March 1, 2022 Message to the Membership
Posted on March 1, 2022 in Message to the Membership
I’ve often joked that I married into the Ukrainian mafia. Which is to say that I married a woman of Ukrainian heritage (and her dad’s kind of a gangster, but that’s another story). And despite it being, in her case, two generations removed from immigration, it’s still clear that the culture, traditions and heritage run deep and are pervasive – and certainly not just for her and her family.
We celebrate ‘Ukrainian’ Christmas, aka Christmas Day on the Julian Calendar, with the traditional 13 meatless dishes. Literally days of work of preparation goes into that meal. Family and sometimes friends, from far and wide are invited. It is a feast and a celebration of family, friendship and all things Ukrainian. There’s a religious aspect to it too of course, but at the risk of being struck by lightning, that tends to take a back seat to the varenyky (perogies) for many of us – in our family at least.
Two of my children are bilingual; speaking English, of course, and Ukrainian. They sang in a Ukrainian choir known as Lastiwka for years. (And yes, all their songs are sung in Ukrainian.) One studied for a term in Ukraine to get a Ukrainian minor as part of his Political Studies B.A. He then worked for the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in Ottawa for a couple of years.
On top of that, I play hockey with a guy who immigrated from Ukraine. His Ukrainian accent is even stronger than that of my father-in-law’s (vitch ees strrrong, by the way, strrrong like bull).
I know many people within the Ukrainian community of Saskatoon and many of them have direct ties back to their homeland, including my teammate, whose brother and family are there. He’s tried calling and texting but he hasn’t yet connected with him. He holds hope that he’s alive and well, but in hiding, perhaps in the subway system. Could you imagine?
He also tells me that women and children are free to leave Ukraine, but men between the ages of 18 and 60 are not eligible, presumably keeping them available to take up arms in defence of their homeland. Again I ask, could you even imagine??
I lay this all out to share that I have a fairly direct, inside track to a wonderfully proud, culturally alive, boisterous, animated, friendly, sensitive and hallowed nationality. Family and loyalty are high priorities, as are culture and tradition.
With 13 per cent of Saskatchewan’s population or 165,000 people self-declared Ukrainian descendants, I know my experience is far from unique. Obviously, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or should I say Putin’s invasion, is devastating to all with Ukrainian ties.
To call the Ukrainian culture resilient is to say the universe is big. Once already the Russians tried mass genocide to murder, terrorize, enslave and torture Ukrainians. It was in the 1930s when Stalin was in power. It’s called the Holodomor and if you’re unaware of it, I’m hesitant to say shame on you, but educate yourself (and if you don’t, then, shame on you).
The Holodomor was a politically driven, completely avoidable mass starvation of Ukrainians by Stalin. It went undetected for a half century because not only did the Russians deny it, but it was also a forbidden secret of the Kremlin. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the Holodomor was acknowledged and recognized by the world, slowly gathering steam after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989.
Official documentation identifies 3.9 million Ukrainians were killed in 1932-’33, but unofficially many argue that it was more like 10 million. It’s reasonable to assume, as many do, that more Ukrainians were exterminated at the hands of Stalin than were Jews by Hitler in WWII.
Point being, that despite all of this oppression, the Ukrainian culture strongly and proudly has persevered and will continue to do so regardless of what demented tyrant is at the helm of the Russian Federation.
So, what’s all this leading up to, you may wonder. Well, Hopefully, you feel like me and are inclined to do something. I’m sure there are others, but one such thing is occurring this Thursday, March 3rd, when Rawlco Radio is holding a special provincial fundraiser for Ukraine.
They have partnered with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress of Saskatchewan, and from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm on Thursday, 650 CKOM and 980 CJME will broadcast Rawlco Radio’s Saskatchewan Day of Caring exclusively and encourage Saskatchewan communities to stand with Ukraine, get involved and donate.
They have identified the Canada-Ukraine Foundation as the beneficiary of their fundraising. The link for donations is: www.cufoundation.ca/donate/
Until next time, be safe, be smart, be considerate, be well, but most of all, be kind. And while you’re at it, hug your loved ones and be thankful for the opportunity to do just that.