Back in 1969 a new Ukrainian “zabava” (dance) band was formed in Montreal by four enterprising young men who decided upon the name “Rushnychok” for their fledgling musical enterprise. The band was a hit, and for the next decade or so, they dominated the Ukrainian music scene not only in Montreal, but throughout Canada.
The four musicians comprising the band were Andriy Harasymovycz (Vocals, Guitar), Eugene Osidacz (Accordion), George Shtyk (Bass), and Steve Andrusiak (Drums). Their haircuts were inspired by the Beatles, but their costumes were magnificently Ukrainian, and I remember how I envied the white dancing boots they wore on the cover of their first record album. Their distinctly modern and Canadian interpretation of old Ukrainian favourites hit a chord with the younger generations of Ukrainian Canadians, and the five albums they produced during the 1970’s were big sellers across the country. I was more than a little saddened when the band broke up in 1980.
The band members went off to pursue successful careers in other professions. Steve Andrusiak, upon finishing college, joined the broadcasting world, spending over 25 years working for the CBC and CTV as a journalist, producer and senior manager. This was followed by a stint as Dean of Communications at Fanshawe College in London, as well as teaching Media Ethics and Journalism at the University of Western Ontario.
When he retired some years ago, Steve soon realized that a slow paced, idle retirement lifestyle was not in his nature, and he needed a new challenge to keep his mind sharp and engaged. What he settled on was a weekly half-hour radio program called Nasha Kasha, an eclectic mix of documentary content intermixed with appropriate music on Ukrainian Canadian themes. As to why he named the show Nasha Kasha, he states “In Slavic and Jewish cuisine, kasha is any grain boiled in water or milk. Like the program, it is warm, nourishing and just a little messy, not unlike life itself”
I have come to love his shows, since they are similar thematically in many respects to my weekly columns in this paper, though obviously in a different media form. I have also had the privilege of collaborating with and assisting Steve on a number of his shows.
The production values are very high, reflective of Steve’s vast experience in all aspects of broadcasting. The half hour shows flow easily and interestingly with interviews and commentary interspersed with appropriate music. The dialogue is mostly in English with some incursions into Ukrainian. The topic of a given show may be an interesting individual, a place, an event, or artistic or cultural work. His shows have for example, included a biographical sketch of Ukrainian artist Vladimir Horik who has become famous as a Quebec landscape painter, the Ottawa and Montreal Ukrainian Festivals, Ukrainian genealogy, St. Nicholas, a trip to the Spirit Lake internment camp in Amos, Quebec, the Ukrainian communities in Maritimes, the history of the well-known Carol of the Bells, the story of the Lemko people, the story of a talented self-taught craftsman by the name of Bob Wetzel from Whitby who is the only maker of banduras in Canada, the recollections of a veteran of the UPA, Ukrainians in Portugal, the story of the indefatigable Rev. Lev Chayka who at age 94 still serves mass in the Ukrainian churches in Rouyn, Val D’Or and Kirkland Lake, or the inspiring life of Father Anton of St. Catharines who overcame incredible adversity to become the well-loved pastor of a diverse Ukrainian parish in the Niagara Peninsula as well as creating a huge Facebook ministry.
These weekly shows were originally broadcast only on CHRW-FM (94.9) London, but Steve has expanded his network to include Sudbury (CKLU-FM 96.7), Thunder Bay (CILU-FM 102.7), Kitchener-Waterloo (CKMS-FM 102.7), Hamilton (CFMU-FM 93.3) and Kingston (CFRC-FM 101.9). They can also be accessed and downloaded as podcasts from the Nasha Kasha page on Facebook or through iTunes.
Make the effort to find and listen to Nasha Kasha. It would be a most worthwhile investment of your time.