Thursday, 27 November 2014

Korinnya 2014 Sing Requiem Song "Zhuravli"

The perfectly blended sounds of the chamber choir size Korinnya Choir of Calgary 2014 performed beautifully at Calgary's well attended, and excellently organized Annual Holodomor Commemoration on Saturday, November 22, 2014. It takes a talented group to delicately yet effectively communicate the solemn sentiment embedded in the famous requiem song ‘Zhuravli’ (Cranes) by Bohdan Lepky, composed by his brother, Lev Lepky.

Hey, do you hear my brother?, my friend?,
Hear the sound of the cranes as they make their lacy grey passage into the world.

Calling "Kroo, Kroo, Kroo! ,oh to die in a foreign country,
But before I cross the ocean sea, with my wings I will wipe the tears.

Shimmering, blinking eyes seek the infinite path
As the grey mist obliterates, the fading, traces of the cranes.

In Western Ukraine, as early as 1894, a growing national consciousness among Ukrainians was stimulating much thinking, and community solidarity. A generation or so after serfdom was abolished the common people were aspiring to more than a subsistence living. Among the developments of the age was a fitness and firefighting organization called Sich rejuvenating the ideas of the Cossack Zaporozhian era. Many parallel community groups organized including women's groups training for nursing, community newspapers, and by the start of WW1 there were at least 2000 such groups. The enthusiasts coalesced around the idea of a legitimate scouting movement, and soon organizations called Sich, Sokil and Plast took shape. Each group was fostering their variant on the standard scouting curriculum through the lens of national patriotism - to love/serve God and one's people. Branches formed in villages and towns, and when WW1 arrived the young scouts heard the call to duty and many joined the liberation movement.

And a hundred years after the formation of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen, Українські cічові стрільці, Ukraїnski sichovi stril’tsi, so appropriate to hear the Requiem Song that continues to tug on the heartstrings of so many. Thanks, Korinnya!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Calgarians Remember 2014

Calgary's Ukrainian community gathered Saturday afternoon, November 22, 2014 for its annual Holodomor Commemoration. The warm embrace of friends, familiar faces, all drawn like moths to a flame, to the flame of remembrance.

The Calgary Branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress hosted a Prayerful Memorial Panachyda with the participation of local clergy, Korinnya Ukrainian Ensemble raised their voices in the soulful remembrance of The Cranes (Zhuravli), Ukrainian Youth read poems, sang and hung images of Holodomor victims, contemplative of past days and the world to come. Calgary mezzo soprano Stephania Romaniuk and Cellist (?) performed a beautiful, newly composed lyric piece in honor of the Holodomor.  then Mr. Bohdan Romaniuk spoke eloquently about the causes of the Holodomor, as a precursor to today's events in Ukraine, and Calgary Conservative MP Rob Anders, incredulous at the sheer horror of the facts he was speaking, shared his empathy and humanity with the assembly.  Thanks to the many contributors, UCC Calgary's program today held the listeners spellbound with respect and deeply felt emotion. Diakuyemo!!

Participants could not help to be moved by the speakers, the presentations today.
Among the participants today, an extremely well informed gentleman waited the opportunity to share his passionate concern to educate and inform anyone within hearing distance about Ukraine and Ukrainians. Today, Mr. Mykola Woron held a remarkable and rare book, released from a Soviet era publishing house in 1991 - Kyiv, the year Ukraine gained its Independence from the USSR, about the Holodomor, written by two authors who were thereafter "removed" by the authorities. Mr. Woron believes the second author,  Manyak V.A is buried in Kyiv. The masterwork of Mr. Woron's life is the Library at St. Vladimir Ukrainian Cultural Centre, a resource about all things Ukrainian!  Time to visit the library!  "Learn, my friends!  Think and read......."

 photos courtesy of Olena Pavlyshyna 2014

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Calgary Holodomor Commemoration 2014

In the late 1800's Canada had the wisdom to invite Ukrainian people and others from Eastern Europe to the hard task of creating farms on the prairies. The theory was that the poorest farmer on the smallest landholding in Ukraine had to be the hardest worker, and use extreme flexibility, creativity and personal initiative to simply survive there. That was the kind of worker Canada needed. Breaking the prairie scrub land, many of those farmers flourished amazingly well. Canada's prosperity grew.

The Stalinist Soviet government of the late 1920's and early 1930's looked with on with envy, coercively bent on producing a new kind of wealth for the USSR - collective wealth. But first there would be collectivization of lands. It would belong to nobody and everybody at the same time. Inexperienced foremen, inflexible, and brittle, bristled with arrogance upon the slightest criticism. Practically ineffective but ideologically driven they iron fistedly expunged centuries of creativity, initiative and flexibility in one fell swoop with the Holodomor. When subjected to pressure and stress, things break, snap or crack - as Ukraine did in the 1930's. Millions of people died, and with them, the subtly nuanced collective inheritance of farm land management, resources and cultural wealth. And countless personal and shared stories of life and living.....

Horrific events with a multitude of affects - and here we are 80 and more years later seeing Ukraine continue its struggle - how to bounce back from the aftermath of the Holodomor and more, and finally develop the world class leadership capacity to ensure the nation's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. How to engage an entirely disengaged citizenry who remember just how quickly the tallest sunflower always gets noticed and cut down first!!

The future beacons, and those who learn from the past will not make the same errors.

On Saturday, 22 November 2014, International Holodomor Memorial Day and National Holodomor Memorial Day, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress calls upon all Canadians to:

remember the victims of the Holodomor with a moment of silence at 19:32 local time;
light candles of remembrance in homes;
participate in local commemorative events and memorial services.

Calgary's Holodomor Commemoration Ceremony will be held on Nov 22nd, 2014 at 11 AM at St.Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Church, 404 Meredith Road NE Calgary. You are graciously invited to wear an embroidered sorochka, and join the community commemoration of the Ukrainian Genocide Famine 'Holodomor'.

May our memory of the victims of the Holodomor – 1932-33 Famine Genocide remain eternal.

Ukraine remembers – the World acknowledges!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Euromaidan YYC

Many years ago in 1991 when Ukraine gained its independence from the USSR, a Calgary news reporter came to Calgary's Sadochok and asked to interview me. The question was, if Ukraine is now independent, will I "go back"? I was shocked at the question, being of Canadian citizenship, four generations of being Canadian! The question seemed to hinge on the confusion between patriotism, and nationalism. How could one be a patriot of Canada, and care deeply for one's ancestral homeland? Perhaps social media continues to wrestle with this question.

For an intensely interesting view of Tomas Rafa's #Euromaidan YYC film, Calgary's Military Museum is hosting a photo/video exhibit about the Ukrainian EuroMaidan this month and until December 15, 2014. Great cinematography and fascinating ideas about heroism in the times of the Maidan.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Ukrainian Maidan First Anniversary

Eye of the Theotokos,  Artifact in the Chersonesus Taurica Museum
possibly the eye that observed Volodymyr's baptism
Each new year brings endless opportunities, adventures, and sometimes moments of heroism. Life is truly a strapped-in, rip roaring journey, a passage from one reality to a more mature one. Racing through life brings new perceptions, ideas, and intuitions, but this amazing year has fulfilled every thrill-seeker's ride - especially for Ukraine and Ukrainians.  People in Ukraine may not be feeling so excited, perhaps actually feeling more intimidated, or even terrified as the year anniversary after Maidan approaches, but it is evident that the world is aware!! Ukraine has set its westward course, complete with expectations that the world will respect its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, which most countries have done, except perhaps one.

But imagine what is actually being accomplished, because the sum total of a lot of little accomplishments is indeed a growing number!  Who exercised power in Ukraine over these past 3 centuries?  Who is now exercising power?  And by all means, I mean information power is resting decisively more clearly in the hands of average people - the world over.  Are you not reading social media, an English blog, written by a Calgarian of 4th generation Ukrainian ancestry?

Either Ukraine is living out someone else's dream for her, or she is setting her own course. Ukrainians have stood up, in the hundreds of thousands, responding to corruption, oppression, intimidation, terrorism.  Each spontaneously contributing energy, information and outrage, surrounding themselves with friends with a contagious can-do attitude.  

Ancient ancestors needed to be fast enough, smart enough, courageous enough to survive famine, plague, predators and terrible natural and/or political contrived disasters.  So the people who continue to self identify with Ukraine and her continuing saga are actually the most successful survivors in a long line of threats to her identity, culture, language and self concept.  To paraphrase any number of Ukrainian folk songs, one cannot choose ones ancestry.  But it is possible to affirm that the next moments, days, months and years will predict Ukraine's future in a way never experienced before. 

Maidan forever changed Ukraine.  Blessings and protection resonate from the ancient past, and I am absolutely certain the future is sending back good wishes and waiting with open arms!  Where will Ukraine be in 5 years?