Friday, December 10, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Re the ROM event

My thanks to all the folks in Toronto -- the Ukrainian Heritage Day at the ROM on Sunday was wonderful. Full house, standing room only, plus sitting room in front for the many kids. The concert was great. Prolisok and the Bandurist Capella were super. Many dance groups, very nice dancing, but I wish the directors of various dance groups would not have the females in the ensemble squeal and yelp and scream out. Very offensive, not traditional, not elegant, just totally not right. Some dance group in Ukraine started doing this in the last few years, and many ensembles in North America think this is "nice" or traditional! Awful. Does not belong, detracts from the performance, and is not at all Ukrainian. How do we get the message out to stop this?

End of rant.

Back to the events at the ROM. Museum was packed from Sunday morning. Young people in Ukrainian embroidered shirts volunteering at the desk, in the kids' activity centre, and just all over. My lecture on origins of Ukrainian Christmas was in the theatre after the concert, and I was pleased that so many attended. And relieved at the positive response! There was not that much time for discussion, because just down the street at Koerner Hall at 4 P.M., the Ukrainian Art Song project gala concert was beginning.

I was so delighted that I could attend. Amazing. For anyone interested in beautiful music, check out the website.

My thanks to my hosts in Toronto, and to all my friends whom I was able to meet -- some from long ago, even!

Have lectures, will travel!

War, women, and

Some food for thought -- especially in the letter to the editor in response to the article.

Esp. on this anniversary of John Lennon's death. His wishful thinking about peace was one thing, but somehow the fact that someone is an aggressor did not enter the picture. Giving peace a chance only works if EVERYONE is peaceful.

Women rule

Dr. W. Gifford-Jones again had an excellent article in your paper, Maybe it's time to let women rule world, on Dec. 3. As George McGovern, during his 1972 presidential campaign, put it, "I'm sick and tired of old men dreaming up wars in which young men do the dying."

When Dan Rather, the former CBS news anchorman, was on a hospital ship off the coast of Vietnam during the Vietnam War, he went into the hold of the ship and heard only one word from the lips of those wounded young soldiers, some with multiple amputations.

What was the word? It was "mother." As Rather put it, "None called for father, or for doctor or nurse. Only mother." Mothers the world over, are you listening?

Stan Penner


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ukrainian Christmas at the ROM - join me!

Please join me at the ROM -- Royal Ontario Museum -- Ukrainian Heritage Day -- Christmas celebrations on Dec. 5, 2010

I will be speaking at 2:30 P.M. about the meaning behind the special Ukrainian Christmas traditions

There will also be performances -- choirs and dancers
Rizdvo: A Christmas Celebration
Sunday, December 5
10 am to 4 pm

Bring the whole family for a fun filled day of Ukrainian heritage celebration!


· Special Lecture: Join us at 2:30 pm for a thought provoking lecture on Ukrainian traditions by Orysia Tracz, Ukrainian-Canadian Folk Art Scholar


Sunday, November 7, 2010

For Remembrance Day -- Remember


Orysia Paszczak Tracz

In addition to those war dead whose memory we honour on Remembrance Day, I wish to remember those whom very few in Canada will think of -- not the soldiers, but the ordinary people, the innocent victims of war. I was born right after the war, but my family and I still bear the scars.
On this day

- Remember those who died in the flames of their own homes, bombed by one side or the other.

- Remember those who were left hanging for days on Gestapo gallows in so many Ukrainian villages, as a reminder to others not to oppose foreign authority.

- Remember those who were herded into cattle cars from village and city markets, into forced labour, who died in German factories and railroads from Allied bombs.

- Remember those who were forced into the German army, to die in internment camps from starvation and typhoid without fighting for or against anyone.

- Remember the concentration camp inmates, not only the Jews, but the clergy, the Ukrainians, Poles, Balts, Gypsies, and the homosexuals.

- Remember those who were executed on the spot for harboring or even feeding Jews.

- Remember the political prisoners who were executed in their cells or left for dead by the retreating Soviet army.

- Remember the underground and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, who fought both the Nazis and the Soviets, with no aid from anyone else.

- Remember the refugees who died fleeing their homes, who were killed as they rode or walked the roads west -- shot down by low-flying Soviet planes who could see whom they were shooting.

- Remember those who died after being forcibly repatriated from the Displaced Persons camps to the Soviet Union -- and those who committed suicide rather than return.

- Remember those who massively deserted the Red Army, to fight for independence, who were sent to dig ditches instead, only to die in them.

- Remember the orphans, and the helpless elderly.

- Remember the babies, who died of hunger and lack of medical care. There were no doctors for the untermenschen, the "subhuman" Slavs.

- Remember the survivors, some of whom are the living dead, whose minds and emotions have departed to another time and place because of what they lived through then.

- Remember the millions -- victims of war, conquest, hunger -- who lie in unmarked graves throughout Eastern Europe, whom the West has forgotten or chooses to ignore.

- Remember, then dare look me in the eye and tell me about war crimes, collaboration, and atrocities.

- Remember, and thank God the war was not fought on North American soil.
© 1999 Orysia Tracz, Winnipeg.

I wrote this at the height of the Dechene Commission hearings in Canada --
Sol Littman, self-proclaimed Nazi hunter, had lied to the media and the Government by stating that Mengele had gotten into Canada at one point. He then proceeded to defame the Ukrainian and other Eastern European communities by practically saying there were Nazis under every bed and in every basement of these communities. Some people wanted to believe this.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Seifert -- not a Ukrainian

Seifert back in the news -- he died yesterday. Again, AP called him "Ukrainian-born." Some other news services did not mention this at all.

this is re my older post:

Friday, February 15, 2008

What a difference a place of birth makes

Friday, November 5, 2010


As we approach Remembrance Day, the controversy about red vs white poppies is surfacing again.
We all know, or should, the significance of the red poppy, worn on Remembrance Day:
The white poppy movement, in the news, is “white poppies for a culture of peace: the White Poppy symbolises the belief that there are better ways to resolve conflicts than killing strangers.” Another source says “peace committee members say their white version stands for non-violent conflict resolution.” A writer in The Gateway, the Univ. of Alberta newspaper (Nov. 7, 2010), declares that White poppy honours dead without glamourizing war. “On the contrary, with these Remembrance Day distortions removed, war can be seen as it is: a horrifying mess of propaganda, deceit, and suffering. Millions of people never sacrificed their lives, but rather had their lives torn from them while they kicked and screamed in vain. The righteous sentiment of Remembrance Day doesn’t mix well with the realities of war.”
Is there anyone other than Halliburton & co. who is in favour of war?! Yes, there are some wars that some countries have no right participating in, but the major wars have an aggressor and a defender. Invaders need to be stopped, people and lands must be defended. If you just raise the white flag and give up your country to the aggressor, and “give peace a chance,” you and your land are toast.
The trouble is, in the aggressor countries, usually there is no way in hell a peace movement or any opposition at all would be permitted. In the past, the peace movement was funded by that paragon of virtue, the Soviet Union. Yeah, it sure were peaceful and non-aggressive. Those for true peace were naive in being caught up in this charade.
Stopping an unjust war, if your country is the aggressor, can be successful, as the peace movement contributed to in the 1960/70s. But this is not equivalent to what our soldiers did in the two wars and subsequent wars of aggression. There was no chance for "non-violent conflict resolution." Chamberlain thought he had it, right? Then there was the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, eh?
To honour those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, we wear a red poppy. We remember them. They defended. They wanted peace. The other side was the one that did not. Lest we forget.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Percy's Song

This is the full story of this search for a song. A condensed version will be appearing in The Ukrainian Weekly soon.
Orysia Paszczak Tracz

Actually, I should call this article “Percy’s Mother’s Song” – but that’s too convoluted.

With apologies to Helene Hanff and her 84, Charing Cross Road, this story can best be told by the emails exchanged. As I’ve said so many times before, you couldn’t make these things up if you tried!
My family and friends are blasé, and even joke and roll their eyes, about the phrase “Orysia vs’o znaye” [Orysia knows everything], said when so very often people from all over contact me about things Ukrainian, since “Orysia will know.” Hah! If they only knew how much she doesn’t know! But still, they do call and write, and some mysteries get solved.
So the email from Andrij Makukh, a Senior Manuscript Editor of the Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine at CIUS Press in Toronto, was just another query, an obscure, truly nebulous one. The emails are included here with permission of the authors. “I was wondering whether you (basically off the top of your head or with the aid of a book right beside you rather than any great searching) might have any idea of the song to which this fellow is alluding? It may be, forgive the wording, something akin to searching for a needle in a haystack, but we do try to answer the queries that come our way.” Percy Black wrote: “I'm looking for an old Ukrainian folk melody that may deal with gathering in the harvest. The first word may begin with what sounds to me as "Tvee-oo." I'm especially interested in the music score. Can you help?”

Orysia to Andrij
Apr 19
Pryvit Andriyu
Nu, I'm guessing he's hearing “siyu” (sowing) ? There are one or two songs like that. Should I reply directly to him? To get more details.
Andrij to Orysia
Apr 19
It might be easiest if you replied to him directly (adding that the query was forwarded to you) and cc:-ed me on this (if you don't mind).
Greetings, Percy,
Your query to EU about the Ukrainian song made its way to me. Question -- any more details? There are around fifty million Ukrainian songs, give or take a few..... If this is a ritual harvest song, I'm guessing it may begin "siyu" (phonetically "seeyou") -- i.e., I am sowing. Well, chronologically not a harvest song, but maybe it ends up with gathering what was sown?
But -- any hints? Where did you hear it? How? We'll find it yet!
Wow, Orysia, you may have hit on the very song that was one of my late mother's favorites. She lovingly remembered the song from her childhood in the early 1900's, and she sang it often so that it became implanted in my musical memory. I can easily call it to mind and it easily translates into my singing voice.
My daughter, Deborah, an accomplished musician, would like to play the melody on her cello at the upcoming annual Nurse's Day event, May 6, at the Central Vermont Medical Center (Berlin, Vermont) where my mother, Rose Black, bequeathed an annual award for nursing excellence.
What we're especially hoping is that you may be able to refer us to the notes for the song so that Debbie could practice the piece before the big event.
I wish I could musically convey the song to you. Your reaching back to me so responsibly is itself a melody.
Percy Black
Apr 21
Hi, Percy
We have not found the song yet! "Siyu" can be the first word of many songs! Will check one massive reference volume today. You'll have to sing the melody to me -- I may recognize it (she said optimistically...). We can arrange a time for you to call me.
Hello again, Orysia,
If you can tolerate my attempt to sing one of my mother's favorite melodies, or perhaps her most favorite, I'm ready to sing on the telephone.
So please email me your phone number. If we can arrange a connection today (Sunday), my phone cost will be lower than on week days.
Thank you, Orysia
Percy Black
Apr 25
Hi, Percy
How about betw. 9-10 a.m. your time (you're in the east, right?) I'm on Central -- right now it's 7:23 here. Soon -- no guarantees, but maybe?
Percy calls. We have a great conversation acquainting ourselves. Again, I caution him that this is more than searching for a needle in a haystack.
And he sings – in a strong, easy baritone. “Da-da-da-da…” The melody seems familiar, almost, almost familiar. “Again, please, Percy.” He sings again.
I’m not sure, but the closest song I can think of, and I sing to him, is “Viyut’ vitry, viyut’ buini, azh dereva hnut’sia...” [The winds are blowing, the fierce winds, so strongly the trees are bending…]
“That’s it! That’s it!!!” Percy and I are laughing and crying at the same time. That is the song! In one try! We are both so happy, and so surprisingly befuddled that we got the song on the first try.
Now I have to send Percy the notes. There is no problem, because this is such a well-known and beloved song.
It is from the opera Natalka Poltavka by Ivan Kotliarevsky, music by A. Barsytsky, later by Mykola Lysenko. A sad song about heartache -- my heart aches but the tears don't come.
The following emails from Percy are so poetic and, to me, embarrassingly effusive. But, dear reader, they are copied verbatim, and are part of this story.
Dear Orysia, about responsibility and responsivity, not to mention being on the ball--
Orysia, you seem to have it all!
Wow! Just as you assured me in your first note, despite the dark shadows that
stood in the way of your taking hold of a song with only one word, poorly
communicated, and with no melody against a backdrop of a google of Ukrainian folk melodies -- and despite these million-to-one odds, you came up with the song, the lyricist,and the composer.
Bravo, Orysia. My family and I are delighted with the breadth of your expertise. We look forward to your next surprise: the lyrics and the score. Deborah hopes to play the piece, but first she may have to transcribe the score for cello.
With gratitude,
Apr 26
Hi, Percy
Thank you so much!
Please click on the blue link below -- the notes are there
Question -- may I write about this for an article for The Ukrainian Weekly (Parsippany, NJ). I have a column in the paper (it's an award-winning paper) -- and I couldn't make up this story if I tried! If you wish, I can leave out names.
If you think this is ok, could you tell me more about your mother, about Lukashivka, when she left there and arrived in the US, where here family settled, did she always sing (I'm sure she did).
Dear Orysia,
I'm overwhelmed by the sharpness of your intuition, your guessing into what my mother may have felt in a new land, a new language, unfamiliar customs, and never to see her family again. I am perhaps even more in awe that your knowledge of the Ukrainian culture and language did not permit you to be overwhelmed by my description of what I remembered about my mother's beloved song. Bravo.
I've passed on your four emails today to my sister Edith. She emailed me immediately with her admiration of your knowledge and your responsible helpfulness. She wrote that she plans to thank you herself.
I intend to be in touch with you again when I have had a chance to digest your musical missives.
Orysia Tracz to Percy
Apr 27
Hi, Percy
Thank you for your kind words. I'm just so glad it was the right song! My mother sang all the time, so from the time I can remember I absorbed Ukrainian folk songs, and know very many - and just love them.
So you did get the notes I scanned? They're for piano, but that's better than just the plain melody I send earlier.
And -- may I write about this? With (any) conditions you require (no names, whatever). I just think this is so unbelievably interesting. Talk about serendipity!
Dear Orysia,
Earlier this evening, my daughter Deborah promised to look over the piano score
you sent me last Sunday to see whether she might be able to transcribe the score to cello. She is a very, very busy physician who is also involved in research and in multiple good works, hence the delay.
You, too, have been involved in a piece of Good Work to help my family forward one of the Good Works my mother established at two hospitals to honor the devoted efforts of nurses to further the life of others. My family, and I, in turn, feel grateful to your for your efforts that will help further our mother's good heart.
I hope to write you quite soon.
Dear Orysia,
This past May 6, a the large audience gathered at Central Vermont Hospital to celebrate Nurses Day in the United States and in particular to present Rose Black awards for Nursing Excellence to outstanding nurses. As part of the truly elegant arrangements that had been prepared by the President and Administration of the Hospital, the program called for a cello interlude by my daughter, Dr. Deborah Black.
I introduced the first of Deborah's two pieces, the Ukrainian melody, Viyut, by Kotliarevsky (lyrics) and Barsytsky (music), a song often on my mother, Rose Black's lips as she expressed longing for her early life in her village Lukashovka in the Ukraine. Although the piece is short, Debbie's cello sounds evinced the haunting meaning from the music and this brought forth empathic applause
from the audience both the for the melody and for Mom. (A large portrait of her was projected on the wall throughout the proceedings.)
Dear Orysia, my family are deeply grateful for your willingness to undertake the long shot into the "50 million Ukrainian songs" to search for the one that this stranger, Percy Black, who presented himself at your email door to ask for your expertise in Ukrainian culture. Now the song and its makers have found a new airing among a large audience in Vermont, and for the Black Family a firm connection to a beloved melody of their Mom and Grandma.
Orysia, you asked me to tell you about the circumstances of my mother's having left the Ukraine. The full story is long, bitter, tragic, so I restrict myself here to a bare outline, based on what I heard from my parents. I think it was in 1917, as the Russian army retreated before the overwhelming onslaught of the German forces, bands of Ukrainians formed under the loose leadership of former military leaders, and they fell upon villages where Jews dwelt to plunder, rape, and murder. My parents would mention with horror the names of such bands, but I do remember the names of these two: Denniken and Petlura.
My father had originated from the town of Monasterisch, was attached to the cavalry, and fought at the front as part of the Russian line to hold off the heavy German onslaught on the western front. When the command to retreat was given, he along with officers and regulars scattered across the heartland. This was 1917. Finding himself back in his hometown, and witnessing the devastation wrought by the bandits, some of whom had themselves been in the army, he was both angry and downhearted.
Finally, in 1919, having endured years antisemitic harassment even prior to World War I, my parents saw no reasonable hope for a meaningful life in their homeland. So they decided to leave. They crossed into Rumania,and found work in the tobacco fields to eke out a bare living. After two years, a refugee aid group
learned about them and helped gain entry to Canada. They arrived by ship in Halifax in late December, 1921, and thence travelled by train to Montreal.
There they found a home free of harassment, and indeed encouragement to flourish. Our family remains ever grateful to Canada. Pop died many years ago; Mom finally moved to the U.S.A. to be close to her children who had been variously invited to accept work-related positions there.
Although the above outline is longer than I thought it might be when I started to write it, and possibly more detailed than you wanted, it is but a pinhead of the complexities that my parents encountered before leaving Ukraine. I hope it is the kind of information that you asked for to write a piece for a Ukrainian newspaper in New Jersey.
Thank you, Dear Orysia, for your contribution to a meaningful Nurses Day event and for the meaningful connection you've given us to a melody close to the heart of Rose Black.
Hi, Percy
Sorry for the delay in replying (I'm trying to catch up to myself..... hopeless).
Thank you for all the information -- will marinate before I write it ... Serendipity and a Song? (possible title)
A few days after we talked, I was meeting some friends for dinner, and told the story, and sang the song -- and one of the women was thrilled -- "That's the song my baba always sang! Do you have the notes?!" Yes, I did!
Do stay well, and my best to your family
May 14
Dear Orysia,
Good to get your email of yesterday. I empathize with the breathlessness in your
"trying to catch up on myself," as you colorfully put it. And your metaphor of marinating the information I sent you before you organize a piece around it for publication—also enlivens my attention.
The story about your friend's baba who, like my mama, often sang "viyut"--might well serve as an interest-maker for your literary composition. But your own impressive musical detective work to accommodate the desire of a modern family of an emigre from a village in the Ukraine 92 years earlier -- strikes me as the star drawing card After marinating the intricacies of the story, if you should wish to share it with me, please do let me see the product.
It's interesting to learn that a nephew of yours, a PA, lives in New Hampshire. How complete the circle would be if, in visiting him, you could stop by for a visit with the family here in Vermont for whom your musical detectmanship disclosed a lost treasure of their late beloved mother and grandmother.
June 23
Hi, Percy,
A whole lotta shakin' goin' on? In Vermont, too?! Hope the earthquake was just an adventure and no harm done...
Will begin unmarinating the article soon, one of these weeks.
fyi -- some info on Denikin (not Ukrainian):
and different points of view on Petlura:
Hunczak, T. Symon Petliura and the Jews: A Reappraisal (Toronto and Munich 1985)
stay well!
Don't worry, Orysia, about not yet having formulated a write-up that you feel meets your standards. When your ideas have marinated to your satisfaction, my family and I will of course want to read it.
And now, after a more than full day's work, my head feels heavy doesn't want to stay at work anymore. But tired as it is, it wants to thank you again as it did some weeks ago for your musical detective work on behalf of my mother, done with warmth and dedication.
End of story.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Prime Minister Harper's visit to Ukraine

The Prime Minister is visiting Ukraine. You can find information on various sites.

I am amused at the various comments in The Globe and Mail and on CBC and other sites re Harper speaking about human rights and democracy in Ukraine - while, in Canada........

The CBC rocket surgeon writer first had "10 million Ukrainian Jews" dying in the Holodomor -- that was quickly corrected.

From Canadian Press:

"He will also travel to one of the world’s most heartbreaking sites at Babyn Yar, where more than 33,000 Jews were gunned down by the Nazis in a matter of days. Up to 150,000 more, including tens of thousands of Roma, were also eventually buried in the ravine."

Writers reminded the various news media who the majority of the executed were --the local Ukrainian population!

Still a problem with "Kiev" and "the" Ukraine. You would think that since 1991 the media would learn?

The apologists and Soviet sympathizers (including, God help us, the President of Ukraine) continue to spout how the Genocide by Famine, the Holodomor of 1932/33 happened in Russia and Kazakhstan also. Newest records show that it was mostly the Ukrainian villages there that were targeted. I'm still waiting for the Russians to hold memorial services for all of their perished population during the famine..... 75th anniv. passed a while ago.... still waiting. I guess it didn't happen to their own people after all, eh? More that enough documentation now, with many documents published, and Yuriy Luhovy's film:

If even a few readers learn something from Harper's visit to Ukraine, it will be for the good.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Usefull idiots?

The news and the comments on this story just show how naive, how ignorant some Canadians are about the USSR and what harm it did to millions of people and nations. The Canadian Communists were financially supported by the USSR (this came out clearly after 1991), and did great harm in defamation and disinformation against the general Ukrainian community (denial of the Holodomor, fighting its inclusion in the school programs, defamation of Ukrainians in WWII).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

About that multiculturalism around the world...

The comments here are also interesting. Over the centuries, European society was "multicultural" only in the sense that other nationalities living within a particular country knew and respected that they were living in that country, made up of Germans, French, whatever. They adapted and learned the language while still keeping their own heritage and ways. The Armenians in Ukraine, the Jews in Italy, etc., etc., maintained themselves and flourished, but they knew that they were in a particular country. What has happened in the late 20th c. is that migrants and former colonials poured into Europe -- and the autochtonous population of each particular country now has a problem with people from "away." In Europe, made up of non-immigrant nations, the new immigrants should and must respect and adapt to their new homes.

In the U.S.A., Canada, Mexico, South America, Australia, New Zealand -- the New World, everyone other than the aboriginal populations is an immigrant, a newcomer. Yes, the British or the French or the Spanish settled first, and did so to great detriment and destruction to the native population. But the colonists were immigrants. As each new wave of immigrants arrived, they adapted to what was established.

The U.S. "melting pot" never really melted -- St. Patrick's Day, Scandinavians in Minnesota, Italian food, Tex-Mex, the Latino culture -- still very much alive. In Canada, no one has really figured out what being "Canadian" really means -- it sure means something different in Quebec vs Manitoba. Canadian = British? For a long time it seemed so, but tell that to the Ukrainians and Mennonites who settled the Prairies. Yes, they learned English, and were forced to adapt to English ways to survive and progress. Talk to them about being told to "talk white." But many of the "others" retained and developed their ancestral culture while becoming "Canadian." In Quebec, Ukrainians are tri-lingual. People can live in two worlds, and be very patriotic Canadians or Americans while still being very strong supporters of their ancestral homelands. You try telling a Dauphin or Gardenton Manitoban, here for six generations, that his/her Ukrainian Christmas Eve traditions are not Canadian! There are degrees of assimilation. Adapting, learning the language, learning the new ways but retaining your heritage create a well-rounded individual and citizen. Forgetting your roots is detrimental to the person and the culture.

To compare European and North American multiculturalism is wrong. In the Old World, each country is its own, and anyone else living there must respect the original culture and nation, and accept that this is where they have settled into. In the New World, there must be respect for the established culture, but it is not as set as in the Old World. Two or three centuries in a new place is not millennia in the homeland.

At the same time, as citizens, each immigrant group in Canada or the U.S. is passionately patriotic, and you have rabid Ukrainian Republicans and Ukrainian Democrats, or Ukrainian NDPers or Liberals or Conservatives.

This issue is not black-and-white, but the Germany's Chancellor Merkel is right.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

ZRADA band in the Winnipeg Free Press

I'm bursting with pride, because one of the members of this great band is my son Dobryan. These guys are great! A blend of very new plus heritage old.

You can read all about the band and the boys here, and order their CD:

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Some Ukrainian Christmas stuff

I have been researching and writing about Ukrainian Christmas traditions and their origins for (gulp) decades. Most of my articles have appeared in The Ukrainian Weekly

You can search by the issues (end of Dec.-beg. of January for each year). But here are a few for starters you may be intererested in: