia has given Yevshan Communications Inc. from Canada the responsibility of distributing the recordings to donors from around the world.
Please take a moment to "like" this project on Facebook, and Tweet this information to your Plast friends and family. Information on how to donate funds will be up shortly.

*** To contact the organizers in Ukraine regarding this project, please email Oksana Mukha at zhabenia@gmail.com

The Lviv stanytsia's contact info:
address: м. Львів, вул. Шептицьких 16, 79016
telephone/fax: (032) 23-888-26    
Email: lviv@plast.org.ua

More info about Plast
UMPZ: http://www.plast.org.ua/100/umpz/inforegistration
Canada: http://www.plast.ca/
USA: http://www.plastusa.org/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plast

Please LIKE us on Facebook:

Listen to a montage from the CD here:

"При Ватрі"

CD track listing:
1          Табір  (відкриття табору)
2          Цвіт України і краса
3          Гей пластуни, гей юнаки
4          Горить Ватра
5          Гей там у горах високих
6          Марш 23 куреня, загону Червоної калини
7          Вставай Сонце
8          Лицарський Хрест
9          Гей Скобе!
10        Гей - гу , гей – га, таке то в нас життя
11        Найкращі дівчата
12        Казав мені в лісі
13        Чи знаєш ти, найкращу в світі пісню
14        Гав – гу , вовки!
15        Гей мандрують пластуни
16        Зірки мигтять
17        При ватрі
18        Ніч вже йде, за верхи
Total run time: 50 minutes

Виконавці : 2 , 3 – Солісти академічної чоловічої хорової капели «Дударик» та Оксана Муха,  5 – “Samplе Rate” & ”RIZUPS”,  6  -“Screamers”,  7 - «Нічлава», 8 – «Тартак»- Олександр Положинський, 9 – «От Вінта», 10 - Тарас Чубай, 11, 12 -  Назар Омельчук,  13, 14, 15, 16 – Оксана Муха, 17 – Квітка Цісик,18 – Андрій Наконечний

Summer Camp for Calgary's Ukrainian Scouts - PLAST

Such a refreshing summer for a Scouts Camp - Ukrainian Alberta style.  Whether it is the youthful program, the enthusiastic leadership, or the almost "extreme" scouting they have been able to coax out of the teens, for a lot of good reasons, the Ukrainian Scouting movement has captured my admiration. 

The Ukrainian Scouts - Plast, is the same organization as SCOUTS CANADA, with Baden Powell as the founder.  The Ukrainian Scouting program begin a hundred years ago, then travelled with the post WWII immigrants to all corners of her diaspora community.  Plast Ukrainian Scouts has been in Calgary since the 1980's, and it is indeed a wonderful program for personal development and community involvement. Though a small center, Calgary PLAST has grown, in part because of the influx of new people, but also because it has embraced children of old immigrant families such as mine. 
Weekly activities are like scouts everywhere, with lessons about the world, crafts, sports, charitable works, and cultural activities.  The summer camps are flat out amazing.  The director of the summer camp for the younger children, (held this year at Camp Bar-vi-nok at Pigeon Lake, Alberta) Roman Storoschuk of Calgary, told me they had a fantastic leader to camper ratio this year, the children had lots of care and attention at the water, and during the sometimes tricky crafts activities.  They were pirates this year!

And the program is delivered in a refreshingly sweet and nurturing kind of Ukrainian language that makes every family happy.  Kids songs, child friendly skits, silly camp routines, campfire activities, all in Ukrainian. 

When the little ones advance to the teen groups, they take an oath to the Ukrainian "idea", not a political nor ideological oath. It is such a sweet and romantic "love for my ancestral home" promise that I believe every politician in Ukraine should take this oath.  It could even change the politics a bit!

In any case, if you are interested in a fabulous Scouting program, delivered in Calgary in Ukrainian, consider the contacts below.


The Wisdom of the Land

I just can't believe the weather last night.  Sunday evening, preparing to return to work on Monday, Calgary entered a severe weather pattern that really pounded the city. The weather network said to watch for the severe winds, but I wasn't anticipating what we got. Hailstones larger than golf balls hit the north of the city, and I imagine there will be a lot of damage. 

The sound of the hail on the roof was something we really have never heard before.  Individual hailstones must have been quite large, the impact was very sharp on the roof!  Our dog got so scared he went to hide in the baseent.  The thudding continued for at least 10 to 15 minutes.  It didn't seem like a lot of rain, but it looks like Nose Creek caught a lot of the rain drainoff, it actually looks like a river this morning.

As I look at the apple tree I notice a lot of fallen leaves and apples, but the poor apples on the tree must be just ripped to shreds.  The flowers certainly are. Fortunately the tomatoes are in pots this summer and got pulled under the eves.
(photo by Romich-Calgary)
Well, the wisdom of the weather is something beyond me. This is a picture of the shed where the lawn mower sleeps, got a huge wake up call last night, perfectly round, the size larger than a golf ball!!   I hope your hail experience this mid August summer Sunday wasn't very damaging.  The earth is resilient, and if you are gardening, the sun is already shining, and there are still root vegetables.

Flowers, Family, Future - The Vinok

Vinok craft at Calgary Ukrainian Festival 2012
From ancestral times, the language of flowers has been used to convey ideas, feelings and emotions. The Ukrainian wreath (vinok) represents the female principle, wisdom, elegance and beauty. But the vinok is not simply a beauty accessory. In the hands of a healer, a practitioner, the wreath is a tool of mystical power.

The great grandmothers knew the secrets, how to weave and when, and which flowers to use. Collecting flowers from forested areas and marshes, on fields and mountains, they recognized which herbs protected and restored life. Ancestral homes depended on medicinal herbs, flowers, plants to protect and ensure the family's longevity. That is why much of Ukrainian folklore is tied up in passing on the wisdom of this herbology.

Celebrating the last harvested sheaf of grain by decorating it with a wreath flowers anticipates next year's harvest. Ritual Ukrainian wedding preparations, and vinkopletennia bring folkwisdom alongside Byzantine crowning prayers during the religious marriage. Little girls of 3 years begin to wear little wreaths woven by their mothers.

And with every age, and for every purpose there are specific flowers and colors to be used, each carrying cultural wisdom, symbolic or medicinal value.

Immortelle (strawflower) (bezsmertnik) is known as the everlasting flower, representing good health, because these flowers retain their form and color when dried, and today's cosmetic companies use its extracted precious essential oil for its anti-aging properties. Floral water from the petite, intense blue cornflower (voloshky), or bachelor's buttons, can be used as a natural mild astringent, antiseptic to prevent eye infections. Yarrow, (dereveey) in ancient times known to staunch the flow of blood from wounds stands for resilience and bravery. The trailing growncover periwinkle, vinca or myrtle (barvinok) is a delicate, yet hardy evergreen vine representing everlasting life. Cherry and apple blossoms, a symbol of feminine beauty, bring happiness and love, knowledge and health. The kalyna-highbush cranberry, represents beauty, and fidelity to one's people. Lovage,(lyoubistok) a perennial native of southern Europe resembling celery with large flat yellow flowers, now used as a culinary flavoring, was once considered an aphrodisiac. It and cornflower (voloshky) stand for committment and loyalty. The big, graceful and feminine blossoms of rose, hollyhocks (mal'va) and peony with their strong colors and fragrance represent faith, hope and love. The healing companionship of marigold, daisies and chamomile (romashki) in bright white, yellow, orange, and terracotta colors attract beautiful butterflies, deter garden pests, and therefore represent purity and chastity. Hops (xhmil') whiskers represent flexibility and understanding. The blood red poppy, (mak) beloved flower of Ukraine, represents sadness and sorrow.

And the wreath is festooned with colored ribbons, each carring meaning too! Light brick or brown represents Mother Earth, harvest and generosity, earth and life-giving food. Yellow represents the sun's flame, light, strength, youthful ambition, love, and family. Light and dark green represents hope, freshness, victory and wealth. Christmas, Easter and Epiphany are green holidays. Blue and light blue represent the air, sky, water, good health, and truthfulness. Deep yellow or gold represents bread, spirituality, wisdom. Violet is the color of faith, wisdom, trust and patience. Raspberry represents honesty, generosity. Rose represents plenty, success and contentment. White is the symbol of purity, birth, rejoicing. Red is the magical color of folklore, symbolizing life, love, action, passion, spirituality, and Christian ministry. A wreath of many colors represents family happiness, peace and love. 

The ribbons are fastened to the wreath in this order. In the center the light brick colored ribbons, to the left and the right two yellow ribbons, then light and dark green, then blue and light blue, then on one side deep yellow, and on the other side violet, then raspberry and rose. White ribbons on both sides, symbols of chastity, to tie. The white ribbon on the left carried ancient symbols, the embroidered Sun, and the right, and embroidered Moon. A white ribbon without design memorializes a dear one who has died. Light blue ribbons entwined in the hair called upon the viewer's mercy, as it symbolized one's orphan upbringing. 
Making and wearing a wreath is just a part of its beauty. The deeper meaning, the age old wisdom is another gift to pass forward! 


Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Spirits of our Ancestors

Driving Alberta's prairie roads you can see how summer's sun is giving everything a lovely toasted hue.  You-pick gardens everywhere are hosting families looking for a healthy, fresh and sometimes organic harvest bounty.  And you cannot miss that some of the fields are beginning to turn color and will soon be ripe.
Just thinking how long these fields and farms have been planted is sometimes a surprise.  Many fields have been farmed for possibly up to 120 years, but this is not long compared with the many years of stewardship by Canada's aboriginal people.  Though Alberta's First Nations do not have an ancestral tradition of farming, or gardening, still their medicines, their rituals, their folk wisdom is rooted in nature.  The ancestral memory of a relationship between the land and mankind is in every cultural community.

The Iroquois wisdom rings true for me. And seven generations ago, much of what is Ukraine was stuck in serfdom.  Serfdom is like white slavery.  In a time long past, some Ukrainian ancestors were bound by duty and debt to a landlord who owned all of one's waking hours, labour, and any product produced.  That type of "human slavery" was abolished over a century and a half ago - seven generations ago! Americans of African ancestry who experienced slavery suffered a debilitating psychological damage, a sense of less worth than others.  Many Canadians of immigrant origins also know the stories, because of similar experiences in their historic ancestry. That may be one of the factors in Canadian's being so involved in advocacy for human rights!

So seven generations ago Ukraine's Great Bard - Taras Shevchenko was "purchased", rescued from a life of serfdom, and wrote the most empowering literature full of folkwisdom, dreams and possibilities!  Eventually serfdom was abolished, and people resolved to heal and thrive, in freedom. That may in part explain why the Ukrainian nation has such a scattered diaspora - it makes me think of the farmer of old times, broadcasting seeds onto the fertile soil by hand.......

So when you are driving on the prairie roads late this summer, look at the farmers fields and consider that the August sunshine will ripen the wheat, and make it ready for harvest. It is probably time to gather a sheaf of wheat! 

In the ancestral teachings, the Spirit of our Grandfathers lives in the kernels. Each seed sacrifices itself to give life to the next generation.  It is so, from time immemorial.

Remember to ask permission of some generous farmer before you harvest the wheat. Take long stalks and make a tightly bound bundle.  Bind it well, as it is said the tigher the bind, the closer the family.  The souls of the family (past, present and future) are thought to be in the sheaf, and it represents both the Christian belief in an afterlife and the bountiful fertility of the land. Display the Didukh in a place of honor and celebrate its wisdom!

New to Calgary??

Calgary is a great place to live, but if you are a newcomer there are so many opportunities - it is sometimes mind boggling. Calgary's Ukrainian Community is actually a fabulous place to get involved, get connected, make friends and seek the welcoming atmosphere of people whose origins are similar to yours. 

While Ukrainian Calgary, the website, is a great brief introduction, there are a great variety of groups whose information is far too complete and detailed to provide here.  One such very important link, is the Canadian Relocation System, the Online Guide for people Relocating or Moving to Canada.  This resource can help with a variety of needs, but also facilitates contact with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) which represents the Ukrainian Canadian community before the people and Government of Canada.  The UCC site hosts a calendar of events, links with Ukraine, and tries to both identify and address the needs of the Ukrainian community in Canada.
For more complete information, please follow the links below.


or www.ucc.ca

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Kalyna - High Bush Cranberry

Highbush cranberries - Lamont
Lamont Travelogue by Darby 2
Our home has been graced with the company of special friends lately, forever friends really.  Travelling to Calgary from their homes far away, these are true friends, and we have deep abiding love and understanding for each other. Like the best friendships, between the laughter and tears, are layers and layers of common understandings.  Stuff we do, food we eat, art we display, our celebrations, our sorrows, songs we sing....
Metaphors and similes are encased in almost all Ukrainian songs.  One of the special botanical symbols is the kalyna – Viburnum-Caprifoliaceae L. (the high bush cranberry).  Kalyna is part of Ukraine’s wealth of life sustaining, rural, agricultural riches.  It has been known and used over millennia as part of ancient rites, rituals, magic and medicine.
In Ukrainian, nouns have gender, so the word “kalyna” is a feminine noun.  Kalyna grows in wet woods, along streams and wooded hillsides, and requires moist but well drained sites for best development. Kalyna blossoms are snow white, lace-cap flowers that form a ball-shape.  Ancestral Ukrainian folk songs of courtship, engagement and marriage anticipate the ripening of the kalyna berries, referring in hopeful terms to the whole concept of maidenhood, virginity, the nuptial bed, happy, fruitful wedded life.  The cycle of ritual songs and ritual embroideries celebrate the blood-red, the love, and life ahead.  Medicinally, the bark yields a powerful antispasmodic, a water soluble preparation containing a bitter compound called viburnine, which is used for the relief of menstrual and stomach cramps.  At the same time, however it is interesting that in the fall, the ripened berries weigh down the kalyna and the branches bend gracefully to support the tree - clearly imagery to do with birth, and the future, with all its complexity and sorrows. The fruit is best gathered when slightly under-ripe and sour.  If it is gathered after a heavy frost, the fruit is sweeter, and has a musty odor during cooking.  Wildlife waits until there have been several frost/thaw cycles before indulging in the dried fruit.   
In his amazing collection and analysis of Ukrainian traditional folk songs, Filiaret Kolessa refers to “parallelism”, where nature comes to represent all of life. Decoding becomes even more complex, the deeper one gets into literary symbolism. The Great Kobzar Taras Shevchenko was one, from among Ukraine's literary giants to have employed this imagery, and now ancestral images stand beside contemporary art works and seem to reflect not only individual love, but love for one’s people, for one’s country.  Many symbols are universally loved in Ukraine, probably none more than the kalyna.
Here are some favorite Kalyna songs to enjoy – consider the symbolism in the lyrics and think “to life!”