Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Christmas Carol Festival 2013 Calgary

Every year Canadians of Ukrainian ancestry face the same dilemma.  One Christmas, two Christmases?  The Canadian calendar places the feast day on December 25th, but the church calendar of ancestral tradition places Rizdvo - the Nativity of Christ, on January 7th.  And each year we say we're going to cut back, simplify, to have a family Christmas that focuses on the real reason for the season.  But every year we fall under the spell of commercialism,  the advertisement, the need to indulge, even though the heart yearns for something sacred, for something more peaceful and true.  Something of depth, of wisdom, and of ancestral significance, in the language of familial homeland somehow just fills the spirit in deep places you didn't even know you had, until it is filled.  That is the koliada of the ancient Ukrainian tradition.  
This Nativity season, try to cut through the hype, leave behind the things that exhaust you, and make you broke.  Instead, try to experience the joy of common truths, of community, of togetherness and understanding.  Cultivate a different kind of Christmas - and this year join the Ukrainian community of Calgary in its Ukrainian Annual Festival of Carols, the celebration of Ukrainian Christmas Carols!

You will hear the charming voices of Korinnya Ukrainian Choir, of Ukrainian school children, of perhaps a bandura player or two.  And your heart will melt in a feeling of peace, togetherness and understanding. 

The annual Calgary Ukrainian Festival of Carols 2013 will be held on Sunday, December 8, at 7:00 pm  at the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, at 704 6 Street NE, Calgary, Alberta.  

And for samples from last year's Ukrainian Festival of Carols 2012, check these links.

Iryna Kalinovich performs bandura Спи, Ісусе- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jonIBJFbds

Calgary Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Choir performs Bethlehem Rejoice (in Ukrainian) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBvArPHZJZg

Calgary's St. Vladimir's Ukrainian Orthodox Church Choir performs Proclaiming Joy (in Ukrainian) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqpTCMhUYgY

Don't you just wonder what beautiful Ukrainian Christmas sounds you will hear this year?

Monday, 25 November 2013

Viter - the Wind Sings a Malanka Melody 2014

My family used to sing all the time,  it seemed the minute we got into the car there was a melody in the air.  I especially miss my dad's singing.  His voice was so lovely, and when mom sang along it was like a choir in the car.  Of course I had to join in.

Thank heavens the tradition is continuing, because my brother carries this fine tradition in his genetic make-up.  So, for him, singing in Viter Ukrainian Choir and Dance Ensemble of Edmonton is a gift to himself, his family and friends.

Viter's  achievements are to numerous to mention! They have developed a real following with their regular performances here in Alberta, but also across the prairies too! Their tours to international places have taken our prized Alberta Ukrainian folk tradition back to the ancestral places in Ukraine, but also to far flung locales to new appreciative audiences! I heard they have plans to tour in Europe again this 2014 season. 

For an opportunity to join their fun, and bring in the Ukrainian New Year in a Malanka way, check out the links on their poster! Not sure you will see my brother dance, but he sure has a way with a melody!

Check out their promotional video at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6G9pvZuhXA

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Standing in Solidarity - Calgary EuroMaidan Євромайдан

It has been a particularly busy Ukrainian Calgary weekend; warm, satisfying, thoroughly moving, and an indication of the values retained by Canadians of Ukrainian decent here on the western prairies of Canada. 

Filling St. Vladimir's Ukrainian Cultural Centre upper hall, Saturday's Commemoration of the Holodomor began with the singing of Otche Nash by Korinnya Choir, conducted by Iryna Kalynovich.  Then the Ukrainian clergy of Calgary led the Panachyda/Requiem.  Korinnya then sang the traditional Song of the Cranes, a song of farewell.  Dr. Bohdan Klid spoke about the intense academic and research work being conducted worldwide in regards to the truths hidden in documents only recently available to the public!  Very special guests Spiritus Chamber Choir of Calgary performed the Ukrainian Requiem for the Holodomor,as composed by Roman Hurko, with amazing bass-baritone soloist Paul Grindlay intoning the priest's part, conducted by Tim Shantz.  Svitanok, a girls singing group performed a couple of beautiful pieces. Then a dramatic reading/presentation involving the young people of CYM Ukrainian association was followed by a communal singing of Vichnaya Pamyat' - Eternal Memory.   

To a person, the community was very focused, still and extremely attentive to the program.  Appreciative of the great effort, love and care taken by the program participants in preparing for this important commemoration, comments included, "tremendous!", "so thankful to have been here", "what an important community connection we have here", "these are the best people!" Many, many were especially thankful for the deeply moving singing of the Requiem by Spiritus, an English speaking, Canadian choir.  It was an important day to honour the memory of the Holodomor victims in a quest to sensitize people to the lessons in world history.  May we never forget, and may the world be protected from such horrendous cruelty!  Never again!

Ukrainian churches across Calgary served memorial requiem Panachyda prayers Sunday morning. 
And on Sunday night in peaceful solidarity with thousands of Ukrainians across Ukraine, Canada and the world, about a hundred Calgarians gathered at Olympic Square across from City Hall for Calgary's EuroMaidan, Євромайдан, Showing their solidarity with the 100,000 (in Kyiv alone!) Calgarians voiced their concern for Ukraine's disengagement with their landmark opportunity for association with the European Union. Singing anthems, hymns, and joining together in common support for Ukrainian aspirations to European democratic values, and economic opportunity, these are Canadians of merit and principle!  

Together, we are many!  This weekend in particular, those of us with ancestry in another land, far away, were intensely thankful for our Canadian way of life! Appreciative, and aware that people in other lands aspire to such opportunities and privileges, we stood together in solidarity! 

To hear Korinnya check https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kR1e83UfIGU&feature=youtube_gdata 
And for a melodic reminder of how long Ukrainians have carried these ancestral aspirations check here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E09kWXwsEj8  for

Боже Великий Єдиний (God Great One) - spiritual anthem of Ukraine

ps proud to say Calgary was only one of the 92 ( to date ) EuroMaidan events!
check the map here https://a.tiles.mapbox.com/v3/euromaidanmap.gccpeja0/page.html#4/50.82/44.47

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Sharing the Story in Calgary

For want of bread, the Breadbasket of Ukraine starved!  The International Week of Remembrance for the Holodomor has many facets in Calgary including a CYM -Ukrainian Youth - Candlelight Vigal to be held on Friday night at the Holodomor Memorial off Memorial Drive - at 7PM.  If you haven't already seen the Herald article from Monday,November 18th's paper, make a point of checking the Herald Archive online at https://webmail2.telus.net/service/home/~/?auth=co&loc=en_GB&id=6084&part=2.

Besides all the important public recognition events, perhaps lighting a candle in the window at 4PM, or asking clergy to ring church bells to mark the hour of the 80th anniversary would be much appreciated (19:32).

Bread is such an important image in Ukrainian tradition, and of course with the events of the Holodomor receiving international recognition, takes on much deeper significance.  If you are thinking of baking bread, remember the poor and hungry!  And donate to the homeless shelter but tell the story! 

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Lysychka Sestrichka - Foxy Loxy

lk 2013
My daughter sent me this photo, "Look who I saw on the way to work today!"  driving through the Northern Alberta Boreal Forest! The harsh, long and cold winter season has finally arrived in Calgary, but for workers in Canada's economic frontier,  Lysychka Sestrichka is the spirited red-hair Foxy lady that guides the trek into the Boreal Forest. Isn't she the perfect example of elegant discernment, resilience, intelligence and beauty!

Some readers know I am a nut-case for human folklore and mythology. Of course the fox in popular culture is a vixen, a female, which is perhaps not too bad because the phrase "to outfox" means "to beat in a competition of wits, to "outsmart" or "outwit". In First Nations wisdom, the Trickster is an alchemist, a culture hero who questions the status-quo, and transforms beliefs when a way of thinking becomes outmoded or needs to be torn down.  In most folklore, what is meaningful about seeing Lysychka Sestrichka - the Foxy Lady, is that she appears as a time of major life transition. In Ukrainian folklore, Lysyschka Sestrichka is a smart girl, agile and adaptable.

Both daughters were born in the north.  The city was a third of the size, but Fort McMurray's Ukrainian Cultural Society was a going concern, with pysanka and paska workshops, guest performers, community events and Ukrainian dance school of 100 children.  Even then the quick witted Lysychka Sestrichka and her friend Lys Mykyta sat on the other side of the bridge crossing the breathtakingly beautiful Athabasca River, winking in shared humour at how complex, yet simple everything can be.  Of course there is danger at the edge of civilization, but there is also an excitement and exhilaration about quick and agile thinking.  The spirit of the fox may imply that one is sharpening their physical alertness and responsiveness!

Ivan Franko's superb light hearted story of Lys Mykyta, a fable full of humour, and wisdom was once as essential to each Ukrainian Canadian pioneer home as Mother Goose. It really is a brilliantly constructed ancient tale about the irresistible, independent and indomitable Fox Mykyta whose insights into human frailty enables his eventual triumphs. Today's readers might understand Fox Mykyta as a classic example of emotional intelligence at work! Tenacious, indeed!  Watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpROlAmhDyU&list=PLI9utbP7GG229aWKt6TRhxM0uImJ4-hSl to see  Лис Микита.  

Monday, 11 November 2013

Chaika - Tchaikovsky

People hear the name Tchaikovsky and instantly beautifully dressed ballet dancers and the Trepak Dance of the famous Nutcracker Suite take shape in the memory. And because winter is right around the corner, for some traditionalists it would be a sadder Christmas season without visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in your head. But, of course, that is not the whole story.

Given his Ukrainian heritage, for an opportunity to see a Ukrainian folk ballet based on Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, incorporating Ukrainian Christmas traditions, folk dance, costumes and the grand orchestral sound featuring many Ukrainian folk song themes, head to Edmonton's Jubilee Auditorium on January 10 and 11th to enjoy the Ukrainian Shumka Dancers and soloists of the Virsky Ukrainian State Folk Dance Company and Kyiv Ballet perform Clara's Dream.

Though often referred to as a Russian composer, his family lineage extends deep into Ukraine's history. I suppose if a person like Rick Mercer moved to work in the States, he might eventually be considered an American, but there are a lot of Canadians marketing their talents internationally! So, let's consider Tchaikovsky in such a circumstance.

During the Russian Empire and Soviet Union's domination over 15 separate countries, most everyone seeking serious economic opportunity got to Moscow somehow. Learning the language, making cultural faux pas and adapting, gaining economic advantage over time was part of the journey. And Tchaikovsky journeyed in the arts world, too.

Chaika, the root word in Tchaikovsky's name actually speaks of the fortified military camp life associated with the Zaporizhian Sich on the island of Khortytsia, a convenient place where Cossacks could defend themselves, fish, keep bees, breed livestock, hunt and of course build ocean worthy ships. Today a State Historic and Culltural Reserve, its nearby rocks and islands attest to the water-worthiness of the chaika boats (fly like a gull over the water!) that plied the Dnipro, and Ukraine's Velikey Luh - the alkaline Black Sea. http://www.radiosvoboda.org/content/article/25083462.html

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Calgary International Holodomor Remembrance Day 2013

Let us remember together on Saturday, November 23, 2013 at St. Vladimir's Ukrainian Centre at 404 Meredith Road NE.

No melody, sound, word or prayer can change history, but the spirit yearns in empathy to learn from its lessons.  Holod means hunger, and mor means plague - hence the Holodomor, to intentionally inflict death by hunger, victimizing millions of Ukrainians some 80 years ago.

Broadening the scope of community involvement, a general invitation is extended from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress - Calgary Branch http://www.calgaryucc.org/ to Calgarians of good-will to stand together in a moment of silence, to acknowledge, honour and remember the victims of the Holodomor. Thankful of Canada's rich respect for the gifts of multicultural and multilingual ancestry, the Calgary Branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress welcomes community participants, also boldly inviting Spiritus Chamber Choir spirituschamberchoir.ca, with soloist Paul Grindlay, to sing the spiritually moving Ukrainian Requiem (Panachyda) composed by Roman Hurko http://www.romanhurko.com/ - a contemporary Canadian composer of Ukrainian extraction.

A general invitation is extended to all temples of worship to toll their bells at 19:32 and mark the Memorial with a moment of silence in international recognition of the sanctity of life, and remembrance.  Lighting candles of remembrance honours the countless millions as well.

For those inquiring minds wishing to immerse themselves and gain a better understanding, please check out the link at http://www.yluhovy.com  for an award winning documentary about the Holodomor.

Canada Remembers - the World Acknowledges. It is time to share the story.  http://www.sharethestory.ca/ 

Friday, 8 November 2013

Living Vicariously - Museum Visit

With our cold winters, Calgary travellers frequently choose warm weather beach vacations for a good reason. Workers in the north, wearing boots fitted to minus 70 try to escape the cold somehow.  And though Calgary has its frequent phenomenal chinook days, when the minus 20 Celsius winter cold changes in a day to plus 20, it is a brief respite.  The "snow eater" sucks up the humidity from the melting snow, and quickly disappears, followed by more winter.

You can, though take a trip to visit the world online.  And the riches of the world's museums are often a click away. It wasn't always so, and Ukraine's museums were notoriously difficult to access when you considered roads, travel time, inconvenience and a lack of tourist amenities. Not so any more.

Not sure who is the brain child behind the new virtual museums on-line in Ukraine, but kudos to you!  And thanks!


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Opportunity of a Lifetime

dirt sifter, like at the farm
Imagine the emotion of an early homesteader taking the long trek into unbroken bush, looking for a metal post that marked their property. It makes me shudder. Imagine hauling all your personal belongings, your life-mate and perhaps some progeny into this "opportunity of a lifetime"! Determined to make a go of things, they lifted their faces into the challenge. Build a shelter, dump the important luggage and set to work!

I was a very adventuresome snooper when I visited Baba and Dido's farm as a child, especially the bush behind the granaries. The delight of discovering little crockery dishes, a metal ring from some machine, and a wooden frame with a net of metal wires strung along the bottom (which my dad said was a sifter) gave me a thrill. Of course I thought it was strange that the flour sifter was left out near the garden edge in the bush, and instantly went about my playtime.

A couple of decades ago, the city planted quick growing poplars on our boulevard.  Over the years its greedy roots had found comfort around the warm sewer drain on the corner. That tree was the largest in the neighbourhood, and unfortunately the very last to dump its autumn leaves, a vexing habit. When it finally met its maker, the huge network of pencil or thicker strands of roots tunnelling horizontally 3-5 inches beneath the soil waited for me. Greedily sucking nutrients in the black soil, they intruded in my flower gardens. Dirt stained hands, and delighting in the smells, I took huge satisfaction from my small task of root pulling. 

I recall reading about the trembling aspen that is native to Alberta. With a tremendous amount of seeds, and regenerating by root suckering, each tree is a clone, identical to its densely situated brothers, and quickly replaced when chopped down. Any attempt to clear cut would simply maximize regeneration! How would have these acres and acres of aspen poplar bush become Pra-Baba and Pra-Dido's farm, much less a garden? 

Pulling trees, stumps and woody root strands from the damp, dark, soil would be exhausting work, and the warm season was short. Problem solving help-mates and ambitious dreamers, over the years they would eventually push the eager intruders back, negotiate a truce while filtering the soil free of offending, noxious seeds and weeds. Though some stands of trees would prevail over any human effort to clear them, people like my other grandfather had castles on the mind.  He put the stone boat to use and hauled the stones that grew up in the field to the perimeter, building an impressive stone wall around the yard. Castles indeed! An opportunity of a lifetime!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Planting Seeds at Harvest Time

Every farmer knows that, though the crops have been brought in, the fall season is very important to next season's harvest. Today's far-sighted plans will predict the future! Responding correctly in this season of life will pay great dividends.

Fall is such a beautiful time, the leaves, the trees, even the last rose on the bush make for gorgeous sights. The smell of fallen leaves, the faint chill in the air, and the odd snow skiff remind us that the growing season is over. The time for weddings, and for harvest festivals is ripe. Time to appreciate what was, what has been, with a sense a gratitude and peaceful meditation.

A song from my youth circles in my mind. "To everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season.....and a time to every purpose under heaven." No doubt, life is unfolding, as it should!

Reminders of all the goodness, all the abilities, talents and energy the Ukrainian community in Canada are everywhere - including on the web. Websites, photos, advertising, reports, media coverage, event planning, on-line stores, and of course the interconnected physical and social community plugging away at their fundraisers in order to pay bills, and hire specialized labourers. It all speaks of character and values.

Fedorah hall
A while back my folks let me take a read through of the first minutes book of the women's organization in the rural community where the great-grandparents homesteaded. Amazing! Simply phenomenal that during the hard years, when life really was about putting food on the table, that they would put aside their personal hardships and dream together. Not only did they dream, their industrious hands gathered the pennies, nickels and dimes to build churches and halls dotted all across the prairies. Everyone chipped in. Then it was time to party in the hall across the road.

In preparation for the Remembrance Day assembly, I have taught my school students to appreciate that though the audience may not applaud, there is true appreciation there, if you look carefully. As the farmers have brought the harvest home, many, many individuals have gathered together to plant seeds for another type of harvest. Look around and see the huge bounty in the Ukrainian community! "Let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Galatians 6:9) While it may seem burdensome to constantly be doing good, living with purpose speaks of character and values. Time to take a big, deep sigh of satisfaction, and know - it is good.