Community News

Monday, November 24, 2008

CIDA to provide 5.4 million for Improving Civil Services in Ukraine

November 24, 2008

Kyiv, Ukraine - November 24, 2008 - The Ukrainian Canadian Congress welcomes the news that the Minister of International Cooperation, The Honourable Beverly J. Oda, is continuing to support the on-going reform of Ukraine's civil service with a technical assistance program to promote effective human resources management procedures.

Announcing this initiative during his visit to Ukraine, The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism stated "Canada is proud to support this initiative and we look forward to working with the Government of Ukraine as it strengthens its governance infrastructure."

"The development of a professional, accountable, and impartial government administration is critical to Ukraine's further evolution along the path toward a fully-functioning democratic society," stated Paul Grod, UCC National President who was present at the announcement.

"The Canadian civil service is renowned world-wide for being objective and proficient, and for its high ethical standards," stated Jars Balan, Chair, UCC Canada Ukraine Committee. "This is very practical assistance that will pay many dividends in the years to come."

The Canadian International Development Agency will provide $5.4 million for the Canadian Bureau for International Education to work with the Main Department of Civil Service of Ukraine to develop tools that will promote a strong civil service and develop and integrate consistent and effective human resources management processes and procedures.

More information about the announcement and the program is available at


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Friday, November 21, 2008

City commemorates the 'Holodomor' Events to mark 75th anniversary

Ukrainian genocide a taboo topic until recently

By: Carol Sanders, Winnipeg Free Press

Updated: November 14 at 02:50 AM CST

It was 75 years ago and thousands of miles away but the genocide that wiped out millions in Ukraine is being remembered at events in Winnipeg all this week.

Young people are trying to get a feel for it with an 18-hour fast Friday at the University of Winnipeg. Yet a generation ago, little was known about the "Holodomor" that killed as many as 10 million Ukrainians in 1932 and 1933.

"You didn't hear a word about it," said Oksana Bondarchuk, who is helping to organize Friday's fast at the U of W. The Holodomor -- "holod" means hunger, starvation, famine, and "moryty" means to induce suffering, to kill -- was an act of genocide orchestrated by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. Privately-owned farms were taken over and the state set up collectives. Those who rebelled were labelled enemies of the state and executed or sent to Siberian forced-labour camps, called gulags. Farmers lost their land and were starved, while the grain produced on the collectives was exported to finance the regime.

Until recently, many Ukrainians who survived the genocide didn't speak of that time, said Bondarchuk.

"A good friend of mine's mother who lived through it wouldn't talk about it."

Then there were those who denied the genocide ever happened, and those who argued that seven million, not 10 million, perished, she said.

"The point is, people starved. And with the reign of terror with Stalin, people feared talking -- they didn't want any repercussions," including those who immigrated to Canada.

"Even though we had freedom here, they had family there," she said.

Not until Ukraine achieved its independence in 1991 did many of the survivors speak out, she said.

"A lot of them, if they were born in 1928-29, are now 80 years old," she said. "Now it's coming out more and more."

A professor at the University of Manitoba has dug up some disturbing background music to the genocide.

"We focus on the horrors (of the Holodomor) but we don't quite see the horrors of the propaganda and the spin and what the official government line was," said Prof. Denis Hlynka.

Soviet propaganda seeped into the music of two famous Russian composers of the day -- Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev, he said.

"Shostakovich was commissioned to compose a ballet that was called The Bright Stream about life on the collective farm," said Hlynka, who has Ukrainian roots.

"In the ballet, there was no famine. There was a celebration of life on the farm in 1934 -- in the shadow of the Holodomor," Hlynka said.

"The ballet was light and cheerful with waltzes, polkas and gallops and fun and entertaining -- just the opposite of what was going on," he said.

"In the finale of the ballet, giant vegetables appeared on stage... Juxtapose that with the horrors of famine."

In 1937, Prokofiev composed songs such as Golden Ukraine and October Flame with lyrics glorifying abundant harvests and the greatness of the Stalin years -- "all this in sharp contrast to the famine," said the professor.

"These days, we don't know what composers really thought. They did what they were asked to do."

Monday, November 10, 2008

National Holodomor Awareness Week November 16th - 23rd, 2008

On the 75th anniversary of the famine genocide in Ukraine 1932-33

Seventy five years have passed since famine raged through Ukraine eradicating the lives of millions of children, women and men from one of the world's most bountiful lands.

Holodomor – one of the most heinous crimes in the history of mankind, was the result of a deliberate political strategy masterminded by Stalin and his totalitarian communist regime. By sheer magnitude, losses during the Holodomor surpassed those of the Ukrainian nation during the Second World War. Ukrainians worldwide continue to suffer the consequences of this merciless act.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress is launching the first National Holodomor Awareness Week on November 16-23. The goal is to annually unite the Ukrainian community and all Canadians in remembering the victims and raising awareness of this tragedy.
As a community in Canada we have been successful in drawing the attention of Canadians to this often forgotten genocide.

Among the successes: The International Remembrance Flame successfully toured 17 Canadian cities in the spring. In May, Canada was one of the first western nations to recognize the Holodomor as an act of genocide. Alberta's Ministry of Education included the Holodomor in its high school curriculum. The Toronto School Board will include the Holodomor in its 2009 curriculum and the fourth Friday of every November will be marked in the schools as Holodomor Memorial Day.

There is, however, a great deal of work still to be done. We must continue working with our provincial ministries of education and local school boards to ensure that our students in Canada learn about the Holodomor. We have a moral obligation to ensure that the personal stories of our survivors are documented and preserved for future generations. Internationally, the United Nations must recognize the Holodomor as an act of genocide.

Let us remember together:

• On Saturday, November 22, in solidarity with Ukraine, honour the memory of the victims with a moment of silence at 9:00 a.m. and light a candle of remembrance in your home.
• On Sunday, November 23 participate in memorial services which will take place in your local churches
• Participate in events organized by your local community

This is the bare minimum which we, as Ukrainians should do not only for the millions of victims, but more importantly, for our descendants who must always remember the Holodomor and heighten the international community's sensitivity to the reoccurrence of similar tragedies.

Let's reveal the truth about the Holodomor to the world!

Ukraine remembers – the world acknowledges!

Courtesy of Ukrainian Canadian Congress

Friday, November 7, 2008

STORYTIME AT OSEREDOK! Great Stories! Fun Activities!

UKRAINIAN FOLK TALES for children 6 - 8 years old at Oseredok Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Centre

Address: 184 Alexander Ave. East, Winnipeg

Three sessions: IN UKRAINIAN - Wednesdays - July 23, August 6, and August 20 IN ENGLISH - Thursdays - July 24, August 7, and August 21 All sessions from 10am to noon.

Cost of registration: $5.00 per session ($4.00 for members)


Click here to download PDF

As Ukraine Staggers, Its Leaders Quarrel

A sign last week in Kiev, Ukraine, showing that one United States dollar could be exchanged for 5.85 Ukrainian hryvnia. The hryvnia hit a low point that week.

Published: November 3, 2008

KIEV, Ukraine — Four years ago this month, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of this capital city to take back an election they saw as stolen. That outpouring, called the Orange Revolution, brought fresh hopes for freedoms and for a release from the country’s Soviet past that few other former republics had ever experienced.

Yulia V. Tymoshenko, the prime minister of Ukraine, and Viktor A. Yushchenko, the president. Former allies, they are locked in a power struggle that has paralyzed the state as it struggles to cope with a global financial crisis that threatens its stability.

The early promise of those days frayed in recent years, but economically times were good, and the country always seemed to manage.

But now, confronted by the global financial crisis, the new Ukraine is facing the single biggest test of its stability, and its leaders, by most accounts, seem to be close to failing.

Yulia V. Tymoshenko, the prime minister, and Viktor A. Yushchenko, the president, onetime political allies, are now locked in a bitter power struggle that has paralyzed the state, leaving it without a leader at precisely the time it most needs one.

Even as the West bends to help it, with the International Monetary Fund pledging an emergency $16.5 billion loan last month, it barely pulled itself together to meet the conditions for the money. Mr. Yushchenko, intent on getting rid of Ms. Tymoshenko, is trying to force early elections for December. To make sure the elections come off, his party spent most of last week trying to slip a campaign finance clause into the legislation that was required for the loan.

On Monday he relented and signed the crisis legislation into law without the clause. But his administration continued to insist that the elections proceed.

“It is a crime to conduct elections in this situation,” said Yulia Mostova, a prominent writer at Dzerkalo Tyzhnya, a weekly newspaper published in Kiev. “The chain of authority in Ukraine is broken. It’s at war with itself.”

Ukraine’s paralysis raises difficult questions for the West. It is a country of 46 million in a strategic spot between European Union countries and Russia, and its stability is crucial to the region.

Mr. Yushchenko has taken a combative approach toward Russia, which demonstrated a new willingness to settle disputes by force in Georgia this summer. He has pushed for Ukraine to join NATO, an agenda not particularly popular among Ukrainians, 17 percent of whom are ethnic Russians. And he has vowed not to renew a contract that allows Russia’s Black Sea fleet to dock in a Ukrainian port. On Saturday, a ban on Russian cable television programming took effect.

For Ukrainians, the fears are more about their immediate future. At one point last week, their currency hit its lowest point since it was introduced in 1996, and securities that insure Ukrainian government debt are trading at near-default levels. But perhaps their greatest disappointment is over their leaders, whose energies are focused not on ways to lift the country out of crisis, but instead on what is widely seen as a selfish struggle over power.

“People feel let down to the point of tears,” Ms. Mostova said. “Many feel they’ve been used. Ukraine had a chance for a qualitative, civilized jump forward, but it wasn’t taken.”

Ukraine’s economy is particularly vulnerable. About 40 percent of its foreign currency earnings come from the sale of industrial metals, which have plunged in price in recent weeks. And while its government has borrowed responsibly, its banks have not, having taken billions of dollars in foreign currency loans. With global credit markets drying up, those loans will be difficult to refinance. Ukraine’s central bank has already had to bail out one, Prominvestbank, the country’s sixth largest.

Despite the turmoil, Mr. Yushchenko’s main focus in recent weeks has been on attacking Ms. Tymoshenko. He has issued presidential decrees blocking the majority of her decisions since she became prime minister for the second time in December. When a judge in Kiev ruled that his decree to dissolve the Parliament and call elections was illegal, Mr. Yushchenko disbanded the court.

“Yushchenko thinks he is God,” said Mikhail Pogrebinsky, a political analyst at a research and polling center in Kiev, pointing to Mr. Yushchenko’s visit last week to Istanbul, where he gave Patriarch Bartholomew I of the Eastern Orthodox Church a specially minted coin with his image on it, while at home his country’s currency plummeted.

Ms. Tymoshenko is also capable of political magic tricks. Last year she colluded with Mr. Yushchenko, withdrawing all her deputies from Parliament to give him legal justification for dissolving it and calling new elections.

Neither has ever liked the other. Ms. Tymoshenko, a former gas industry executive whose head is wreathed in a signature blond plait, is Ukraine’s political celebrity.

Mr. Yushchenko, a former banker whose own popularity has plunged, has lashed out. There are even hints of the political fight in Mr. Yushchenko’s infamous poisoning episode, which left his face pockmarked and ravaged in 2004: His political opponents have been called in for questioning in the case.

Ms. Tymoshenko came from Ukraine’s business world, where quick wits and bare knuckles made fortunes in the 1990s. But her aim appeared to be less money than power, and she later joined the government. She and Mr. Yushchenko led the revolution in 2004 with the motto, “bandits to prisons,” but they soon grew beholden to yet another set of wealthy men.

Oleg O. Zarubinsky, a member of Parliament from an opposition party, put it bluntly: “Our political parties aren’t funded by membership fees.”

Oleksandr S. Donii, a Ukrainian lawmaker who led a popular student movement against the Soviet regime in 1990, compared Ukraine’s first-generation businessmen to divers dizzy with the bends. “The Ukrainian business elite was born too quickly,” he said, adding that “there was no sense of social responsibility.”

The country’s current predicament is not entirely the fault of its leaders. It runs much deeper, into the roots of Ukrainian society. Communism pitted citizens against one another, leaving people distrustful and incapable of the collective action that holds governments accountable in developed countries.

“We trust our brother, son, father, mother and godfather, but no one else,” said Ms. Mostova, the writer. “That’s our problem.”

That is why the Orange Revolution was so important: It seemed to break that pattern.
“People found their backbones,” Ms. Mostova said. “They cried in front of strangers.”

But after the protests ended, there was little follow-up. The crowd came together and then broke apart.

Still, the fact that it happened at all was a big step forward for Ukraine, which has been independent for only 17 years, and is now going through a period that Mr. Pogrebinsky compares to the tumultuous late 18th century in the United States, during the ratification of the Constitution.

The economic crisis, for all its pain, may also be a catalyst. Financial turmoil has swept out governments in Indonesia, Turkey and Russia in recent history, and even, many argue, the Soviet Union. Today’s Ukraine may be similarly susceptible.

Ms. Tymoshenko seems to realize this. In a television talk show about the economic crisis on Friday night, she extended a hand to Mr. Yushchenko. “Let’s for once not get into these political dogfights and come together as a national team with a united program, like the president said,” she declared. “Be a team in the face of this big global challenge.”

Mr. Yushchenko did not return the favor. He accused Ms. Tymoshenko’s government of accumulating debts from energy purchases “like fleas on a dog,” and of allowing inflation to rise.

“Who did it?” he railed. “The world crisis? Lies! The crisis is sitting right here.”

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