NP-UN Western Bureau.
This year’s Hetman Awards program also featured a presentation of the Ivan Mazepa Cross awarded by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to New Pathway – Ukrainian News National Affairs Editor to Marco Levytsky.
The Cross is instituted to honour citizens of Ukraine, foreign citizens, or stateless persons for significant contributions to the revival of the national, cultural, artistic, spiritual, architectural, military, and historical heritage of Ukraine, and for achievements in state, diplomatic, humanitarian, scientific, educational, and charitable activity.
Levytsky studied Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa, and started his career in 1977. He freelanced and worked for a number of community newspapers before being hired as Editor by Ukrainian News in 1982. The paper at that time was owned by the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton. He was appointed General Manager in addition to his editorial duties in 1983. In 1988 he was granted control of the newspaper under his own company and continued to run it as an independent newspaper until 2017 at which time it was merged with New Pathway in Toronto to become New Pathway – Ukrainian News.
In presenting the medal, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Canada Andriy Shevchenko stated it was “a very personal moment for me” and recalled how he first met Levytsky in 1991.
“Ukraine at that time was still under the Communist rule, but changes were already in the year,” he began.
“Marco was a part of the initiative to send computers and printing equipment into Ukraine to launch a publication for Narodniy Rukh Ukrayiny, the opposition to the Communists.
“My father Vitaliy Shevchenko, a journalist and a Rukh activist, was brought to Canada to learn how to work with that equipment.
“He spent several weeks at Marco and Lesia’s house, learning the craft, but I know it was not just about translating the Macintosh manuals into Ukrainian.
“My father came back with tons of books about the Holodomor and Stepan Bandera (obviously illegal in the Soviet Union), but more than that – with deep respect towards the Ukrainian Canadian community and with a passionate belief that Ukraine would become independent.
“Independence came the very same year, and Dad continued his work in journalism and his cooperation with Marco.
“That is how I became a Kyiv-based contributor to the Ukrainian News.
“That is how I learned about Marco’s lifetime project.
“He invested all his talents, and hard work, and perseverance into his newspaper.
“Through his passionate words, Ukrainian Canadians learned what happened in Kyiv and Lviv, and it is through his eyes the Ukrainian community saw its own life across Canada.
“He tirelessly worked on protecting the Ukrainian identity, and keeping the language, and exploring the history, and dreaming of a better future for Ukraine and for Ukrainian Canadians. It has been exemplary community service.
“And finally, when I came to Canada as the Ambassador, I discovered Marco yet from another side. I saw how good and perseverant Marco was as a journalist. And I saw what a huge impact his work had on the big decisions that Canada made.
“His work ethics were impressive.
“Always get to the bottom, tell the truth!
“His questions towards government officials, his editorials, his thoughtful choice of the big topics to cover helped to shape Canada’s policy.
“I know that all these reasons helped President Zelensky to make the decision to recognize Marco with this award.
“I know he views this award as a sign of respect towards many other Ukrainian Canadians, who are proud to be Ukrainians, proud to be Canadians, and who do extraordinary things in their everyday lives.
“Going back to the personal,
“Marco, I thank you for a great example of your friendship with my father.
“In the two of you, I saw two men, two journalists, two great Ukrainians who were born on the opposite sides of the planet, who were raised under two so different systems, and who yet shared the same love to journalism, the same passion for Ukraine, and the same way of living decent, meaningful lives and paying back to the community.
“It is stories like this that bring our global Ukrainian family together.
“You built a friendship which proved to be stronger than time and – now – stronger than death.
“I know my father is watching this ceremony from above and smiling,” he concluded.
Levytsky thanked Shevchenko for the award, God for giving him the gift of writing and his wife, Lesia, for standing by him all these years.
In a subsequent interview, he commented on the importance of advocacy journalism whereby Ukrainian community newspapers raise issues of importance to the community and bring it to the attention of elected officials.
He said this is especially important today in the face of massive Russian disinformation and urged younger journalists to get involved.