Ukrainian Tones on Canadian Soil
(Page 3 of 3)
In Winnipeg, old and new rituals intertwine. Like the onion domes and grain elevators interspersed across the prairies. Myron Duda teaches old Ukrainian songs, while his wife composes new Ukrainian verses for the pageant.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
It is "a wonderful new experience for me to write pieces that I know will be performed," she says. "At home, a Communist Party apparachik would shove some officially sanctioned script before an actor's nose right before curtain time."
Russian is our lingua franca, as these two visitors from Ukraine speak no English but perforce learned Russian.
"I'm not timid about my lack of English," Zoriaslava Hlyadak says. "Many people here speak Ukrainian. Canadians are wonderful. We are so grateful for their help, especially after Chernobyl. Yet I'm sad: here people live in the 20th century, while in Ukraine, we live in the 17th."
"But we wouldn't emigrate," Myron Duda adds. "We'd never abandon Ukraine."
Especially now that independence has been voted in. While freedom to travel may bring a fourth wave of emigration, most intellectuals are expected to stay in Ukraine to rebuild society.
The first wave of Ukrainian emigration, which began a century ago, brought the true pioneers. A second wave came after the Russian Revolution and Lenin's brutal end to Ukraine's short-lived independence (1917-1920). The third wave followed World War II, when the survivors among those thousands of Ukrainians captured by the Nazis ultimately found refuge in North America.
Will many Ukrainian-Canadians return to their ancestral land now? "We're removed by a half-century from present-day Ukraine," says the Very Reverend William Makarenko, chairman of the presidium of the Consistory of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. Born of Ukrainian parents in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany after World War II, he visits Ukraine, and welcomes visiting Ukrainians to Winnipeg. Yet like other Ukrainian-Canadians he is passionately concerned about Ukraine's survival through diffic ult times ahead, but his parishes are here.
MEANWHILE, everyone here ships food parcels to relatives there. More vital than handouts, Ukrainians insist, is expertise: exchanges of technicians, farmers, managers - and scholars and artists, keepers of culture's flames in both hemispheres.
Myron Duda is overwhelmed by the treasure of books, folk songs, and choral music unavailable in Ukraine but preserved at Winnipegs' Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Center, especially the archives of composer and conductor Olexander Koshetz, whose choir continues to perform in Canada and abroad.
Another "national treasure" is the Rusalka Dance Ensemble, one of the best of the many Ukrainian emigre dance groups in North America. Director Irka Balan invites me to watch Rusalka rehearse for tours of Canada, the United States, and Ukraine.
Again, I live vicariously: I yearn to dance. A character in my novel-in-progress is a ballerina. When I was four my mother zipped me into a puffy tutu and enrolled me with a Russian ballet master; he soon hoped I possessed other abilities. Though in secret I danced, even composed on my mother's piano, teachers deemed me "unmusical." Yet I love music - Russian, Ukrainian, gypsy, classical, and folk.
Ukrainian-Canadians, age 16 to 35, leap across a gym. They pirouette, kick, gallop, spin, soar. While listening to Zoriaslava Hlyadak, they sag into that eloquent dancers' slouch. Suddenly, in our honor, the ensemble performs an entire kopak dance.
I am dancing inside every dancer.
Many Russians feel uneasy about losing Ukraine from their empire, which several of my own ancestors fought to incorporate while other ancestors resisted. Yet I, too, rejoice in Ukrainian independence.