Echoes of the UNF Convention: Voices of Branches

At the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada’s 38th National Convention, which was held in Winnipeg from October 2-4, the New Pathway interviewed a number of members of different UNF branches. We wanted to get a feeling of what is going on at Canada’s largest & most diverse Ukrainian organization and what is planned for the future. Our first interview in this series is with Artem Luhovy, President of the UNF Montreal branch.

Artem Luhovy became the Branch’s President in June 2014. He has an undergraduate degree in Physiology from McGill University with minor in Political Science. He also has a Master’s Degree in Experimental Medicine and Nephrology from the same University. After that, Artem finished a joint MD/MBA program at McGill. This is a very selective program with only up to five graduates in Canada annually. Artem focused on Operations Management and Finance for his business degree and on Family Medicine for his Medicine degree. At the moment, Artem is doing his residency in Family Medicine based at the CLSC Metro in downtown Montreal and rotating through Montreal hospitals. He has 1.5 years to complete this program and plans to practice medicine afterwards.

The following is what we found from Artem while talking to him at the Convention about the life of the UNF Montreal Branch. UNF Montreal is a vibrant branch which brings out talent from the Montreal community, be it from recent arrivals or from people who have been in Montreal for a long time. UNF and OYK Montreal branches together have about 60 members.

Going forward, the UNF Montreal’s leadership plans to study in more detail the community context it operates in and adapt to the needs of the community. For instance, in Montreal, there are three Ukrainian Saturday schools for youth and the Branch believes that the community needs Ukrainian and English language schools for adults.

The Branch plans to promote good governance through seminars on Robert’s Rules of Order & Other administrative processes which provide guidance on running meetings and conferences, for UNF members and wider community. UNF Montreal is also considering running such adult activities as sculpture and other art classes, camping and trips in Canada and outside, networking events for job seekers and professionals. One of the projects being considered is a meeting with Matthew Ramsey, a member of the Canadian Forces who has served in Afghanistan and also in the Yavoriv grounds in Ukraine where he participated in training of the Ukrainian military.

Artem explains that a lot of people, including Ukrainian Canadians, left Montreal because of the separatist movement and UNF Montreal needs to work hard to rebuild it’s base of members, based on the needs of today’s community. The UNF Montreal branch is in a position to be able to lead different activities and be a driver for the community’s renaissance, including contributing to different UNF National projects such as the UNF Library Digitization project, as well as supporting the New Pathway. But this also increases the necessity for good governance which Artem is working hard to instill.

We also interviewed the President of the Host of this year’s convention, UNF Winnipeg branch, Andriy Popiel. Andriy took over the Presidency in January this year. He came to Canada in 1992 from Poland. Andriy says that there are many Ukrainian families from Poland who came to Winnipeg in the 1990s and nowadays in Winnipeg he recognizes many family names from his town in Poland. Andriy works as the IT manager at the University of Manitoba, Faculty of Music. He is responsible for all the hardware and software at the Faculty and also for sound and video editing. He used to be an Artistic Director with the famous dance group Rusalka which resides at the UNF Hall, the position that he had to pass on when he became UNF Winnipeg President.

Andriy’s largest focus so far has been on the Branch finances and governance. The Branch is now implementing a three-year project of infrastructure renewal. In July this year, they received a matching grant from the government for $30,000. This gave the Branch $60,000 to use over three years to improve deficiencies in the UNF Hall’s building. They have already fixed the kitchen with a budget of $7,000. Andriy says that they have the business called Better Than Baba’s Perogies lined up for rent, so, in about seven months, the kitchen renovation should be paid off. Better Than Baba’s Perogies is a food truck started by Andriy Malitsky. Andriy Popiel thinks that this “wildly successful” business is the first perogies food truck in Winnipeg. The business could not afford to build its own commercial kitchen and UNF Winnipeg offered their assistance for this venture to take off. Part of the Branch’s renovation plan is to re-open the UNF Club, at the UNF Hall, the revenue from which should help develop the Branch’s programming, and bring back what it used to do.

Winnipeg has one of the largest shares of Ukrainians in total population in Canada, up to 15%. Andriy estimates the composition of the Winnipeg Ukrainian community as a split between older and newer waves of immigration. With the war in Ukraine, more people have started coming to Winnipeg recently. In the last month, Andriy has had about ten families, who came to Canada in the summer, calling him about enrolling their kids in the Rusalka dance group. He thinks there may be hundreds of Ukrainians who have come to Winnipeg from Ukraine this year. Andriy thinks that UNF Winnipeg needs to begin communicating to them and finding how the Ukrainian community here can help and make them feel at home. Andriy invites everyone to visit Winnipeg: “We have the abundance of riches in terms of Ukrainian culture in Winnipeg, we just need to better market them.”