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Remembrances of things past

Apr 10, 2024 | Featured, The View From Here - Walter Kish

It struck me this past week that I have been writing this weekly column for some twenty-four years now, starting back in the year 2000 when I was also the Chairman of the Board of this newspaper and had just completed a radical makeover of the paper which had been publishing since the early 1930s. This makeover significantly modernized the appearance of the paper, bringing with it more graphics, more diversity in content, and most importantly, made it bilingual (English and Ukrainian) in recognition of the fact that the majority of the Ukrainian population in Canada was now second, third and fourth generation Canadian born. As such, most of them lacked the fluency to be able to read the newspaper which was still published in Ukrainian.

To be accurate, I should mention that my involvement with The New Pathway (Novyi Shliakh) goes back yet another twenty-five years or so, when in the mid 1970s, I was instrumental in arm-twisting the publishers to include a monthly English section titled New Perspectives that catered to the younger generation of Ukrainian Canadians. At that time, I had finished a term as the national President of the UNYF (Ukrainian National Youth Federation), which was part of the UNF system, and I felt that there was a dire need for a regular publication that would talk to Ukrainian teenagers as well as young adults, who aside from their lack of literacy in the Ukrainian language, also had little interest in the mostly political homilies which formed the majority of the paper’s content.

So, each month, I would also write an “editorial”, which as the years went by, started earning me the disapproval of the “Praesidium” of the UNF, since I began to increasingly take them to task for not devoting enough of their time, priority and attention to investing in things that were more relevant and of interest to Ukrainian youth brought up within Canadian society, and imbued with more liberal Canadian values. This, needless to say, resulted in a clash with the mentality and values of the UNF establishment who had been brought up amid the liberation struggles against the Communists and the trauma of a World War, which coloured their view on what the UNF should be doing as an organization. It would be safe to say that there were serious philosophical difference between me and the elite that ran the UNF. The end result was that I was made to feel less than welcome, and left both the paper and the organization. Although the English section continued to be published for a short time after my departure, it soon ceased, and The New Pathway reverted back to its original Ukrainian-only format.

For the next couple of decades, the UNF and its affiliate organizations experienced a slow but steady decline, and The New Pathway followed suit as the older generation of Ukrainian subscribers that had come to Canada died away. It was not until the late 1990s that a new younger generation of leadership took over the reins of the organization and started a process towards revitalizing the organization and making it more relevant to Canadian-born Ukrainians.

As part of that process, I was asked to “return to the fold” so to speak and take on the challenge of revitalizing The New Pathway, which was the journalistic voice of the organization. This I did in conjunction with a number of similarly minded individuals that were still committed to keeping both the organization and its newspaper alive and relevant. I am glad to say that this initiative proved successful. The UNF is not only alive but vibrant and has twelve strong branches across Canada. The New Pathway (Noviy Shliakh) also experienced a resurgence in subscribership, which was aided considerably when it subsequently merged with the independent Ukrainian newspaper Ukrainian News published out of Edmonton.

All this is but a prologue to the real reason I am writing this, namely that I will shortly be retiring from writing this weekly column. I am now into my seventies, and becoming increasingly aware of the fact that I am now part of the “older generation”, and that it is probably time for some new blood, with new ideas and new perspectives to take over the “torch” and continue what I started over 50 years ago. I am reminded of how back then, I was critical of the “older generation” and how they were a barrier against new ideas and resistant to change. As such, I do not want to be seen as repeating that history, so am looking at taking my leave before I too become an anachronism. It has been a truly enriching experience for me, and I will be leaving with no small measure of regret, but it it time to be moving on.

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