Another Ukraine

For most of the past year, my thoughts and those of most other Ukrainian Canadians have been centered on our ancestral land and its ongoing struggle to maintain its independence and integrity in the face of both internal and external enemies. Ukraine has not had an easy history, and it seems that its future will not be any different until its malignant neighbor Russia matures into a civilized nation.
Yet, two events have made me realize that there is another Ukraine that we should not lose sight of, namely the virtual Ukraine that we have created here in Canada. This past Sunday, I took part in the Ukrainian Heritage Day ceremonies held in front of the Ontario Legislature, celebrating the history and ongoing contribution of Ukrainians to the success of our province.
As the keynote speaker, Professor Lubomyr Luciuk of Kingston noted, Ukrainians have been here in Ontario for over 200 years, going back to Ukrainian soldiers who served in mercenary units of the British army (the De Meuron and De Watteville regiments) that fought in the War of 1812-1814 in what was then Upper Canada.
Subsequent to four waves of immigration, there are now some 336,000 Ontarians of Ukrainian origin, part of the some 1.2 million Ukrainian Canadians. Although a large proportion of these have assimilated to various degrees into Canadian society, the Ukrainian presence in Canada remains demonstrably strong, and we have managed to not only preserve many elements of Ukrainian culture, but also develop unique variations to Ukrainian art, music, dance, literature and even language.
This is ably demonstrated by the second event, which I alluded to earlier, namely the Toronto Ukrainian Festival which will be taking place this weekend on Bloor Street West in Toronto. This annual exposition of all things Ukrainian is now in its eighteenth year, and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to take in the best of Ukrainian food, culture and entertainment that you will find outside of the Ukrainian homeland. What it effectively validates is that Ukrainian culture in Canada is not a poor derivative version of the original, but a vibrant, creative and relevant reflection of a Ukrainian community that has grown and developed successfully here in our adopted land.
Our artists, musicians and performers do not lack in either talent or professionalism in comparison to our Ukrainian counterparts overseas. Our scholars, professionals, politicians, businessmen and community leaders are of world standard. Our accomplishments in virtually all fields of endeavor are something we can all take pride in.
Regrettably, the crisis in Ukraine has to some degree caused us to lose sight of the other Ukraine that we have created here in Canada. It is absolutely right and fitting that we should exert maximum effort during this time of crisis to aid our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. We, who are blessed to live in a country where we enjoy the fruits of democracy and freedom of opportunity, should do all that we can to help Ukraine achieve that same degree of civilizational success.
Nonetheless, let us not at the same time lose sight of the fact that we also have a responsibility and duty to preserve and develop the Ukrainian community that we have created here in Canada. That community needs to be tended to as well. It must be supported and nurtured. It must be encouraged to create and evolve.
We must not only pass on to our children and grandchildren the rich Ukrainian legacy that our parents and grandparents brought with them when they came to Canada over the past century, but also enable them to add their contributions to a culture that has lived and thrived for over a thousand years.
Ukraine is not constrained by geopolitical boundaries. It lives in our hearts and minds and souls. Let us be good Ukrainians wherever we may happen to live.