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Banquet becomes a focal point of 41st National UNF Convention. Lubomyr Luciuk delivers keynote speech

Jul 5, 2024 | Ukrainian National Federation, Featured

Lubomyr Luciuk delivers keynote speech. Image: NP-UN

Kateryna Ozerianska, LJI Reporter for NP-UN.

On June 8th, a banquet was held in the Trident Hall of the UNF building during the 41st National UNF Convention. The program was coordinated by Adam Pecio, President of the UNF Toronto Branch, and Maksym Stolyarevskyy. All guests in the Trident Hall proudly sang the national anthems of Canada and Ukraine. The Kalyna dance ensemble performed the “Bukovynski Vizerunky” dance, after which they greeted the guests with a traditional Ukrainian korovai. All attendees stood for a prayer led by Bryan Joseph Bayda, CSsR, Bishop of the Eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The first toast of the evening, with glasses filled with water, was raised for King Charles III. Maksym Stolyarevsky invited all the guests to join in this toast.

James Maloney, MP of Etobicoke Lakeshore, who was invited to speak, congratulated the convention and noted the re-election of Jurij Klufas as the UNF president. He reassured all guests of his unwavering commitment to support Ukraine and the Ukrainian community, which he called his principle. He stated that he made this commitment on the first day of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, reaffirmed it today, and would continue to do so in the future. Maloney also emphasized that this stance is not only his position but that he is also speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal MP colleagues.

Christine Hogarth, MPP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, took the stage next. “Welcome to Canada, Ontario and Lakeshore, which is the best part of Ontario. It is my pleasure to greet you all on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Government of Ontario,” she began. Hogarth emphasized that the aggressive, unprovoked war by Russia against Ukraine has now been ongoing for 834 days. “This is the number of days the whole world has witnessed the bravery and resilience of the Ukrainian nation in this darkest of wars. Ukrainians continue to defend their land and their freedom. The Government of Ontario and the people of Ontario stand with Ukraine and support her in her just struggle,” she stated. She recalled the rally held on February 24th at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, where 20,000 people gathered to support Ukraine. “No effort is too small and no voice too weak when supporting freedom and democracy,” she added. Hogarth highlighted that the war has forced many people out of Ukraine, and the provincial government is providing ongoing support to displaced persons to ensure they have access to healthcare and education. The government also offers scholarships to support Ukrainian students and material assistance to Ukrainian families. “We do this because it is the right thing to do. We do this because Canadian Ukrainians are our family, friends, neighbours, and colleagues. This is not about politics; it is about standing together as one community today, tomorrow, and always,” she concluded. Hogarth thanked the organizers for the invitation and expressed her honour to be present at the banquet.

Amber Morley, Toronto City Councillor, was then invited to speak. She thanked the Ukrainian community for sharing its strength, resilience, and indomitable spirit. She emphasized that the Ukrainian community has been a part of Canada for many decades, continuously contributing its unique culture to the diversity of Toronto. Currently, displaced persons are arriving in Canada due to the dire circumstances in Ukraine, and the city of Toronto welcomes them all.

L-R: MP James Maloney, MPP Christine Hogarth, UNF President Jurij Klufas, Toronto City Councillor Amber Morley. Photo: NP-UN

The evening’s keynote speaker was Dr. Lubomyr Luciuk, a distinguished academic and author of political geography and Ukrainian history scholarly studies. Dr. Luciuk is a full professor at the Royal Military College of Canada and a Senior Research Fellow at the Chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Toronto. He has authored numerous publications and is recognized for his significant contributions to understanding the political history of the Ukrainian Canadian community and contemporary Ukraine.
Dr. Luciuk’s expertise and insights gave attendees a profound and enlightening perspective. Luciuk began his speech by addressing the UNF organization, whose activities have had a personal impact on him. He emphasized his awareness of UNF’s long-standing history, highlighting its significant contributions to the Ukrainian Canadian community.

Dr. Luciuk explained that he was born in Kingston, Ontario, after World War II. Kingston has never had a large Ukrainian Hromada. Dr. Luciuk described his corner of that community when he was born in 1953 when Stalin died. That area housed several displaced persons, the DPs, who were part of the third wave of Ukrainian immigrants who came to Canada after the Second World War. Among them were members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, both Melnykivtsi and Banderivtsi, veterans of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), veterans of the Galicia Division, slave labourers, and survivors of the Holodomor. There were Ukrainian Catholics and Ukrainian Orthodox believers. Most of these people were from Western Ukraine, but some were from Greater Ukraine or Soviet Ukraine. He recalled the St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Parish, which included interwar immigrants.

Dr. Luciuk emphasized the challenge of organizing and keeping that diverse community together. He grew up in an environment where it didn’t matter which background you had. One thing mattered: whether or not you were wedded to the cause. What cause, you ask? The cause of Ukraine’s independence. When Dr. Luciuk thinks back to those years and how he was raised, he reflects on the struggle for Ukraine’s sovereignty. It seemed to him then, and still does now, that a shared focus on the homeland unites the organized Ukrainian community. In those days, most of his neighbours and Canadian friends in school, university, parishes, workplaces, and neighbourhoods had little understanding of Ukraine. Contrasting that with today, it is remarkable to see how Ukraine has gone from obscurity to being well-known. At no time has Ukraine been better known than it is today in human history, and that is due to the dynamic resistance, courage, and endurance of the men and women fighting on the front lines against Russian aggression.

Dr. Luciuk recalls that for his parents, the third wave of Ukrainian immigrants, the cause of Ukraine’s independence was their primary focus. It was an abiding interest, intense and unwavering. As they aged, they emphasized that if they could not continue the struggle, the next generation must. They educated and taught Dr. Luciuk and his peers this interest in Ukraine. Every year, Dr. Luciuk attends Remembrance Day services at the Royal Military College of Canada, where a student recites the famous poem In Flanders Fields by John McCrae. Listening to that remarkable poem, he gets emotionally caught up again in the Ukrainian cause, especially when he hears a powerful stanza: “To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep.” He said breaking faith with our parents and grandparents means they won’t rest peacefully.

Dr. Luciuk humbly stated that the intense commitment to the Ukrainian cause was overwhelming and sometimes alienating. His parents sent him to Ukrainian schools and camps, however, he admitted, he rejected this path and walked away from it, just like most young men and women he grew up with in Kingston. He began his university career at Queen’s University, determined to become a biologist. But at some point, he realized that most of his fellow students, professors, and people he interacted with daily were indifferent, ignorant, and sometimes even hostile to the very idea of Ukrainian independence—the same cause his parents raised him to believe in. He observed a double standard at the time. Everyone was talking about civil liberties, human rights, and national liberation movements worldwide, but when he mentioned Ukraine and the Soviet Union, the response was dismissive: “Oh no, that’s different.” This exceptionalism stoked frustration, anger, and resistance in him.

When Dr. Luciuk began his MA studies in historical geography, he studied the historical geography of the Ukrainian community in Kingston, a topic he was initially reluctant to discuss. He began with oral interviews, and one of the first people he interviewed was Mrs. Rosalie Charitoniuk. She was the widow of a veteran from the First World War, a man who had fought for Ukraine’s liberation, survived, and became a member of the Ukrainian War Veterans Association, which played a significant role in the creation of UNF. That conversation turned out to be the most important one of Dr. Luciuk’s academic life. He shared a lesson for the younger audience: sometimes you have no idea what will become significant. Mrs. Charitoniuk told him about two people who changed his life, even though he didn’t realize it then.

One of them was Mr. Nick Sakaliuk (Mykola Sakaliuk). Dr. Luciuk interviewed him on February 14, 1978—Valentine’s Day. Dr. Luciuk humorously recalled the trouble he got into with his girlfriend for leaving her on that day to talk to an old Ukrainian man. During the interview, Dr. Luciuk discovered that Nick Sakaliuk was a survivor of Canada’s first national internment operations. This revelation marked the beginning of uncovering this hidden chapter in Canadian history. Tragically, Sakaliuk was killed by a car precisely three years later, on February 14, 1981. Thanks to the efforts of people like Ihor Bardyn, a former UNF President, and the work of the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund, these stories are now commemorated across the country.

Mrs. Charitoniuk also mentioned another significant name, Flight Lieutenant G. R. Bohdan Panchuk, a Ukrainian-Canadian who volunteered to serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. Panchuk participated in the D-Day landings in Normandy and continued to serve after the initial invasion. After the war, Panchuk helped bring thousands of Ukrainian refugees from Europe to Canada. Dr. Luciuk highlighted how these personal stories contributed to a broader understanding of Ukrainian-Canadian contributions and hardships. Dr. Luciuk has dedicated the rest of his life to defending the good name of Ukrainians against Soviet-era disinformation, now being echoed by the Russian Federation, which falsely portrays Ukrainians as Nazi collaborators and enablers of the Holocaust.

Dr. Lubomyr Luciuk emphasized that Ukraine is again standing up against an ancient foe, the same adversary faced in Tsarist times, Soviet times, and now in the 21st century. He described the enemy as a man from the KGB in the Kremlin, whose grandfather served in the Cheka, the secret police under Stalin, whose father was in the NKVD, and who himself served in the KGB. Three generations of the Putin family were Soviet secret police officers. Dr. Luciuk noted that Putin, who is roughly his age, has launched a genocidal campaign against Ukraine.

In his speech, Dr. Luciuk pointed out the significant history of the Ukrainian National Federation (UNF). The UNF was established in July 1932, with Alexander Gregorovich as its first president. Gregorovich is remembered as an influential activist in Toronto, and his son, John Gregorovich, mentored Dr. Luciuk through the Civil Liberties Commission. The foundational meeting of the Civil Liberties Commission took place 39 years ago in Toronto on the 7th of February, 1985. Then, he first met John Gregorovich, who became the chairman of the Civil Liberties Commission.

Dr. Luciuk highlighted that when the UNF was created in 1932, it explicitly stated that anyone could be a member, regardless of their political party or socioeconomic class, whether they were Orthodox, Catholic, or where they came from. Everyone was welcomed under the banner of UNF for the cause of an independent Ukrainian state. The primary reason was the independence of a sovereign, united Ukrainian state.

As Dr. Luciuk reflected on these principles, he acknowledged the significance of the UNF and its early members. Dr. Luciuk spoke of his mentors and such critical figures as Paul Yuzyk, Stephan Pawluk, John Gregorovich and Ihor Bardyn. These people have helped him adopt the core principles of the UNF. To illustrate the enduring nature of these principles, Dr. Luciuk quoted Paul Yuzyk, who was the first president of the Ukrainian National Youth Federation (1934–35). Senator Yuzyk gave an address in February 1935 about the role of youth. Dr. Luciuk read a short paragraph from that address. It spoke about attracting and educating youth who may not yet understand their responsibility or feel ashamed to be known as Ukrainians. Yuzyk’s message was about eradicating feelings of inferiority and replacing them with the grand ideal of national freedom, developing undaunted characters in the youth, teaching them to place the interests of the Ukrainian nation above their own and to rely on their resources. This way, they would be ready to serve their old country and new native land.

Dr. Luciuk stressed that nothing has changed from 1935 to 2024 regarding this call to action. He expressed his eternal gratitude to the stalwarts of the UNF who mentored, educated, and advised him. Dr. Luciuk concluded his speech by emphasizing the importance of continuing the struggle for truth and justice, a cause that has shaped his life’s work.

The audience showed great interest in Dr. Luciuk’s speech, responding emotionally and thanking him with applause.

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