Thursday, 27 June 2013

Planning a Ukrainian Love Match?
No matter who you marry, where and how, wedded partnerships are best forged out of respect, embrace and understanding.  Western wedding traditions are featured everywhere in the media, but how to enhance a partnership ritual with someone of Ukrainian heritage? 

Ukrainian rituals are often ancient, so the symbols, art, clothing, music and ceremony are recognizable, and can contribute to create an extravagantly beautiful marriage memory.  Everything from the courtship, betrothal, preparations, ritual foods, ceremony, wedding feast, the songs and dances, the incantations, and the layers of visual arts focus on the moral and ethnic ideals of Ukrainian people, and their views on the creation of a new family.  Relationships through the ebb and flow of time, shape history. 

A plethora of Ukrainian songs are about courtship.  A ritual exists for each of the betrothal events - which ambitious diasporan Ukrainians typically try to cram into an evening or a weekend!  They start with activities such as Ivana Kupala - which is the eve of  St. John the Baptist day in June/July (closely tied with the summer solstice). Girls weave magical and enchanting wreaths of flowers gathered from the field and forest, carrying the wreaths into the flowing waters of a river.  Releasing the enchanted wreath into the water will entice the correct young man.  Their joyful leaping over the bonfire together starts a cascade of wedding planning.  More ritual songs involve praise for the family, the father, mother, siblings and of course, often humorous ceremonies indicative of their approval or disapproval of the match-making. 

Many ritual and betrothal songs are commonly part of the Ukrainain spring song collections of haiivky, and vesnianky. They are familiar and well loved, often sung and celebrated at summer camp activities everywhere in the Ukrainian diaspora. The Ukrainian Culture Club of Northern California celebrated this way! (maybe you'll recognize Calgarian Ihor Bohdan - Esteemed Artist of Ukraine, and former headliner of Halychany on the video.) Well, someone has this right - a cultural heritage camp for kids and adults!

Bridal garments are a ritual of nostalgia, the stuff of princesses and fairy tales.  While brides may be bombarded by the wedding industry, traditional wreaths, colors and fragrances of flowers can make for a brilliantly unique and beautiful bride.  For an exceptionally beautiful bridal wreath check out Temna Fialka at!krov

An ancient type of bread known as korovai takes the place of a wedding cake in a Ukrainian wedding. Large, rounded and braided, the korovai is decorated with symbols such as love birds or pinecones (whose fertility depends on the heat of a fire), flower, nuts, herbs or coins. Talented korovainytsi traditionally prepare the korovai in the bride's home while singing ritual songs.  The korovai comes to church dressed up in a periwinkle (barvinok) wreath, then to the reception hall as their food of celebration together, and shared with guests.  Of course, today you can purchase a korovai online at

Underlying all of it, these deeply loved Ukrainian traditions carry a sense of the eternal, a spirituality of family which spans history, and enriches the contemprary faith circle, church or temple marriage.  Include one of the Ukrainian traditions, include all of them to celebrate and honor an endearing Ukrainian love match! 




Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Calgary's Water Ritual 2013

The scale of the devastation caused by the amazing rains of the past week, the Summer Solstice Flood of 2013 is slowly coming into focus.  The evacuation of many Southern Alberta communities, the closure of downtown Calgary, immense flood damage to homes, personal and corporate property, and infrastructure will have an impact on all of us in one way or another.  Priority has been placed on the safety and security of human life, while those in need have been supported by countless service agencies and volunteers throughout the province. With the devastating waters subsiding, many people are responding to the relief effort with generosity, patience, courage, hard work and spirit.  
Calgary and Southern Alberta has experienced a flood of mammoth proportions.  The nurturing force that feeds plants, animals and washes away the dust of time, fell, unstoppable, in some places accumulating up to 250 millimeters over a very brief period of time.  The torrential rains accumulated over a vast swath of beautiful foothills creating opportunities to escape in which ever creek, stream, river, or flat plain it encountered.  Sitting self-assured in human designed cities, nobody was prepared for the grand effect of nature on our well intended plans.  Unprecedented flood levels irreparably damaged homes, landscapes, businesses, infrastructure, anticipated costs to set it all right, in the unknown millions.  The cost to the human psyche is yet to be known.
I was originaly going to write about the summer solstice Ukrainian festive celebration "Ivana Kupala" the beliefs, rituals and festivities.   It is all connected with the role of water in fertility and ritual purification.  Ancient folklore, songs, traditions associated with Ivana Kupala - the cupid of Slavic folklore have much to do with survival of the species - courtship, love, ceremonies marking matrimonial unions, and family.   The water of life was going to be the theme, flowing and full, empowered with creative possibility, strong and subtle, healthy and abundant, infinite, powerful and eternal water of life.  Ritual weaving of floral wreaths, floating on the water lit with candles, to be captured by the virile male - the two leaping over the bonfire of life in a ritual test of bravery and faith, the boisterous waters of life, prosperity, discernment and power pouring over their blooming relationship - this is Ivana Kupala. The symbols speak thousands of words.

Albertans can feel secure that our social and corporate life is all well mapped out, but in an instant a more powerful force is upon us, forcing us to endure.  The best efforts of countless engineers, planners, municipal governments could not hold it back.  Keeping in mind we are like bacteria on the face of the planet, in our millions we have created a "culture" which can be wiped out in a relative few moments.  A power beyond our fathoming continues to shape the amazing place we inhabit.  Maybe I should have written about Ivana Kupala after all.  

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Tuesday Ukrainian Jam Session

Well after hearing about this great group of guys from Ukraine arriving to play at the Vegreville Ukrainian Festival this year,  I finally met them!  Today at Calgary's commemoration event for the Enemy Aliens Exhibit in Banff (sorry,  it was impossible to get there due to the rain), the gentlemen musicians played for the reception program.  Great fun and entertainment!

If you are in Edmonton on Tuesday, June 25 - or you can get there for the evening - you could be part of Edmonton's largest Ukrainian jam session!

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Bring your favorite instrument - large or small, make sure your voice is well....hydrated.  Song books will be provided for all, so you don't have to feel self conscious about forgetting the words.  Join in this huge sing-a-long, it will be like you never left summer camp!  You can purchase drinks and munchies there. 

This is an evening performance of Ukraine's Darmohrai group from Vinnytsia Ukraine, and Edmonton's largest Ukrainian jam session!  Come for the entertainment, come for the fun, and remember you are helping Darmohrai continue its tour to big and small places across the Canadian prairies - little places needing that Ukrainian uplift! 

See you Tuesday - Tickets are available at the door! 

Rainy, Flood Weather Cancels Event

Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Assumption
Amid the emergencies declared today, the surging rivers, heavy flooding waters threatening lives and property in southern Alberta, the Opening Ceremonies of the New "Enemy Aliens" Exhibit in honor of Canada's First World War Internment Operations at the Banff Cave and Basin site were cancelled.

A flurry of phone messages, conflicting emails, and an hour later the Ukrainian community gathered together here, and it seems (although not confirmed) another equally unstoppable Ukrainian community gathered there, in Banff- hopefully in safety.  So on short notice, and with no assurance it was even happening, many Calgarians and guests weathered the rains to attend this commemorative event. 

Assumption Choir loft with Axios Choir
At 2 PM this afternoon a Service honoring the memory of those taken by the Canadian government as "enemy aliens" during WW1 was served at the Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Assumption. Metropolitan Lawrence of the Ukrainian Catholic Church welcomed the steadily growing congregation. Prayers were lifted by clergy of local Ukrainian Catholic Churches, Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Croation Roman Catholic Churches, the service responses sung by Axios Ukrainian Choir of Edmonton (led by Boris Derow, supplemented by the voices of the Edmonton Ukrainian Male Chorus). The gathered congregation heard comments from the President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Paul Grod, and the Ambassador of Ukraine to Canada, Vadym Prystaiko, and the Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia to Canada, Veselko Grubišić. And then Canadian Minister for Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism, The Honorable Jason Kenney spoke on behalf of Canada.

Ukrainian Canadian Congress President Paul Grod welcomed the assembled with a message about Canada's illplaced WW1 wartime xenophobia toward Eastern Europeans.  Canadians are applying the lessons in civil society to our nation, and the Cave and Basin will be a teaching tool for our collective future. Ambassador Prystaiko (left) indicated his respect for the lessons Ukraine can learn from Canada in aid of its developing civil society, that is, speaking truth to the world.  Ambassador  Grubišić (right) recognized how large Canada is, and how large democracies can grow and go forward by such events as today.  Canadian Minister of Immigration Kenney spoke about there being no legitimate national, military or security rationale in the development of the WW1 Internment Operations.  The truth of the matter, he indicated, was that the "Internment Operations" were motivated by a misguided, unjust xenophobic attitude toward Eastern Europeans.  The British Crown was, in fact, aware that Eastern Europeans were declaring their loyalty by their numbered participation in the war effort.  In Kenney's eyes, in historical perspective, it seems the "forced labour" of the Internees, may have added a terrible, shadowy dimension. Nonetheless, it is with honor we remember those affected by this sad time in Canadian history.  Their contributions to a greater Canada will always be remembered. 

A small reception including a short program of music from Axios Choir, and guests from Vinnytsia, Ukraine "Darmohray" continued in the parish hall.   After all these years, the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association of Canada and the Government of Canada have come to a comfortable agreement with regards to this sad time in Canadian history.  Much to thank the Ukrainian Canadian Congress for as well!  May we continue to be proactive in honoring these truths through the educational programs in Canada's public schools and in our publicly funded Canadian Museums. 

To those who already arrived at the Banff site prior to the declared states of emergency, thanks for being there.  We, in Calgary, knew it was an event too important to cancel, and adapted to the situation.  Heartfelt concern for those evacuated or in peril due to the widespread infrastructure damage by natural causes in the Banff mountain pass areas and local states of emergency declared in Southern Alberta. 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Sadochok is Growing 2013

Today made me so happy!  I had the opportunity to attend the year end Father's Day Program of the  capable little participants of Calgary's Ukrainian Sadochok at St. Vladimir's Cultural  Centre!

In conversation with Larissa Groch I was so pleased to hear that the volunteer board of Sadochok have put in place fabulous decisions which have made Sadochok grow and grow!  In fact, I heard that certain areas of registration for next year are already full, and there is more demand than earlier anticipated.  Clearly there is a pent up desire for quality programming in the Ukrainian community, and Sadochok delivers!

Teachers Pani Olena, Pani Valya and Pani Lesia take such gentle care of the children during their time at Sadochok.  There is structured time, play time, snack, singing, language learning, crafts, even nap time because for some children Sadochok is also partly a daycare.  Sadochok has a lovely working environment because of the professional standards in place, and of course because of the huge hearts involved.

Today's program was ambitiously planned, and overwhelmingly embraced by all the guests.  The beaming faces,  the little ones dressed in their embroidered finest, just make your heart melt.  And when they began their verses, their songs, their lovely little dance moves, everyone in the audience was smeared in smiles - you just have to believe me.  How could any baba or dido help but be enchanted in this love fest?

 While the brightly colored visual arts are only a part of the children's Sadochok program, I thought to share these with the readers of ukrainiancalgary in the hopes you would pass the message along.  Sadochok is growing and it is time to register the little ones in Ukrainian language and culture programs offered here in Calgary!

All the ripples created by the Ukrainian community start with small steps - make sure you reach out, connect and pass it on!  Oh, and I really love Sadochok's motto - Make Baba Proud!


Saturday, 15 June 2013

Bye-Bye Babej!

When you meet someone with whom you are "of one mind", "on the same page",  someone who "gets you", it is often such a heart filling experience.  When this person can be in your life, the life of your family, the life of your children, your organization or community, you feel enriched.  Sometimes these people come, sometimes they go, sometimes they just switch seats with others equally dedicated.  Sometimes it is hard to replace that special someone who contributed to your positivity - and you miss them.

Calgary's Plast Ukrainian Scouts community bids farewell to their Chaplain of 5 years this weekend, with a pot luck supper and evening program, and participation in the Divine Liturgy on Sunday.  I had the opportunity to visit briefly with Father Peter who will leave Calgary's St. Stephen's parish for St. Josephat's Ukrainian Catholic Church in Edmonton.  Happy times in the Plast community have made Calgary a home, if for a brief time.  The cowboy hat, the campfire songs that are a standard it seems in all Plast families, the gentle, embracing humor - it is all part of life in a scouting family - protecting children from the harshness of life while providing them with the embrace of community who believes, like you, that ancestral values, language and culture matter. 
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Besides his role as Chaplain, Father Peter spent time with the children, of all ages, enjoying roles in campfire games and dramatic plays, simply being a presence - a leader by example. Turns out people enjoy him - and will miss his partcipation at Plast Calgary events. 

Wishing you well Father Peter in your new assignment! 
ps my catchy title comes from specially composed farewell lyrics sung at the program
plast calgary 2013

Monday, 10 June 2013

New Pavilion at Cave and Basin Opening June 20

Banff's Cave and Basin is a popular tourist attraction featuring thermal waters and a protected environment for rare plants and creatures, but is also celebrates Canada's National Parks and our history. A while back ukrainiancalgary blog received an invitation to the reopening of the Banff Cave and Basin historical site, and ceremonial opening of the new exhibit honoring Canada's First World War Internment Operations on June 20, 2013.


So I recently visited the Cave and Basin site, and was surprised by the nostalgic trip it presented. When I was there the site was dripping in rain, hazy with mist and fragrant with natural beauty. The Cave and Basin site in Banff is absolutely gorgeous. Walking around the site, we found the new pavilion, which a worker called the Tea House - still under construction. Inquisitive, we silently walked down the stairs to the marsh to see a beaver, birds, little fish and a remarkably tranquil natural area, and we wished had lounge chairs.

The Government of Canada and its Ukrainian Community have achieved a financial redress settlement by which an educational and commemorative endowment is providing Parks Canada the financial resources required to build a permanent exhibit. The special site will honor Canada's first national internment operations at the Cave and Basin site in Banff National Park. The permanent display will provide visitors an opportunity to appreciate how Canada takes responsibility before all its citizens to honor Canadian history, the complex but true stories of people with aspirations, for themselves, their kin, their nation and the world. 

Looking forward to the Thursday afternoon ceremonies at the Pavilion on June 20, 2013 - see you there!


Thursday, 6 June 2013

Points of Light at Festival 2013

Like points of light converging at an intersection, many converging energies gathered at the Ukrainian Festival in Calgary over the June 1-2 weekend creating a a momentary radiance over the Ukrainian community.  In the afterglow, the amazing coordination of volunteer efforts just has to be recognized and acknowledged!  The Calgary Ukrainian Festival is an unusual phenomenon  - Ukrainian culture continues to flourish here in its diasporan form here in Calgary! Great performances, delicious food, quality vendors, and a community vibe - loads of connections!

How is it that we are each called to this kind of communal event?  Well, I have a theory.  We live in popular culture.  We respond rapidly to assimilation, accepting the market model for our lives, even though we really just want to be ourselves - our true selves.  Struggling with identity, we still want to belong to a group - to have some sense of our uniqueness, our individualism, to feel special.  Some people press boundaries trying to be "unique" and "noticed".  Others are willing to sacrifice their ancestral values for security and economic opportunity.  But once you have the economics taken care of, what more can a person accomplish? 

The truth is, family matters, and home matters.  We crave the sights, smells, sounds, and embrace of family.  Family matters.  We can't ignore the fact that though we may be sophisticated city folk, we yearn for the elusive, comforting fragrance of all our past comfort givers.  We are burrowing animals whether we like it or not.

Because our historic lineage is "family", it draws us to that mythical, nostalgic, sentimental homeland called Ukraine.  We thirst to know her, to feel her, to be embraced by her - to recognize ourselves in her culture and values.  A curious thing happens when it happens. It's a blast from the past jolting energy forward through the ages.

When the disparate energies of individuals line up on a meridian like this Ukrainian Festival, it is like pressing on a trigger point.  The energy leaps like a lightening bolt.  Energized!   The stories of ancient times, the dances, the songs, the smells of old sheepskin coats, and the old blanket on the bed with its faint aroma of grandparents all wrapped in Festival excitement!  Rubbing against one another, the friction of ideas, the stimulation of good company, friends of common thought - it was fun!  Hopes and dreams leap forward, what will tomorrow bring?  Looking forward to next Festival already!!

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Yellow Flowers on a Blue Sky - Cool Baba!

Sunflowers of Ukraine.jpg Tania D'Avignon.jpg

Yellow flowers in the distance, yellow flowers on a green carpet, against a blue sky - well, a rainy blue sky. While the flower of Ukraine may be a sunflower, Calgary's surely has to be the dandelion!

Ukraine's soil is so fertile its sunflower seeds itself everywhere, harvested as a food, and a pressed oil crop. Of course it is all so cultured!  But here we are in Calgary, with its thin layer of young soil atop a rocky bed of glacial till and the sandy remains of an inner continental seas - where Taraxacum now rules. Ready to colonize disturbed soil, the seeds of Taraxacum, introduced in the bundles of seeds brought from the old word, now colonizes most of the temperate world with its hundreds of subspecies.

Taraxacum or dandelion is an edible perennial, good for culinary and medicinal purposes. While noteworthy for its incredibly deep growing roots - up to  22.5 cm long, its nutrient rich leafy greens can be added to salad, or steamed in teas, while the flowers make a nice wine, and the dried roots are sometimes used in herbal coffee substitute. The dried roots help stimulate appetite and help with digestion.- also as a mild laxative. The leaves are mildly diuretic and can contribute to lowering high blood pressure.  Similar to daisies, ragweed, marigold or chamomile, eh!  

The flowers open their 2-5 cm heads to greet the morning sun and close to sleep at night.  They bloom a lovely butter yellow, attract pollinators, and then the head dries for a day or two. The dried petals and stamens drop off, but the bracts curve backwards to expose a parachute ball shaped like a full sphere. Parachutes of puff, anchored with a seed, expand in the breeze and lift off. The puffed parachute drops off the seed shell when it strikes an obstacle, and the seed finds a new home.

The dent de lion, may carry a French name, but the dandelion is also a kul'baba in Ukrainian. It sets its hardy tap root deep into the soil and creates community of like culture.  I LIKE THAT! Cool Baba! Kool Baba has yellow flowers, ready to parachute into a bright blue sky!