I write this as 2023 comes to a close, and I must be frank in telling you that this year has been one that I would largely like to forget. It has been a year characterized by no small number of challenges, unpleasant surprises, frustrations and disappointments. The year also did have some positive and enjoyable moments, but when I look back on it many years from now, what will undoubtedly first come to mind are those things I would have preferred not to have experienced.
Foremost among these, is the fact that I am now at that age when many of my peers are beginning to pass on into the afterlife, leaving painful voids in my circle of friends and family. This was a banner year for “Panakhydas” and funerals. Among them were some prominent names that many of you IN THE Ukrainian community will recognize, such as Ron Cahute, Steve Andrusiak, Natalie Bundza and Walter Maceluch. These were people with whom I shared many memorable times within the cultural and organizational sphere of Ukrainian life in Canada. They were friends, mentors and shining examples of people dedicating their lives towards ensuring that the Ukrainian community in Canada remained strong and vibrant. Then too, there were those within my more personal circle of family and friends who passed away, once again diminishing the little social universe that so enriched my life. I understand that all this is part of the great and inevitable circle of life, but that doesn’t make it any easier to face the future with an ever-fewer number of people that you can share your joys as well as your tribulations with.
The other major disappointment, of course, has to be the continuing tragedy of Russia’s barbaric war on Ukraine. The year started out with great hopes after the heroic Ukrainian armed forces managed to repel the initial Russian invasion and forced the Russians to retreat from the Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson areas of Ukraine in 2022. It was expected that the 2023 spring counter-offensive would push the Russians out of the remaining occupied territories. Alas, that turned out not to be so, as the Russians dug in defensively and the war has now largely turned into a stalemate. To be sure, Ukraine has won a moral victory of sorts in that no one, outside of Ukrainians themselves, ever expected them to be able to stop what was thought to be an overwhelming, well-armed Russian military juggernaut. The reality proved to be that the Russian military was an over-rated paper tiger – badly led, riven with corruption and unable to beat the Ukrainian forces despite having overwhelming advantages in manpower, air superiority and massive supplies of armaments.
So now, Ukrainians will soon be entering the third year of this conflict. Although they are keeping the Russians in check and significantly eroding their combat capability, their ability to do so is greatly dependent on them receiving military aid and supplies from their allies in NATO, Europe and the U.S. in particular. That is becoming less certain due to political turmoil in the United States and the advent of right-wing governments in a number European nations. Although most of these countries continue to voice their strong support for Ukraine, it will be interesting to see whether the current levels of support are eroded in the future because of political shifts.
This makes for an easy segue into the potential political crisis that is developing within the world’s leading power, the United States. The continuing irrational movement led by Donald Trump who is seeking to once again win the Presidency, cannot help but engender fears about the U.S. becoming an authoritarian dictatorship. The polls indicate that this is a very real possibility that would create huge problems not only for Ukraine, but also for Canada, NATO and most of the free world. Trump’s simplistic, populist and fascist tendencies could easily imperil global peace, cooperation and established rules of international law and order. One can only hope that there are enough rational and responsible people within the U.S. to ensure that Trump’s next move will be into prison rather than the White House.
The Canadian political scene is also experiencing a fair bit of uncertainty with elections coming up next year. The Canadian public appears to have become disenchanted with Justin Trudeau and his “style” of government. It doesn’t help that the average Canadian is suffering increasingly from escalating prices on almost everything, and especially housing which is close to being an unreachable dream for most. Despite the polls, Trudeau seems bent on running one more time, a move he may come to regret. His opponent, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre, has a very real chance of getting elected, despite the fact that his persona and political pronouncements have often reflected rightist views that make the typical “centrist” Canadian voter more than a little uneasy about what he might do if elected.
All this contributes to my unease over the year that has passed and raises some real concerns about the near-term future. I remain optimistic in nature though, believing that long-term, we are responsible and capable enough as a civilization to find answers and solutions to all these challenges. It will take all of us to become more engaged and involved in what is going on in the world, and not just passively accept what unscrupulous manipulators are doing to this planet of ours.