Editorial Note (Vitaliy Kubatskyy):
We received this letter as a response to some concerns expressed by Ukrainian Vancouver readers regarding The Association of United Ukrainian Canadians (AUUC). It was mostly related to the controversial history of AUUC, blamed for being supporters of notorious communist regime in Soviet Ukraine. Although at present AUUC seems to be basically cultural organisation, with no evident political activity, apparently there’s still some tension and, sometimes, even hostility exist among the local Ukrainian community towards AUUC brand.
Association of United Ukrainian Canadians in Vancouver can be found on 805 East Pender Street, where Ukrainian Cultural Centre is located, also known to the local international community as The Ukrainian Hall, hosting Vancouver Folk Orchestra, performing dance troupe “Dovbush” and “Barvinok” Choir. This is the place where many Vancouverites enjoy traditional Ukrainian food, music, dance and family-style entertainment. However, if you inquire older members of Ukrainian community, some of them will still raise their eyebrows: “Oh, don’t go there, this is Communist Hall!”
So what is it about? And what is AUUC nowadays? We addressed these questions to one of the AUUC – Vancouver active members, and present their answer to your attention.
• • •
AUUC Vancouver School of Dance
805 East Pender Street
In response to the questions you have asked in your letter (quoted below), I must first state that I am writing as a member of the AUUC Vancouver, my heritage is 3rd generation Ukrainian-Canadian from Manitoba (I have other European heritage as well), and I grew up involved in my grandparents’ Ukrainian Orthodox church and its associated dance school.
Ours is a secular cultural organization dedicated to enjoying and preserving the Ukrainian cultural experience within the multicultural environment that exists within Canada. In an effort to keep our community facility functioning, we put an ad on your site in good faith as a welcome to people who share our love of Ukrainian arts and culture and aspire to have a tolerant and open country. Our events provide opportunities for the exchange and sharing of numerous cultures within our Vancouver mosaic.
Currently our members come from many walks of life, hail from all the regions of the Lower Mainland, from various religious groups and ethnic backgrounds, as well as different socio-economic groups. We welcome all who wish to explore, enjoy, preserve and further Ukrainian arts and culture.
We welcome new Canadians and those whose families have been in Canada for generations. We are proud of our members’ commitment to their community, to our dance programs, choir, and orchestra for welcoming and facilitating the involvement of so many people: 26 choir members, 15 orchestra members, 60 dancers plus their families, and other members who participate in a seniors’ craft group, a seniors’ manor, organizing and preparing food for events, and providing a gathering place for our local community of Strathcona. Many are long-time members or have a long family history of involvement in the AUUC Vancouver.
Many more are new to the organization. They appreciate the central location, right in the heart of Vancouver, the community-mindedness, the spirit of inclusion, and the various events and activities we offer. Our hope is to grow our arts programs in order to continue to be a dynamic, modern and relevant arts organization.
The individuals in our organization have welcomed the emergence of the Ukrainian nation but our focus is on the Ukrainian-Canadian reality and not on the situation in Europe. Presently, the vast majority of members of the AUUC are Canadian born, and their interest is in Canada.
I would like to address some of the quotes you cite. As you know, Wikipedia is an open source document and its entries are written by anonymous contributors. Facts are not always verified and so, although I do use it myself, I would advise anyone using it to bear that in mind and continue to search using many sources. There has been much study and discussion within Canada of the history of Ukrainian-Canadians and the various wings and allegiances which have fractured and reformed over the course of many years. Here is a brief quote from a University of Manitoba paper from the Ukrainian-Canadian Studies department:
“During the 1920s, the Association [ULTA] benefited greatly from its identification with Soviet Ukraine where the ‘Ukrainization’ of public life, impressive achievements in scholarship, literature and the arts, economic recovery, and a degree of prosperity among the as yet uncollectivized peasantry, created the impression that Ukrainians were not only ‘equals among equals’ in the Soviet Union, but that they were a nation in the very vanguard of humanity’s march toward a better future.
Inspired by communist ideals and convinced that the foundations of a workers’ and peasants’ state were being laid in their homeland, Ukrainian Labour Temple leaders became enthusiastic and outspoken defenders of the Soviet regime who regrettably overlooked or endorsed the Soviet system’s many oppressive features. So powerful and hypnotic was their vision of a workers’ and peasants’ Soviet Ukraine and so fervent their faith in the men who led the Soviet Union, that they ultimately came to champion Soviet achievements, real and imaginary, much more enthusiastically and effectively than they challenged the injustices of Canadian capitalism.” [Link]
In my understanding, the Association has evolved over many years. It has its beginnings in Canada as The Ukrainian Labour Temple Association (ULTA), dedicated to improving the circumstances of Ukrainian workers and farmers. It provided educational, mutual aid, charitable and other services. Today, AUUC Vancouver is included in and respected by many cultural and charitable organizations and events including the Taras Shevchenko Museum in Toronto, the Ivan Franko Museum in Winnipeg, The Canadian Society for Ukrainian Labour Research, Vancouver Heritage Foundation, and the Heart of the City Festival, among others. The original Ukrainian Labour Temple in Winnipeg has been named a designated National Historic Site of Canada. Wording on the plaque unveiled this year reads:
We are not aware of any official position regarding the Holodomor. The individuals who now make up our Vancouver organization recognize this tragedy but are also sadly aware, like most Ukrainian- Canadians, of the widespread and unfortunate refusal by many people around the world, historically, to believe the extent of the famine, as evidenced here:
“What is particularly important about the Holodomor from the museum’s perspective, Curle says, is the shroud of secrecy and denial that has covered these crimes against humanity for decades. “People have a right to the truth and certainly the Ukrainian-Canadian community — and internationally the Ukrainian diaspora — has been struggling for that truth for many years,” he says. “And for us, that’s a central human-rights concern.”[Link]
“Jones’ eyewitness account had little effect on world opinion at the time. Stalin’s totalitarian regime tightly controlled the flow of information out of the U.S.S.R., and many Moscow-based foreign correspondents – some of whom had pro-Soviet sympathies – refused to believe Jones’ reporting.” [Link]
I am not an expert in History or Political Science however I believe that the vastness of the tragedy of this genocide has only been part of our Canadian consciousness in the past decade.
The Government of Canada recognized the Holodomor in May 2008, as of March 2008, dozens of governments have recognised the actions of the Soviet government as an act of genocide. The joint statement at the United Nations in 2003 has defined the famine as the result of actions and policies of the totalitarian regime that caused the deaths of millions of Ukrainians, Russians, Kazakhs and other nationalities in the USSR. [Wikipedia – Holodomor]
Mistakes are made on both sides of any issue. The idea that any group is alone in their mistakes is clearly either willful ignorance or plain bias. Ukrainians in Canada have evolved and changed and hopefully will continue to do so. The working and social conditions in Canada in the early part of the 20th century were not favourable to Ukrainians. Many initiatives and associations were formed out of a real need for cooperatives to improve working conditions and provide support for health and welfare. One needs to bear these things in mind, as well as get a sense of the North American experience, politically and culturally, in the first half of the 1900s, in order to understand how the whole of the country became what it is today and how “leftist” groups catalyzed social programs like Medicare, Employment Standards, Welfare, Pensions, and Human Rights.
Thank you for taking the time to contact us with your or your readers’ concerns. I apologize for the delay in replying however this discussion is very complex and I have endeavored to answer with fairness and perspective. My hope is that this will satisfy you and some of your readers and that it will go some way toward the mutual understanding of the long and storied history of Ukrainians in Canada. Perhaps we can continue to appreciate the sometimes troubled but promising stories of all who are here, whether for generations, with much adversity and joy experienced here in North America, or whether for months, with much adversity and joy experienced in Europe.
Laurel (Parasiuk) Lawry