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UNF experiences significant new developments. Key highlights of the 41st Triennial Convention

Jun 21, 2024 | Ukrainian National Federation, Featured

UNYF members with the UNYF flag at the 41st National UNF Convention

Marco Levytsky, Editorial Writer.

June 7-9 the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada (UNF) held a most successful 41st Triennial Convention in Toronto. 74 delegates from 14 branches across Canada participated. What was remarkable was that the convention proceeded in a most efficient manner sticking very closely to the timeline – even finishing some of the items on the order paper ahead of schedule. I have attended many Ukrainian Canadian national conventions as both delegate and journalist, and I can honestly say that I have never seen one proceed as smoothly as this one. The credit for this is due to Edmonton UNF President Ivan Lypovyk who chaired the convention in a most efficient, no-nonsense and punctual manner. Credit is also due to the organizers of the convention – Olya Grod and Zorianna Wankiewicz, who were assisted by Adriana Pecio and Triennial Planning Committee Chair Andrij Prokopchuk as well as Andrii Lytvynets who so diligently prepared the nomination slate for the new Executive and Board of Directors after seeking input from all branches.

As one of the oldest national Ukrainian Canadian organizations UNF has also been the one that’s most open to newcomers, which makes it the most inclusive and diverse. Among its members are those who trace their ancestry to the first wave of Ukrainian immigrants to Canada dating back to the 1890s, right down to some of the most recent refugees from Russia’s genocidal war against Ukraine. But they are all united in a common cause, shared democratic values and objectives, which are:

• To unite all Ukrainian Canadians, regardless of their political, religious or other beliefs;
• To promote good Canadian citizenship;
• To strengthen and expand the place of the Ukrainian community in Canadian society;
• To serve the Ukrainian Canadian community in Canada by representing its common interests, protecting its reputation; and to be the wellspring out of which the best of our rich cultural heritage will flow into Canada;
• To inform fellow Canadians about current Ukraine news as well as promote accurate information about Ukraine by sharing our Ukrainian culture and history;
• To constructively support the independence of Ukraine.

As a result, the UNF and its Affiliate Organizations at this Triennial Convention were able to celebrate several significant achievements that were attained just in the last three years since the last one.

UNF now reaches coast to coast

Three new Branches were welcomed at this Convention – Barrie-Simcoe County, Avalon on the Atlantic and Vancouver on the Pacific, making the UNF an organization that truly reaches coast-to-coast. Barrie, located 100 kilometres north of Toronto, was started up in April 2023 and was represented at the Convention by Vice President Roman Plawiuk. In that short period of time, it has carried out an impressive agenda. Branch activities listed in its report include a Ukrainian Heritage Language School, the Boyky Barrie Folkloric Youth Ensemble, Ukrainian Cultural Art Activity Classes, a new Ukrainian Cultural Dance Group, a Commemoration of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, Taras Shevchenko Tribute, Vyshyvanka Day, Ukrainian Independence Day and a Holodomor Commemoration.

Vancouver, led by Svyatoslav Lashkevych, is the newest Branch, reopened just on May 17, 2024 – three weeks before the Convention. Established by recent immigrants from Ukraine, it seeks to reach out to and cooperate with other Ukrainian organizations in the region. Members intend to focus on cultural events and projects that will raise awareness of Ukrainian culture and history.
Avalon, which covers the peninsula that includes Newfoundland-Labrador’s (NL) capital St. John’s and surrounding communities, was incorporated in May 2023. Led by Chair Bruce Lilley, it consists almost entirely of newcomer Ukrainians who drive the cultural and community activities and programming, while integrating and collaborating with Newfoundlanders. The Ukrainian community in NL is unique. As of the 2021 Census there were only 1,505 Canadians of Ukrainian origin in the province. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion around 4,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived – outnumbering the existing residents by almost 3-1. The provincial government has been the most pro-active of all in Canada when it comes to welcoming displaced Ukrainians, having organized four airlifts under its Ukrainian Family Support Desk initiative.

The Revival of UNYF

Founded in Saskatoon on July 27, 1934, the Ukrainian National Youth Federation (UNYF) quickly spread throughout the country, due to the dedication and efforts of its first President, and future Senator, Paul Yuzyk. But membership declined in recent decades leaving only the Toronto West Branch to carry the torch. But since the last Triennial three new branches have been created – Edmonton, Ottawa-Gatineau and Regina. An interim national executive was established on September 20, 2023, composed of Yuri Grytsevytch – President, Inna Ivchenko -Vice President, Anya Shyian – Secretary and Ruslan Matthews – Treasurer. With 26 members Edmonton is by far the largest branch constituting almost half the national total. It is active in organizing frequent rallies to raise awareness in the local community, and to raise funds for purchasing drones and supplies for Ukraine. The Ottawa branch has hosted fundraiser zabava nights, donated medical supplies, and participated in rallies for Ukraine. With a focus on cultural community building, UNYF Toronto-West has hosted many game nights and pysanka workshops. In the spirit of cultural preservation and education, UNYF Regina has focused on creating events that display youth-led Ukrainian dances, songs, traditions, and history through theatre.

Expansion of Heritage Language Schools

Due to the arrival of Ukrainian families to Canada with the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the number of those interested in attending UNF-run Heritage Language Schools, (Ridni shkoly) has grown significantly. Such schools have been started in: Barrie (Ont.at the UNF Barrie branch – 20 students in the 2023-2024 academic year; Avalon (NL) – 50 students at the UNF branch; Windsor (Ont.) – with the support of the Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board and the UNF Ukrainian School Initiatives Committee: 50 students in the 2023-2024 academic year. The UNF Ukrainian School Initiatives Committee supported the start of the Ukrainian program and provided ongoing support with educational and methodological materials.

The challenges of the future

Of course, these points only cover a small portion of the work carried out by the UNF but they best exemplify the developments that have contributed to its growth since the last Triennial Convention and point to a bright future ahead.

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the UNF we look back at a proud history and look forward to a challenging future.

“This unique Triennial is a kick-off to preparations for our Centennial Celebrations in 2032 in order to honour predecessors who not only founded UNF but also helped build Canada,” said newly re-elected UNF President Jurij Klufas.

“It is also a rallying cry for each and every one of us to continue reaching out in the most welcoming way to the newcomers arriving here in Canada from Ukraine,” he added.

Depending upon how many of the 280,000 current evacuees decide to seek permanent residency in Canada, we may very well face the largest wave of Ukrainian immigration in Canadian history.

As it is, that number exceeds the combined total of the first three waves of Ukrainian immigration to Canada.

At the same time, we must remember that Ukraine is embroiled in the third year of a genocidal war by a rapacious invader who wants to wipe our mother country off the face of the earth. We must work together with other organizations that fall under the umbrella of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, and the Ukrainian World Congress to mobilize national and global support for Ukraine.

What is at stake is not just the survival of Ukraine itself, but also the survival of the democratic world.

Slava Ukrayini!

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