Friday, 27 September 2013

Eyes on Chersonesos - UNESCO World Heritage Site

the eyes of the Theotokos from the ancent temple at Chersonesos,
possibly the eyes that saw King and Sovereign Volodymyr of Rus',
now in Chersonesos Museum
amk 2013
The Ancient city of Chersonesos, located near the Crimean port city of Sevastopol on Ukraine's Black Sea coast has been declared a UNCESCO World Heritage Site!  This very important place in world history marks the seventh to fifth centuries BC ancient meeting of Greeks and indigenous peoples, and how their relationship led to Chersonesos becoming the birthplace of democracy in this part of the world.  Few places on earth have had such a long and vital history!

This summer's Black Sea Cruise vacation (2013) included a very important stop in Chersonesus. Landing at the Crimean (Greek for peninsula) port city of Sevastopol was intriguing, but then the absolutely unexpected splendor of the archeological ruins protected at the National Preserve of Tauric Chersonesos site was overwhelming. Thankfully for admirers of history's wisdom, the President of Ukraine in 1993 declared the site a Preserve, given the status of a national institution of culture. Since that time, important scholarly teams involving archeologists, historians and specialists of related fields have worked to establish an archeological park, enlisting non-profit and non-governmental organizations abroad. The significance of this site has met an appreciative international audience.
Chersonesos city, amk2013

Ancient indigenous cultures and warring tribes including the impressive Taurians, Cimmerians, and Scythians lived in this highly desired locations. Greek colonists from Miletus in the 7th to 5th centuries BC established an independent, self-governed city state which variously enslaved, employed and eventually included these peoples as participants in the popular assembly of free peoples who would decide on law, wars, peace and governance together.  For two thousand years Chersonesos was the major political, economic and cultural centre of this northern Black Sea region, enduring political and economic upsurges and threats including fascinating times of Roman and Byzantine Empire influence.  Ancient and modern time looting, and construction related sprawl of modern city-growth, including illegal agricultural activity are a threat to the site.  In June 2013 UNESCO finally included the Chersonesos site on the list of World Heritage Sites because of its outstanding universal value. With this international focus, the Ukrainian authorities are committed toward strengthened heritage management and preservation.  The first foreign teams to be given access to conduct research at this site (1990's) from The Institute of Classical Archeology at the University of Texas contributed to this sea change with their amazing academic journey through the excavations and finds in Chersonesos.

The Texas led research team spokespeople indicate the project includes an offer to the Government of Ukraine of a long term project, to set up a world class archeological park on the territory of Chersonesos. A number of US private non-profit foundations and other generous supporters have already contributed to the archeological excavations, but issues such as coastal erosion and the important infrastructure for international tourism require priority attention and financial support. And Ukraine's Minister of Culture will urgently need to protect the Ukrainian state owned property from attempts by the Russian Orthodox Church to seize and appropriate the site.

Incidentally, the one hryvnia banknote has an image of Chersonesos on the reverse side!

ZABAVA on Whyte Avenue (Edmonton)

For three days of epic arts and culture, the only feature celebration site in Edmonton during the 2013 Alberta Culture Days will happening at St. John's Institute on Whyte Avenue (near the University of Alberta). All events are free, all fun, and full of cultural richness - all you need to do is arrive in a Ukrainian blouse or shirt! Come out to support the community's Ukrainian artists, performing and visual. Industrious volunteers could help with the pyrogy pinching party, or help out in other ways.

Just make sure to be there for the Saturday night zabava right on Whyte Avenue - the street will closed! And Trembita Ukrainian Band wants you there for the fun!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Ukie Summer School 2014!

Polovetsian warrior, Kyivan Rus' era,
Feodosia Museum, Ukraine
Looking for a hero?  Looking for opportunities to dream, rise to a new plateau of understanding, and aspire to the heights of human experience?  LOOK NO FURTHER!

The creative legacy of  OSVITA, the exceptional summer Ukrainian language and cultural immersion program may be for you!

OSVITA, the exceptional Ukrainian summer school program designed for deep, enriching experiences in inter-cultural understanding, is a superlative way to engage with learning. Immersion activities embedded in the rhythms of folk life, the language, culture, cuisine are but a glimpse into the collective memory, the ancestral ways. And the trajectory of Ukrainian life with its European and global presence is changing by the minute.   With at least 1.3 million Canadians of Ukrainian ancestry, and at least 20 million in the Ukrainian diaspora, and on every continent, each holds the heroes of their ancestry dear. Real people aspiring to overcome challenges in their personal lives, we all marvel at the wisdom and resilience of the ancestral stories.  Change and adaptation are everywhere, but it is clear that promoting pluri-lingualism from within our Ukrainian community is a fabulous way to shape the world, to contribute to world peace.

Innovation and optimism are the by-words for the OSVITA program which has been connecting people and communities for decades.  Building kindred relationships from Buenos Aires, Brazil, Berlin, London, Istanbul, and Chicago, and of course places like Myrnam, Alberta - OSVITA makes Ukrainian relevant in an international way.  Self-aware, optimistic, forward thinking, and incredibly able to enrich young lives with deep and comprehensive ties with the land of their ancestry, OSVITA should be on your young person's summer plan!

Check it out here at
ps-my daughter went twice and still talks about her amazing experiences at OSVITA!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Share the Story

Can you believe it is 80 years since the Holodomor?

Since the epic "death by starvation" of Stalinist days in Ukraine during the 1930's spent such a long time in "enforced silence", there is so much ignorance on this truly historic tragedy in the world. The time to Share the Story is long upon us!

In the 1930's, Joseph Stalin was the dominant force in the Soviet Union's aggressive plan to reshape Soviet society. A massive bureaucracy enforced comprehensive collectivization, an economic strategy which was to bring all agriculture under state control. Nearly unlimited power was granted to this bureaucracy as they expropriated property, eliminated households, frequently using secret police, prisons, political repression, arrests, deportations and executions to affect their goals. The policies led to mass starvation and the death of at least 7-10 million people. The hugely important facts around such intentional human cruelty must receive public attention! Unfortunately history tends to repeat itself unless we truly demand a higher standard of conduct among ourselves, our communities, our nations, and in international relationships! Knowledge is indeed power!

The stories of Holodomor survivors are being featured on a web site at, One story is being posted daily for 80 days leading up to the International Holodomor Memorial Day on November 23, 2013. The Kyiv-based newspaper Kyiv Post has also joined the promotion effort, and you can visit their site at Another media sponsor posting the testimonies on their site is RFE/RL (Radio Svoboda) at

A project sponsored by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress  and the Ukrainian World Congress.

Media Contact: Irene Mycak

Ukrainian World Congress    145 Evans Ave., Suite 207   Toronto, ON   M8Z 5X8    Canada
Tel. (416) 323-3020   Fax (416) 323-3250   e-mail:   website:

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Can You Ukrainian Tango? Oh Yea!

Hello Ukrainian Tango fans! Wonderful news for you! A new album is in the works! Calgary's own Stephania Romaniuk, lovely vocal performer and some of Calgary's best classical and jazz instrumentalists are up to their castanets in Ukrainian tango!

Way back n the early 30's, Western Ukraine's capital Lviv was the home of talented Bohdan Wesolowsky. A musical colleague of Anatoly Kos-Anatolsky at the Lviv Conservatory, Wesolowsky's piano, vocals and accordion contributed Latin sounds, tango, and Austrian influenced waltz to Leonid Yablonsky's jazz orchestra sound. Light and frothy fare, this new genre was indeed a hit with young people! Wesolowsky soon thirsted for more and moved to study composition and economics in Vienna! Emigrating to Montreal after the war, Wesolowsky became the first radio announcer-producer for the Ukrainian division of Radio-Canada International until his death in 1971.

Interestingly, Ukrainian tango, foxtrot and light waltz were Wesolowsky's forte! Passionate love songs, fused to Latin rhythms and Viennese class, tantalizing, enticing, full of yearning, these were the exciting new sounds in small intimate settings, night clubs and cabarets, perhaps the Ukrainian version of a "speak easy". Of course it was also a time for live radio, early recordings, which made Wesolowsky's music accessible everywhere.

Love songs, sultry, weighty and nostalgic, embittered, empty and unattached, or playful and upbeat, these songs have a light hearted edge, a "don't take yourself so seriously" attitude. Wesolowsky was really about early Ukrainian estradna music - the popular style of Ukrainian jazz bands and orchestras everywhere.

Vocal performer, Stephania Romaniuk is itching to release this great new, fun recording of sultry Ukrainian love songs! So it is your special opportunity to help her along! Check her Kickstarter campaign and contribute generously!

Soon you and your honey will be slow dancing, Ukrainian tango style into a romantic evening by the....wait....romance cannot wait! Do it now!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Ukraine: Sacred Choral Concerti - Calgary - September 27th and 29th, 2013

For over 200 years, a veritable musical treasure, composer Artem Vedel's original manuscripts of liturgical and concerti gathered dust in various museums and libraries. Priceless, yet inaccessible, the true value of this musical legacy was hidden from view.  This horrendous silence was exacerbated by intentional destruction, "editorial correction", and "fixing" by "imperial admirers".  Yet in 2000 the first complete published edition of the autograph manuscript appeared directly as a consequence of the Ukrainian Music Society of Alberta and others, edited by Wolodymyr Kolesnyk (formerly the conductor of the Kyiv Opera) preserving the authenticity of the composers' intent.

 Luk'ianovych Vedel' - 1767-1808, was one of Ukraine's most gifted composers privileged to have been able to pursue his musical career in his homeland, unlike many of his peers.  His life coincided with a particularly tragic period in Ukrainian history, the time when Catherine II of Russia destroyed the Hetmanate, the Zaporozhian Sich,  and forced re-enserfment (slavery) of normal people like you and me.  Vedel's life was therefore a never-ending search for truth and justice, which he expressed so eloquently through his captivating contributions to Ukrainian musical culture.

Vedel's style is a synthesis of classic, baroque, and sentimental elements drawn from folk songs, kanti on religious themes, traditional liturgical chant, partesny polyphony, and early classical contemporary practices in Western European music.  One can hear the subtle grace of his contemporaries, Mozart and Haydn, in Vedel's music.  It is organically tied to texts, rhythms, an abundance of melodic invention and sophistication, all requiring considerable vocal skill.   Its artistic merit cannot be denied; the repertoire is innately dramatic, refined, nuanced and expressive.  

Western Canada, it seems, has many admirers of Artem Vedel's works.  Through the forethought of the Ukrainian Millennium Foundation - the group that was formed way back in the 1980's to celebrate the Millennium of Ukrainian Christianity in Edmonton, a special event is in the making. Through their initiative and sponsorship, Calgary's own award winning Spiritus Chamber Choir is blazing a new, visionary path for their first performance of the 2013-14 season.  The ambitious project involves performing several of Artem Vedel's works, in musical juxtaposition with the more recent works of Canadian composer Roman Hurko.

Roman Hurko is a Toronto born (1962) Ukrainian Canadian composer whose works have now been published and recorded to wide international acclaim.  Influenced by his Byzantine Christian ancestry, among Hurko's works are at least three Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrystostom (in English and Ukrainian) and a Panachyda/Requiem for the Victims of Chernobyl (2001), both of which will feature in Calgary's performances at the end of September 2013.  

Spiritus Chamber Choir has had a tremendous artistic trajectory with international recognition and prize winning choral competitions both in France and Canada.  Led by conductor Timothy Shantz, the Calgary ensemble has been winning audiences over for nearly 20 years with a considerable amount of new choral music, commissioned and premiered works, intriguing collaborations, and creative initiatives. Adding to its collection of recordings, Spiritus Chamber Choir's newest ambition to record these and other Ukrainian Sacred Choral Masterpieces is a project which will blossom over the next years.  More news to come on that front!!

Spiritus Chamber Choir's performances of Ukraine: Sacred Choral Concerti is bound to bring great joy and satisfaction to its diverse audience of listeners and admirers.  See you there!

(sponsored by the Ukrainian Millennium Foundation)
Friday, September 27, 2013 at 8pm
St. Stephen Protomartyr Ukrainian Catholic Church
4903-45 St. SW, Calgary
$25 Adults/$20 Students/Seniors
Sunday, September 29, 2013 at 2:30pm
St. Mary’s Cathedral
219 – 18th Ave. SW, Calgary
$25 Adults/$20 Students & Seniors

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Calgary Enjoys A Ukrainian Spectacular

Just returned home from an absolutely elegant evening of symphony music and beautifully performed, choreographed Ukrainian dance!  Can't believe how lucky we are to be able to enjoy Calgary's own Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra!  The fabulous musicians of the CPO tonight presented another "Destination" Series performance, a fifth such Ukrainian Spectacular!  And tonight the Tryzub Ukrainian Dance Ensemble again joined the fun! This evening's orchestral selections included Ukrainian born Reinhold Gliere's Overture on Slavonic Themes, Smetana's Three Dances from the Bartered Bride, and Selections from Ukrainian born Sergei Prokofiev's Cinderella, Suites 1 and 3. Dance features arranged by Donovan Seidle included Tryzub Hopak, Carichka, Transcarpathian Suite, Volynsky Tanets, and Virskyi Hopak.

Conductor Edmond Agopian and the CPO played a classy program of nineteenth and twentieth century music based on the folk styles, themes, and dreams of the Eastern European Slavic nation, Ukraine, and its neighbours.  As Agopian sweetly teased in his commentary, the flashy and energetic musical score would make for heated, if not steamy orchestra players.  Each of the selections showcased another distinct melodic or rhythmic theme, intricate patterns, and attractive, unusual colours, which both aided and contrasted with the beautiful dancing of Tryzub's performers.  Artistic Director Vasyl Kanevets's dazzling, enchanting choreography really took the dancers much farther than the familiar hopak.  Fancy footwork, intriguing gestures and very attractive costumes from different regions of Ukraine made for a very enjoyable dance performance.  

How exceptionally lovely to overhear the audience commentary too!  From the first warm words of welcome in Ukrainian by Adriana Bishop (violinist), to the embroidered attire on Conductor Agopian, and the sophisticated sights and sounds of this evening's performance, people were pleased and impressed, and perhaps surprised at the fascinating gemstones sparkling in the Calgary cultural scene - the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Calgary's Ukrainian Tryzub Dancer Ensemble. Much applause and happy faces leaving the theatre!

Thanks to Nexen, the Calgary Herald, the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Association of Calgary, and others for your sponsorship too!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Rescheduled Unveiling of the Cave and Basin Internment Exhibit - September 13, 2013

With all the excitement of June's rains in Southern Alberta, and nature's response to the excessive downpours, the Official Opening of the Cave and Basin Internment Exhibit in Banff was cancelled. An earlier blog post told of how Calgarians marked the day, however the "official" opening was deferred.

I recently received an invitation to the rescheduled unveiling of this important monument and sincerely hope you will share the information far and wide. It is indeed remarkable how responsibly Canadians see their part in history, and how morality and justice in the end truly prevail.

Mark you calendars and share the date!

The Honorable Jason Kenney,
Minister of Employment and Social Development and Minister for Multiculturalism
invites you to the official opening of Parks Canada's exhibit entitled

The event will take place on Friday, September 13, 2013 at 2 PM
in Banff National Park at the Internment Exhibit Building
adjacent to Cave and Basin National Historic Site,
311 Cave Avenue, Banff, Alberta.

Those planning to join the group travelling by bus from Edmonton to Banff on September 13th for the rescheduled unveiling may call Andrea Malysh at 1-866-288-7931 to reserve a seat. I am not sure what arrangements other areas have made for travel to the Banff Internment Site Exhibit Unveiling - please keep me posted, and share with others. And thanks to those who can mark this event for all Canadians!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Maple Leaf Helps

Once again Maple Leaf Alberta Projects is tackling the real issues.  With your participation in its Fifth Annual Fundraising Gala, Saturday, October 19, 2013, you can make a personal contribution to the efforts to help young people escape the human trafficking so prevalent in the Eastern European world.

On a recent trip to Ukraine, I was overcome with so much emotion for its beauty, the land, the people, the rich culture.  But visiting the port cities as we did, one cannot miss the tell-tale signs of an ominous underbelly of society, just out of reach of tourists. And visiting the rural countryside is also telling. Everywhere people are living a thrifty life, saving, working hard, with little in the way of economic gain without a particularly marketable skill, talent or a lot of education.

Imagine having wifi and internet but little modern sanitation?  Imagine being able to see all the western world enjoy simple things like make-up, pretty clothes, a fancy car - but it's just out of reach for those without ready cash.  And how to get ready-fast cash for these oh-so-desired things?  There are many exploitive influences taking advantage of innocent young people who wish for nothing more than some of the opportunities all North American teens enjoy!

 View of Kaffa from ROC church
July 22, 2013 amk
The thing is, predatory influences have had their way with Ukrainian men, women and children all through history.  One of the port stops on my Black Sea/Ukraine tour was the city of Feodosia (Theodosia), a place of Greek influence, putting the locals to work from the 6th  century BC. In time a huge heavily populated city surrounded by walls interspersed with 56 towers was Kaffa, though today only 5 towers remain.  The city existed for trade, for money making, for the purpose of gaining the service and servitude of um-teen thousands of human souls as labourers in agriculture, warfare, commercial sexual exploitation, sailors, and essentially every other job " free" people would find dangerous, difficult, or damaging.  Over time the Huns, Khazars, and then the Byzantine Empire would rule, and by 1204 Kaffa would be dominated by the Genoese, who of course purchased the town (and the valuable Black Sea ports of Sudak, Alushta, Yalta and Balaklava) from the Golden Horde.  Flourishing with the business of trade, Kaffa came to house one of Europe's biggest slave markets in history, its traders actively "enticing" beautiful, able young people from the Ukrainian steppes.  But by 1347 Kaffa had became the home of the Black Death, in one of the first cases of biological warfare where an aggressive Mongol army catapulted corpses infected with the bubonic plague over the Kaffa city wall to infect the inhabitants, causing its spread through trade of human souls across Europe.

Coin in the ROC church museum at Kaffa
July 22, 2013
 Over the course of time Kaffa was seized by the Ottomans. One of our tour guides said that during this time the Sultan issued an edict inviting families living under its rule to donate one child to the Ottoman empire, for a life-time free of tax or tribute! Ottoman vassals thus engaged in empire building, human trafficking continued, even though Ukraine's Zaporozhian Cossacks destroyed their fleet, captured Kaffa and released, men, women and children held as slaves within. Of course Ottoman control eased when the Russian Empire conquered Crimea in 1793 when it regained its ancient Greek name, Feodosia. Part of the USSR, briefly under German control, Feodosia is now part of Ukraine, as is all of Crimea.
ROC Church administration building
Kaffa site
July 22, 2013

Predatory behaviour is characteristically full of enticements and influence. I believe it is short-sighted to allow the young among us to become unwittingly ensnared beyond their means to escape. In my mind, "free will" involves "informed free will".

Thankfully for Ukraine's victims of human trafficking, a little international donor funding helps some young people in harms way receive the shelter, care, medical treatment, counselling, and support they need to acquire some economically rewarding, safe life-pursuit, perhaps a vocation or job. Saving more however requires education, exposure, and pressure on authorities to do more. Raising awareness in North America however, where our teens live a life of privilege, is an important start. Their sense about human rights, and sensibilities towards "selective justice", prosecution, protection, and prevention are complex issues when it comes to the "rights of citizens". It has to be said, however, change is happening. Whatever the political and economic issues however, there is a morality about truth, and the Maple Leaf has willing hearts standing to help.   

Making Baba and Dido Proud in Calgary

Calgary has such a vibrant Ukrainian community!  And there are amazing opportunities for young people to connect and continue their Ukrainian heritage here in Calgary!   Where to find opportunities for your child to continue being Ukrainian in Calgary? 

A part of the immigrant experience involves cultural and linguistic adaptation to a new country and a new way of life.  Sociologists say the first generation of foreign speakers lose their language at a huge rate in the process of acquiring a new one.  Though families wish to retain ties with their homeland, if only for the family connection, the pursuit of acceptance and economic opportunity forces certain decisions.  And when children see their parents struggle, their first and naïve response is to assimilate as quickly as possible.  So ancestral languages, heritage languages, the cultural wisdom of thousands of years is quickly lost. So sad.

It is a part of the assimilation process I imagine, but unfortunately one cannot simply drop one and pick up another language.  The bigger issue is that knowledge is embedded in every phrase.  Wisdom and cultural references lay down nets of understanding that capture, filter and express meaning that simply don't translate effectively.  So the result is a generation of new language speakers who have an impoverished first language and an incomplete new language.  Impoverished language means impoverished thinking, unfortunately.

I am so impressed to hear that Alberta's new immigrant language programs try to address some of these concerns.  They don't simply teach English.  In fact, I have heard of the layers and layers of Canadian thought, culture, manners, history, and uniqueness are a part of the quality language instruction offered today.  It is a far cry from the "olden days" when people were told to simply stop speaking their old language, stop being who they were, and forget everything that came before.

I think the wisdom of our multicultural, multilingual process is far more beneficial to Canada.  Just think of the multiple layers of linguistic-cultural netting that is developed in multilingual minds?  One net captures the multiple ways of saying love ( ), and another uses the word love for everything - I love coffee, I love my spouse, I love blueberries, I love the Flames, I love the way dew glistens on the grass in the morning sunshine.  Imagine having way more than one language as they do in many parts of the world - perhaps English, perhaps French, perhaps Ukrainian, perhaps Russian, perhaps Mandarin, perhaps Spanish. The mind can hold it all, it just needs opportunity.  Perhaps one or the other will be dominant, but with practice many more layers of understanding, culture, historical wisdom, ancestral connection can develop.  And what can we really give our children?

Do children really need another technological device to soak up their developmental spare time?  I can only speak for myself when I say, my fondest memories of growing up were the busy times.  Ukrainian dancing, choir, Ukrainian school, Ukrainian camp,  travel and touring with my Ukrainian companions, were the juicy parts of my growing up years.  Learning all the skills, yes, but learning to be special, be noticed, be a public person, learning to stand my ground, to adapt and accommodate, to take leadership roles, to stretch the limits of my previous capabilities!  And the friendships, the connections, the life-long relationships!  So here is a word to young parents in Calgary - your children need connections - make them in the Ukrainian community, too!