To: Editor of the New Pathway
Re: Community Should Stay United, 28 August 2014 (Issue 26).
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress truly is the voice that speaks for all Ukrainians, especially in these critically important times for Ukraine and its people whose struggle for independence we are all called upon to support.
As someone who did his Master's degree on the history of the UCC and his doctorate on Ukrainian Canadian identity, I would like to say that some of the tensions within our community, as noted in the above New Pathway article, are far from unique in Ukrainian Canadian history. It really comes down to how we address them so as to incorporate them as positive contributions integral to the ongoing development of our community organizational dynamic.
The very existence of such tensions could point to the need for things like greater consultation between organizational levels so that everyone feels that their opinion not only is heard but also “counts.” But perhaps that is not the problem at all. Perhaps we presently don't know what the problem is. We only know that there is one and that simple finger-shaking won't work, as it invariably never does, by way of a solution.
For example, there can be no doubt, in principle, that the UCC's call to welcome Russian-speaking Ukrainian Canadians into our community fold is a positive thing. But it is not without its issues. I would venture to conclude that, with the military and propaganda war in eastern Ukraine, many Ukrainian Canadians would regard Russian-speaking persons among them with not a little suspicion. If they are truly in support of Ukraine, they would say, then why don't they make the effort to Ukrainianize, both within the community and the churches?
And If the impression is somehow given, and I don't know that it has been, that our community should accommodate them culturally and linguistically, then given the aversion to everything Russian that Ukrainian Canadians would have, such a stance is simply going to cause problems. The simple appeal to “unity” isn't going to work either since it too can be looked upon with suspicion by Ukrainian Canadians who might see in such a call an effort to compromise what is “correct.” And Ukrainians, for better or for worse, always do what is the correct thing to do – in Ukraine and in the Diaspora. Let's remember that without that characteristically Ukrainian sense of commitment to the truth, as we see it, we wouldn't have had the Euromaidan and the ensuing struggle for a new, independent Ukraine.
Also, the UCC should be commended for its non-partisan approach in its dealings with Canadian government at all levels. At the same time, we all should realize that government aid to Ukraine via the UCC's involvement comes at a political price in the hope that this aid translates into real support for the governing party at the polls come next election-time. That's the way of the world and we shouldn't try to pretend that we can somehow be “politically objective” in the face of that support.
Canada, great country that it is, even gives funds to cultural organizations so that they may then use those funds to tell Canada how badly it treated their ancestors and otherwise be critical of it (i.e. internment plaques). So support, such as we see Canada giving to Ukraine, comes within the context of “you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours.”
The current tensions, that were significant enough to have formed the basis of an extensive article, suggest that perhaps the UCC, and not only the offending parties, needs to look introspectively to see if it needs to do things a little differently so as to avoid them in future. There is no doubt that the UCC can and will address any such issues to remain as the dynamic and forward-looking organization that it is.
Alexander Roman, PhD
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