New Pathway celebrates 90 years

Marco Levytsky and Walter Kish.

It was 90 years ago this month that New Pathway (Нoвий Шлях in Ukrainian) was founded in Edmonton as the press vehicle for veterans of the 1917-21 struggle for Ukraine’s independence known as the Sich Sharpshooters (Сiчoвi стрiльцi). It was published in a 15 by 22-inch broadsheet format with a subscription rate of $2.00 a year. When two years later, the veterans’ group joined with like-minded members of the pioneer wave of immigration to Canada to form the Ukrainian National Federation, it became the official organ of the UNF.

Just two years before the establishment of New Pathway, and also in Edmonton, the Western News (Захiднi вiстi) was founded and the following year was sold to the Ukrainian Catholic Church which needed its own press vehicle after its original newspaper the Canadian Ruthenian (renamed the Canadian Ukrainian In 1919) had to be sold to cover the costs of a libel suit it lost to the Ukrainian Orthodox community. In 1931 that paper was renamed the Ukrainian News (Украïнськi вiстi) and remained the only Ukrainian Catholic newspaper until after World War II when Our Aim (Наша мета) and Progress (Пoступ) were founded in Toronto and Winnipeg respectively. Interestingly enough, the New Pathway’s first editor, Michael Pohorecky had earlier served as an editor with Western News.

While Ukrainian News stayed in Edmonton until its merger with New Pathway three years ago, New Pathway kept moving its headquarters eastward – first to Saskatoon in 1933, then Winnipeg in 1941, and finally Toronto in 1977.

Throughout the inter-war years, New Pathway reflected the views of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) which advocated for an independent Ukraine and was led by Colonel Yevhen Konovalets until his assassination by a Soviet agent in Rotterdam in 1938. This was a time of great turbulence in the Ukrainian Canadian community as a strong pro-Soviet and pro-Communist movement flourished in the form of the Ukrainian Labour-Farmer Temple Association (ULFTA). There was a fierce competition for the hearts and souls of Ukrainian Canadians as the pro-Communist press extolled the virtues of the USSR while New Pathway, Ukrainian News and other non-communist Ukrainian newspapers exposed the truth of such horrors as the man-made famine-genocide of 1932-33.

In the 1940s, the OUN split into two factions– the older, more conservative members rallied around the leadership of Colonel Andriy Melnyk, a veteran of the War for Independence, while the younger, more radical members supported the revolutionary Stepan Bandera. The factions became known as OUN-M and OUN-B, or more simply, the Melnykivtsi and Banderivtsi, after their leaders. As Ukrainians displaced by the war began to emigrate to Canada in the late forties and early fifties, they brought their factional disputes with them and New Pathway became the voice of the Melnykivtsi, while the Banderivtsi founded their own newspaper called the Ukrainian Echo (Гoмiн Украïни).

The arrival of the post-war Displaced Persons greatly invigorated the Ukrainian Canadian community and the Ukrainian language press flourished throughout the 50s and 60s. But, by the 1970s changes were in the air as a new generation, born in Canada grew up. For them English – not Ukrainian – was the principal language of communication and they were much more interested in such issues as multiculturalism and the relationship of Ukrainian Canadians within the all-encompassing Canadian mosaic than in OUN politics. As a result, a monthly English-language supplement, New Perspectives was created when the paper moved to Toronto in 1977. The editor of New Perspective and the moving force behind this initiative was Walter Kish, a former National President of the Ukrainian National Youth Federation (UNYF). The inclusion of an English section in the New Pathway initially met with some resistance from the older readers of the paper as well as members of the New Pathway and UNF Boards. Further, although the New Pathway had full time staff, New Perspectives was entirely produced by voluntary labour. Efforts to persuade the paper’s board to hire full time staff for New Perspectives and expand it to be produced on a weekly basis, failed to get the necessary support. Eventually, after several years, Walter Kish left the newspaper in frustration and, shortly after, New Perspectives ceased publication.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the New Pathway’s readership and subscriber base declined significantly until, by the end of the 1990s it was in a precarious financial position and there were some discussions about shutting it down. By this time, the leadership of the UNF had changed significantly as Canadian born Ukrainians replaced the original older generation of leaders that had come as immigrants and refugees to Canada. They were more attuned and sympathetic to the younger generations of Canadian born Ukrainians, and were eager to transform both the UNF and the New Pathway to make them more relevant to a changed Ukrainian demographic.

Walter Kish was invited back and asked to undertake a revamp and modernization of the New Pathway. With the assistance of several other like-minded Ukrainian activists, the paper was completely redesigned and English content became a regular feature of the paper. The content was also significantly broadened to include more arts, sports, culture, entertainment and Canadian news. Colour was introduced as well as more photo coverage. Gradually the subscriber base and readership began growing again and eventually the paper once again became a profitable enterprise.

Meanwhile, in Edmonton, Ukrainian News too began to include more English in order to reach out to the Canadian-born. Marco Levytsky was hired in 1982 to rejuvenate the newspaper and, in 1988, took it over under his own company. Both Ukrainian News and New Pathway continued to thrive, but the advent of the internet and a new generation that wanted their information online began to affect all newspapers, Ukrainian Canadian community ones as well. In 2017 the two papers merged and set out to continue the good work of our predecessors.

Much has changed over the past 90 years. Most notably:

  • The technological advances which went from letterpress to phototypesetting to desktop publishing;
  • The demographic shifts – from rural to urban, from immigrant to native-born;
  • The language changes – from unilingual Ukrainian, to bilingual English and Ukrainian; and
  • The advent of the internet which led to new challenges.

But the focus and goals have remained constant. Just as in 1930 New Pathway stood up for Ukraine’s right to self-determination in the face of imperialist oppression, so in 2020 New Pathway – Ukrainian News stands up to preserve Ukraine’s hard-won right to self determination in the face of renewed Russian imperialist revanchism. Just as in 1930, so in 2020, we serve as a link and a voice for our community. And just as in 1930, so in 2020, we rely upon the support of you – our readers. Thus, It is most appropriate to remember the original motto of New Pathway as it became the official organ of the UNF upon the organization’s founding in 1932 – “Our Strength is in Ourselves!”.