Sunday, 29 December 2013

Pillow Talk


Alberta artist, Larisa Sembaliuk Cheladyn, is embarking on a new art project which she has titled “1000 Pillow Project.” Her aim is to gather 1,000 cushions/pillows (embroidered, woven or other handwork), or photographs thereof, and to create a painting and multi-media presentation of this massed collection. This project is part of her work towards her Master’s degree in Ukrainian Folklore at the University of Alberta, and would be part of her thesis presentation. She is kindly asking members of various organizations, who are willing, to help her amass such a collection, either by submitting to her the pillows/cushions themselves and/or photographs thereof. Many of these cushions/pillows have been in families for years, and many of them have a story to tell. Larisa would very much like to hear of these stories. She has a form which could be filled out, which would relate your pillow’s story. In a great many cases, the stories are long forgotten but Larisa would still like to see the pillow/cushion or photo thereof. She can be contacted directly at

Do You Hear Me Now?


Based in Edmonton, the Canada-Ukraine Alliance for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons will continue to sponsor summer educational camps in Ukraine for deaf children and their parents in 2014.  Started in 2000, the camp has grown into a popular program that draws over fifty participants, including students, teachers, parents and specialists in Ukrainian Sign Language. The last camp was at the Odessa-Zatoka breach and included both recreational and learning sessions. Camp participants left with a deeper understanding of sign language and its importance in educating deaf children. Finances from the Canadian side are donated by individuals and various organizations in Alberta, such as the St. John’s Cathedral and Lac La Biche branches of the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada. Additional donations would be appreciated.  This is a worthwhile charitable assistance provided by Canadians to Ukrainians.  More information can be obtained from the President of the Alliance, Roman Petryshyn (780 – 431 – 1473) or from the Secretary, Elaine V. Harasymiw (780 – 437 – 6629)

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Unity of Purpose

Diversity is Calgary's pride, the international origins of its citizenry make Calgary the third most diverse city in Canada. The ethnic diversity, visible and non visible minorities, linguistic plurality, political inclinations, and economic responses are simply the fabric of society, with effective channels through which to influence public policy through democratically elected officials. This is the stuff of dreams in many societies the world over.

Millennia of aboriginal histories, westward expansion, contemporary histories, the boom-town opportunities, and the cultural accumulations of all its citizenry all play a part in the drama of Calgary. Even the memory of the Calgary flood of 2013 will have a place in the folklore of this place! It's a young city, but the themes running through Calgary's historical narrative are rather practical ones - how to create a place for the achievement of one's dreams!

On the Maidan in Kyiv and elsewhere people take pride in medieval Kyivan Rus, the memory of early modern Cossack republics, the national poet Taras Shevchenko. They share grief about the millions of victims of the Stalinist famines of 1932-33, and a common indignation that their life's work continues to feed a usurper's purpose. The big story items are largely uncontentious! People are largely of one common thought! It's all about creating a place to achieve one's dreams! Strikingly uncharacteristic for international mass demonstrations, though the rallies have been estimated between 800 thousand to a million citizens, there is a peace, levity and humor at the Maidan, which can only be described as supernatural. In many ways, international observers may only now be recognizing the Maidan's organic purpose in treating the accumulated adrenal fatigue of a people long under chronic stress.  The protests have a moral character, healing touch, and this non-violent national uprising has already convinced Ukrainians of their power to change their situation.

But after a month or more of protests, though this tour de force of emotional and physical exhilaration has galvanized common purpose among Ukraine's diverse citizenry, there is more yet to accomplish!  Discipline, patience and timing is everything when considering the government politicians whose purposes are far more sultry. With the increase in physical threats, and use of violence to keep the protesters spinning, the government forces do a great dishonor to their citizenry.  At which point will the Ukrainian Maidan protests accumulate the weight of world opinion, political pressure, and citizen engagement in sufficient force to effectively tip the agenda for the Ukrainian state?  

Malanka Events 2014

As a Canadian of Ukrainian origin it strikes me so interestingly that though we celebrate the Canadian style, the Ukrainian things linger. Stuff like Ukrainian Christmas Eve supper - the ritual, the feast, the carolling, and of course the Ukrainian New Year's Event Malanka.

On Friday, January 10, 2013, St. Stephen's Church at 4903-45 Street S. W is hosting their Malanka - so contact Ed Tysowsky at 403-547-3226 or for more information.

Suzirya Ukrainian Dance Theatre will host their Malanka at the Thorncliffe Greenview Community Centre at 5600 Centre Street North on Friday, January 17th, 2014.  Contact Jordan at 403-613-4685 or for more informaiton.

Lethbridge will celebrate Malanka on Saturday, January 18, 2013 at the Senior Citizen's Facility at 500-11 Street South, Lethbridge.  Contact the Troyanda Ensemble for more information or call 403-320-2222.

Plast Ukrainian Scouts of Calgary will celebrate Malanka on Saturday, January 19, at the Calgary Petroleum Club at 319-5 Ave SW.  Get tickets online at

And Calgary's Yalenka Ukrainian School of Dance is hosting their Strathmore Malanka 2014 at the Thorncliffe Greenview Community Centre at 5600 Centre Street North on January 25, 2014.  More information from Lorraine at 403-934-2065  or contact

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Since the Very Grasses Sprouted Seeds

When Ukrainians gather for Christmas Eve supper, the first dish is served in ritual fashion.  It has been so for ever.  The ritual gift of belonging, of public acknowledgement, of acceptance and embrace - the gift of love - this is kutia.  The boiled wheat, honey and poppyseed dish speaks of ancient times of honour, of challenges met, of adventures and tragedies which trace the history of a people. Kutia says we have been here since the very grasses sprouted seeds, and we will be here for as long as the grasses sprout seeds.  Our lives may be sweet, they may be darkened as a consequence of our temporal lives, frail and human, but we will endure.

I love this entire Christmas cycle and know the extremely wide-flung diaspora of the Ukrainian nation endures simply because of the one important gift we share - we believe we will endure.  Many generations have made the grand exodus from Ukraine to lands where economic opportunity beacons, but just as many generations will one day seek their origins.  Whether the language, the culture, the values, the traditions endure depends entirely on family choices - but the remarkable genetic code that links us with our ancestors cannot break, come what may.

As you sit with your family over this holiday season, whether kutia or holubtsi or pyrogies are on your menu is irrelevant.  Do you care to know the illustrious journey of your ancestors?  Who are your heroes? And what will the future bring?

And the Light Will Shine

This wonderful season of goodwill is full of hope!  Traditional church chants of Christmas tell intriguing stories of schooled wise men of old who pursued the light, leaving the shameful ways of the past, and bridging the divide for others.  They simply followed the star. The light enticed them, they studied it, and discovered they didn't need sooth sayers, fraud, manipulation or coersion to pursue their glorious future.  The old strictures, hopeless rules and tyranny of the past was simply over.  They had seen the light.

Ukrainians who have taken to the streets in recent weeks say they want to see a better-governed, less corrupt and politically liberal country, more closely aligned with its western neighbours. The champions of this brilliant idea believe the consuming sooty darkness that has obstructed the light potentially shining through the window must simply be washed away. Persevering in its destiny with the future, the Ukrainian Maidan is now well into its second month of purposeful direction.  The Maidan is embracing everyone equally, converting the talents and services so generously shared into a sparkling opportunity for civic engagement. People's hearts are being softened, their stories are being shared, the sorrows and hurts are being heard.  It is a healing time.  People are energized, even when their lives, the lives of those with whom they have the most staunchly shared oneness of purpose, are threatened, or even worse - taken. The Ukrainian Maidan is challenging the ill-tempered representatives of the dark with light, truth and dignity. And though the dark may seem to win at times, the precious gift of Christmas is The Light!   

Someday, not in the too distant future, the light will shine through the Ukrainian nation and there will be change.  Change that will require constant vigilance, dogged determination, bravery and light.  The people who have joined together over the course of this mission driven engagement, this service of honour on the Maidan, will be proud to say they threw back the curtains and washed the windows.  Ukraine's future is bright, and her legacy will shine!

Разом ми це переживемо

Monday, 16 December 2013

Another Malanka Story - Just for Fun
In the ancient Ukrainian tradition, the Creator - whose name is PraBoh - the Eternal One, had four sons and one daughter.  The daughter, Lada - is Earth.  The first son fought with his father - the Eternal One, and with his brother and sisters  - he was the one who dwells in the deepest darkness. The second son was Yar-or Yarylo who in Christian times became St. George.  The third son was Rai - who in Christian times became St. John.  The youngest son, was Lad, also called Myr -which stood for peace.  The sun was of course All Seeing, the Svyatovydam, a knight and hero in a  golden cloak, armed with eight swords - one of which he holds in his hand.  Riding around the earth on white horses, Svyatovydam sees everything and  knows everything because he is observant.

Lada - the daughter who is Earth, brought two children into the world. Her son was the Moon - Kniaz Meesyats, and her daughter was Spring-May, also called Mylanka because she was always loving and generous - myla. Mylanka spent her days covering the world with flowers and greenery, especially in the month of May. But the first son, the one who dwells in the deepest darkness wanted to harm her and everyone else.  He wanted to take Mylanka to the underground kingdom. He stole her finally when Kniaz Meesyats - the Moon was hunting.  For the time she was absent from the world, there was no spring.  When she was eventually freed by the King of the Moon himself, Spring rejoiced!.  Mylanka married the Moon King (in Christian times called Basil), and since that day, she heralds the coming of Spring.  She works to break the bonds of cold, deep dark times, and return greenery, flowers and life for everyone to enjoy.

So Malanka is her festival!  In ancient times the carnival followed the religious parts of the mid winter holiday season, in a yearly ritual marking the new year.  The Wisdom of the Ages is a tale similar to those told in Greek mythology.  Of course there are a plethora of Malanka activities which flesh out the story, make it into a whole family celebration full of costume party masquerade, dressing up to represent elements of nature, animals, figures in the skits and dramatic plays, some of which represent the decay of nature being transformed by the powers of good.  The evening is never complete without silly party games, slap-stick comedy, teasing and the like, always a good excuse for dressing up, skits and plays.  Pure fun and silliness, a great way to light up a dark, dreary winter night!

Of course that is only one of the different stories explaining the origins of Malanka!

Friday, 13 December 2013

In the Days Before Christmas on the Euromaidan

Since the night of November 21st, Kyiv residents and the citizens of Ukraine have gathered for protest demonstrations on the public spaces, called the Maidan.  People of character, the world over, through social media and live stream channels have witnessed, astounded at the mass scale of this continuing event.

At the very core of  Euromaidan is an idea, a declaration of independence, a declaration of values. Citizens of Ukraine are fed up with kleptocratic government leadership whose gargantuan appetites have impoverished the state treasury at huge risk to Ukraine's sovereignty.  After a 360 year experimental allegiance with its northern partner, Ukraine's Maidan participants are voicing their preference for a western, democratic value system, they will not be held in bondage to a system of government that closes its eyes to fraud and embezzlement at the highest levels, and allows excessively burdensome "deals" which strip the state of funds necessary for building a prosperous future for Ukraine's children. The decision to stand, in quiet, peaceful civil disobedience, to protect their future is both simple as that, and powerful as that!

Safely protected under laws designed to guard the personal freedoms of its citizens, I am blessed by instant access to quality information which informs me, enlightens my perspective.  In the closed world of darkness, many people are yet to share my values and privileges.   Thankfully, in anticipation of the Good News, lights are aglow at the Winter Festival display in Calgary's Confederation Park, where Khrystos Razhdayetsia is only one of the emblazoned messages brightly shining over the golf course below. Sharing video clips from around the globe, citizens of the world express hope, faith, and attest to the message Peace on Earth, Good Will to All!  And the world waits with bated breath for a peaceful resolution to the amazingly intense stand-off on the Maidan in Ukraine.

Representatives of the International Community caution powerful forces at the Round Table Discussions to wisdom, to apply universal values, reason and knowledge in the determination of Ukraine's future course, as expressed by the citizen electors.  In the cold days before Christmas, the brave citizens of Ukraine, and an international host of honest people know that the face of tyranny speaks loudest in the darkness.  The good news is, the people on the Maidan know they are not alone at all, not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly indifferent - for this is the time chosen.  May the Light shine over all!

A familiar but new idea for Schedryk - the familiar Carol of the Bells 

In the days before Christmas - both beautiful and moving

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Politely Speaking or Civil Disobedience

this baran-shaped figure is use as a wine jug,
good for pouring
From my warm chair overlooking the snow-drifted yard I marvel at the huge buck on Nose Hill, his horns rising in supremacy over the tall grasses, now snowy white, sitting in regal dignity among his harem of docile consorts. What tenacious life force holds them there on this cold wintry day?

Another image comes to mind, the million and more throng of protesters lining the broad streets in Kyiv, drinking tea and sharing companionship to stay warm. Intentionally calm and resilient in their third week of civil disobedience of course they are risking punishment from the powers that be.  Their remarkable mutuality of purpose enabled by the unprecedented immediacy of social media releases is disarming.  The Ukrainian citizenry's seeming diversity of opinion has coalesced into a very special and powerful force.  Emotions are high but restrained.  This protest movement is striking, even at a distance. Some have wisely observed the incongruence of 'organized' participants whose actions seem highly and unnecessarily provocative. Indignant confirmations of at least one fatality, and multiple applications of prison sentences for demonstrators, are being shared widely on social media, inflaming emotions further.

At issue is opportunity.  Regular Ukrainian people have lived with a legacy of lost opportunities, of treacherous, and deceitful last minute 'deals' which led to impoverishing conditions, both economic and cultural, for some hundreds of years. Recent negotiations with the EU gave rise to hopes of improved opportunities, although it seems the lessons of history seem to be attempting a reprise.

Subjugated to landlords in the 16th and 17th centuries, Ukrainian people were held in economic, judicial and personal servitude, requiring tribute, rent and labour as payment.  People's arduous work created wealth for the landlords, while they themselves lived in poverty.  While official serfdom was abolished in Russian dominated Ukrainian lands in the mid-late 19th century, it was a brief respite because upon Soviet intervention, retreating from a market based economy deprived urban craftspeople for markets, and deprived them of social and economic structures - they performed service to the empire.  Of course profits accrued for the empire, but not quickly enough.  The collectivization of farms created financial opportunity for the regime who created for the international world an illusion of wealth, at the expense of the labourers who remained in poverty, or worse.

Independence opened the door to capitalism for some who accumulated wealth beyond imagination while most stalwartly acculturated to new times, accustomed to privation.  But with less than seven generations separation from the agrarian life lessons of their ancestry, folk wisdom may still course through their veins. And it knows no linguistic bounds - it is international.  Gargantuan appetites have been mentioned in cheeky folk tales too, so I hope you enjoy a read of the traditional English folk song, The Derby Ram!

As I was going to Derby, upon a market day, I saw the biggest ram, Sir, that was ever fed with hay. 
The ram was fat behind, Sir, the ram was fat before.He measured ten yards round,Sir,I think it was no more. 
The wool grew on his back, Sir, it reached to the sky. And there the eagles built their nests. I heard the young ones cry.
The wool grew on his belly, Sir, and reached to the ground.'Twas sold in Derby town, Sir, for forty thousand pounds. 
The wool upon his tail, Sir, filled more than fifty bags.You had better keep away, Sir, when that tail shakes and wags. 
The horns upon his head, Sir, were as high as a man could reach. And there they built a pulpit, Sir, the Quakers for to preach. 
The mutton that the ram made, gave the whole army meat. And what was left, I'm told, Sir, was served out to the fleet. 
Oh, as I was going to Derby, upon a market day, I saw the biggest ram, Sir, that was ever fed with hay.

Plast Malanka 2014

The PLAST Ukrainian Scouting Association of Calgary will be holding its Annual Fundraiser MALANKA on Saturday, January 18, 2014 again at the prestigious Calgary Petroleum Club.  

This sparkling evening of great ambiance, delicious food, really entertaining guest artists, and amazingly good dance band music is simply so enticing you cannot miss it! Featured performances by Vasyl Popadiuk and the Vohon' Ukrainian Dance Ensemble will bring a cultural flair to the evening!  In traditional fashion, PLAST celebrates dance diversity too by hosting two bands for the MALANKA dance floor! The musicians of ZHYTO for the unique jazzy, rock and classic Ukrainian style of Western Canadian polka favorites, and Calgary's own The Real Deal for blues, R& B, funk, soul, swing and beyond.  Really, it is time to plan for this fabulous contemporary MALANKA New Year Eve Gala!

Plast Ukrainian Scouts has an amazingly dedicated body of volunteers working to create a truly vibrant scouting experience for children in Calgary. Quality programs for encouraging Ukrainian identity on the western plains are extremely important for many families - language, culture, the scouting rule, and great community!  

Tickets are available online at but you can always contact Roman at 403-241-1781 or Paul at 403-249-3157.   

Kerby Centre Malanka 2014

Sending the old year packing, and embracing the changes coming in the new year, Calgary's Kerby Centre is inviting seniors to MALANKA 2014!

MALANKA is the Ukrainian folk holiday celebrated in accordance with the Julian calendar, to welcome the new year.  Across North America, some MALANKA events focus on the traditional ancestral ways of Ukrainians, imbued with rich wisdom, filled with symbols, and images.  Tenaciously and precariously pitched between the old and new times, the Ukrainian New Year MALANKA is conceptually a treasure chest full of folk strategies for life enhancement, so good may ultimately conquer evil, paving the way for peace, good health and prosperity in the new times ahead.  Cold winter nights may be ripe for pondering, but Malanka isn't just an excuse to party, it is part of the ancestral lifestyle to create community together!  Of course, a modern-day Malanka function tends to embrace the social fashions of the day, frequently a New Year's banquet and dance with lovely entertainment of a cultural flair.   

The Kerby Centre's very enthusiastically received Ukrainian New Year's MALANKA 2013 celebration, has encouraged the leadership there to do it again! This year's KERBY CENTRE MALANKA 2014 is being held on January 21, 2014 - it's time to get your tickets!

KERBY CENTRE MALANKA 2014 will again showcase Ukrainian food (pyrohy, holubtsi, kovbasa and a sweet), dancing and music with the talented dedicated people from Suzirya Ukrainian Dance Theatre and Korinnya Ukrainian Folk Ensemble as ambassadors of Ukraine's great cultural traditions. The Ukrainian Museum of Canada, Calgary Branch (located at 404 Meredith Road NE Calgary) will provide cultural artifacts to enhance the traditional ambiance required of this important MALANKA event!

Located in the heart of Calgary, the Kerby Centre is an agency committed to enhancing the lives of seniors through education and recreation. MALANKA 2014 at the KERBY CENTRE is very soon, so it is important for families to pre-register their requests early to reserve a spot. Call 403-705-3233. For more information call 403.265.0661 or visit 1133-7th Ave. S.W.,  Calgary, Alberta. 

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

It's About the Children
Euromaidan 2013 could not have a more important agenda!  At first, the whole protest movement seemed to be about the people's anger with the government fumble in not signing the EU Association documents as was planned, promoted, advertised and celebrated all over Ukraine. Of course finances come into the question but there is more.  The young democracy emerged from its empire, feudalism and colonial serfdom relatively recently.  And the nightmarish embrace of the past is trying voraciously to devour the opportunities of the future.  Some of Ukraine's "bear-ish" neighbours, spawning many like-minded "bear-cubs", have persistently asserted themselves into the very thought patterns of this young nation.

Given a good reading of the Ukrainian psyche, it could mean that the children are anxious, feeling bullied and worried about family members themselves. Ukrainian folklore and literature is full of these themes. Know yourself, observe and know others, work around obstacles, don't react, guard your self esteem, recognize your significance, help others, speak truth to power, recognize insults as childish, use wisdom and laugh to restore perspective. But nightmares of past atrocities, past injustices, past incidents that prevented self reliant actualization have dogged Ukrainians for a long time.

The long list of persistent stress-ors that have impacted on the Ukrainian agenda are signals of serious problems that need healing. Every caring person, Ukrainian or otherwise, wants to contribute to their children's better future, to give them the tools for engaging the world in a powerful and satisfying manner. Everyone wants their children's success, happiness, and peace. And most wise people know it "takes a village to raise a child", "nobody is an island unto himself".

Ukraine's international diaspora has had the distance, time and opportunity to infuse its children with values, social and historical understandings which create pockets of Ukrainian identity. Crucially, those of us children, raised in the "little villages" around the world have a positive sense of self, identifying with ancestral homeland in a myriad of small and seemingly insignificant ways. Our aspirational neighbourhoods have shaken any vestige of economic or feudal bondage to our past, and this is the envy of people in Ukraine.

Euromaidan 2013 has coalesced in its emotionally resolute, ethical stance to correct the strategic focus of their government's work, from chumming with thuggish neighbours, to creating vibrant, healthy communities, economically healthy neighbourhoods and healthy friends for all their children's children.

Sunday, 1 December 2013


Calgary November 23,2013
Soaring expectations for change fed by the Ukrainian government's negotiation with the European Union have whetted the appetite of Ukrainians everywhere! Months of anticipation spawned a civic awakening in Ukraine, an optimism dashed in the recent disappointing government refusal of the EU offer.  It seems these were pseudo negotiations, and today's social, economic and political situation in Ukraine has galvanized an invigorating civic awareness, leading citizens to press for the removal of their ruling elite. Today, extreme disappointment with political leadership, and hungry for political change, has led to hundreds of peaceful mass protests in Ukraine and her widely spread diaspora.  A pressure cooker of change is currently brewing.
The prognosis for the future of these protests is yet to be decided but hopeful.

Singleness of purpose is a gift that keeps giving.  Chasing the truth truth through history, archaeology, and literature is one thing.  But the burbling anger emerging from analysis of statistics is different.  Historical documents now proving the horrendous acts contributing to the Ukrainian Holodomor of the 1930's continue to shine light on uncomfortable truths. And as my daughter once said, "Once someone tells you who they truly are, believe them!" Former subjects of a regime, and now citizens of a baby democracy schooled in the social media age, Ukrainians cannot deny the false premises upon which their government has gained such access and opportunity for kleptocratic behaviour.  Public awareness is rising, but Ukraine has been denied so often, it's enemies are cunning and patient.

Anyone paying attention to the hot spots in social media this week recognizes the importance of the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv and elsewhere in the world.  Hundreds of thousands of people are watching in nervous anticipation. For a patient people, such exaggerated focus on the protests resulting from Ukraine's disappointing government refusal to sign the EU Association agreement is perhaps out of character. Other issues generally usurp everyone's attention, but for today this issue must be kept relentlessly in the foreground! Ukraine's opportunities to grow into a prosperous free and democratic nation have been been insidiously infected with parasites.  Given a choice, nobody has wanted to speak on such issues. But developing trends in politics, high stakes power struggles, machinations and clashing interests are subjects of public discourse in this young democracy. At the very core of this protest movement is the belief that Ukraine's biggest obstacle to her future prosperity is myopic, fearful denial of truth. A growing maturity of purpose is evident in the latest protest demonstrations in Ukraine.  Recognizing the risks, the Ukrainian people are hugely optimistic for the potential for change. Change is coming.  May it help the Ukrainian nation.

Supporters of this movement, Ukrainians and Canadians of good will are rallying together Sunday, December 1st at Olympic Plaza in Calgary at 3:30 PM!