Monday, December 31, 2012

Orysia's McNally Robinson Classes

Two more classes to go -- one on traditional foods (in two parts)

and a repeat -- "by popular demand" -- of the folk medicine one -- the new date is March 18, 7-9 P.M.

Register early.



Have you ever wondered about your baba’s and dido’s family back in Ukraine?  Is there anyone left after a century or more?  Where did they live?  What did their village look like?  Is Ukraine different now?
The answer to the last question is “yes” and “no.”  Your ancestral homeland is very modern, and yet quite traditional.  You will see both.  If you have no relatives there anymore, or are not Ukrainian, and just want to see and experience a beautiful part of the world, come along with me!
Join me on a specialized tour of Ukraine like no other.  We see people and places that will remain in your memories for a long time.  The scenery, the history, the culture, the people, the food, the drink, the art and architecture, the serendipity – all blend into a memorable journey.
If you’re interested in having family, extended family and friends go on “your” tour, we can customize it.  Not only will you see the highlights of Ukraine, but you will visit your ancestral villages and towns, meet relatives or people who remember them, and celebrate your ancestry.  If you want to join me on a regular tour, where we can visit your villages, that can be arranged.  And if you’re not Ukrainian, that’s fine, too – join us and become part of the family!
This will be my 15th tour.  I have led folk art and culture tours to Ukraine almost every summer.  The folks who travelled with me are from all across North America, from the Northwest Territories to Florida and Iowa, and from California to Rhode Island and Nova Scotia.  Then there are the ones from Japan and Australia!  Now we are all friends, and I am blessed to have met and traveled with them.   We're off from August 22 to Sept. 8, 2013.  Enough time to plan.

Have added some photos --  urban and rural.  What a beautiful place!   More to follow.

The number in the tour is limited, so folks need to sign up with Martha Banias as soon as they can.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


With the first day of Christmas yesterday, two more to come (in Ukrainian tradition, it's three days of Christmas), I'm sharing some of my articles on Ukrainian Christmas traditions.  These I have written over many years, for The Ukrainian Weekly, an award-winning international English-language Ukrainian newspaper from New Jersey, edited by Roma Hadzevych.

Also, here is a YouTube (in four parts, so click on all of them) of my presentation about Christmas traditions at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) a few years ago.   

This coming year I hope to do what I've been planning for a long time -- and have been encouraged by my dear faithful readers to do:  I will be compiling my Christmas articles into a book.  Later, will do the same with articles on other topics.  It's mindboggling to think of how many of my articles are actually out there!

For starters, here are a few on some esoteric aspects of Ukrainian Christmas traditions.

I do look forward to hearing from you!


Traditional Ukrainian Christmas Greetings

На щастя, на здоровя з колядою,
Щоб Ви тішилися як пташка весною,
Як пташка на калині,
Дай, Боже, щастя Вашій родині!

Доброго здоровя, багато щастя,
Чистої води в криниці,
У полі ярої пшениці,
Хліба й солі на столі,
І погоди на душі!

Христос ся Раждає!

May you find peace, joy, and health for yourself, your family, your children, and your farm animals;
May you be as healthy as the spring waters,
May you be as cheerful as the swallows in the sky,
May your home never be hungry,
And may it be as prosperous as the fields of grain at harvest time,
And as full as the beehives are with honey,
And the orchards are ripe with fruit.
We wish you all this, and may we come together next year to greet and wish each other again.
Khrystos Rodyvsia!  Christ is Born!
Slavimo Yoho!  Let us praise Him!

[the title of the Weekly article should be "Vinchuyu Vas" , not "..Vam"]

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Хвали мене язичку......   Self-promotion is so necessary, eh?   If no one tells you, how will you know?  ;-}

I'm so proud that my translation of this Pinzel fine art book is at the Louvre for the exhibition.  I completed the translation by the end of July, and only at the end of September, when I was in Kyiv, did I learn that this volume will be on its way to Paris in November!   Still have not received it, but have seen the photos.   

So, that's my latest news.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


We have the dates for 2013, folks!    Aug. 22-Sept. 8

Please check with Martha Banias at:

And if you have any questions, please contact me.

Some photos from Khotyn, a very old fortress on the Dnister River:



Saturday, November 24, 2012


Throughout the world today, Ukrainians are lighting candles and praying for the millions of their countrymen murdered through forced famine in 1932-33 by the Russian Soviet regime.   You will find many news items about this, and many links to historical articles and books online.  

Just ignore the deniers and those twisting the truth -- there was no famine, it was not a genocide, there was a drought, and on and on.  Oh, yes, it did not happen (if it did at all) only in Ukraine, but also in Russia.....Sure.   It did, but in villages populated by Ukrainians, not in Russian ones.

One important thing -- if, as the Russians say, the hunger and deaths also happened in Russia -- where are the Russian commemorations of this horror?  Don't they want to mourn their own dead?  I don't remember reading about a single church service or candle-lighting for their memory.  

What?  There weren't any?  Why?  Could it be because there were no Russian deaths from hunger? 

Yes, we had the famine in Russia, not just in Ukraine -- but we stopped Ukrainians from crossing the border into Russia for food -- we even shot them, and didn't permit them to buy train tickets to leave.  But yes, we had our Russian dead -- we just don't commemorate them, and don't honour them....   Of course, you did.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


There is still time to register for the two remaining Ukrainian Culture classes at McNally Robinson --  

The folks attending the previous ones are wonderful, enthusiastic, and participate in the very interesting discussions.   And many are attending all the classes. 

Please join us.


It seems that not much has changed since I wrote the following after the 50th commemoration of the Holodomor in 1983:

Friday, November 9, 2012


I have posted this last year, but it's so relevant to Remembrance Day that I'm doing it again.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Pryvit -- Greetings, dear friends.

I'm back from a wonderful trip to Ukraine.  Still trying to get back to Winnipeg time, and to recuperate from my wanderings.

Was in Lviv, Kolomyia, Kosiv, Stryi, and Kyiv, with other stops along the way.  Attended the Publishers' Forum in Lviv (one of the largest book fairs in Europe after Frankfurt).  Ran into many old friends there.  Saw the monastery and shrine at Hoshiv, visited the Stepan Bandera Museum in Uhniv, and saw the Kvitka Cisyk Museum and School in Lviv.  Spoke at the Ivan Honchar Museum in Kyiv (great crowd for my folk medicine lecture).  Met with the person in charge of an art album on 18th c. sculptor J.-G. Pinzel  -- I translated the text into English -- and found out the volume will be for the upcoming Pinzel exhibition at the Louvre!

Enjoyed walking (very much), dining (all kinds), drinking -- love the Ukr. beer, shopping -- some lovely stuff, including books.  One big disappointment -- lost my camera after the first week -- dropped it as I ran for the marshrutka (mini-bus).   ARGHGHGH!   All those photos lost!  Got a new one, but mourn the ones from that first week.

Now to get back into the routine.  Have many projects and ideas.  Much writing and translating.  Will keep you posted. 

My first classroom session at McNally-Robinson two days after I returned was good.  Full house.  Nice to see familiar faces.  Check out my previous post on the next sessions - coming up later this month and on through January.

Monday, September 10, 2012


As I mentioned a while ago, will be off to Ukraine for a while.  I'm thrilled, expecially to be at the Lviv Publishers' Forum (site only in Ukr.), the Hutsul Festival, and in Kyiv -- speaking again at the Ivan Honchar Museum.

You can click on the English version of the site.   This is such a vibrant and elegant museum and cultural centre.  And the people there live and breathe their heritage. 

If I have a chance, will post from Ukraine.  If not, will have much much material to write about when I return.  So looking forward to being there!  


Hoping that the Winnipeggers and Manitobans will join me for some or all of these classes at the wonderful McNally Robinson Bookstore at Grant Park.   You can register by phone or online.  


Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Have to find time to post more often, right?  Too much stuff going on.  Recently finished a translation (Ukrainian into English) of an introduction to an album on a unique and prominent sculptor of the 18th c.  Maybe the book will be ready for the Forum of Publishers in Lviv in September.  Will post more info once I get it.

It just so happens that my trip to Ukraine coincides with this Forum (one of the largest bookfairs in Europe after Frankfurt).  What serendipity!  What could go wrong - books and Orysia!   Oy!  Anyway, really looking forward to the Forum, to being in Ukraine, and to meeting people and wandering the streets.   The last -- just love to do that.  Will start out early morning, have a coffee and/or breakfast on some patio and will watch the world go by.  Then, will just go off madly in some direction -- observing, photographing, reading the historic and cultural plaques on so many buildings, stopping for a coffee or beer, more wandering, deciding where to have lunch or supper.....   Just delightful.  I love it.  Will do the same in Lviv, Kolomyia, Kosiv, and Kyiv.  And there's so much more territory to cover in Kyiv!   Will also be presenting a lecture at the Ivan Honchar Museum in Kyiv - sometime at the end of September. 

This time, as before, will gather information and photographs for a number of articles - on travel, folk arts, restaurants, and whatever inspires me.  I think many non-Ukrainians "discovered" Ukraine during EuroCup, and are interested in learning more.  It is still a hidden gem for travel.

Will keep youse guys posted on my adventures.  And maybe I'll run into some of you there!

Friday, August 17, 2012


Another example of identifying someone by place of birth rather than ethnic origin --

BBC calls Ayn Rand "Russian-American" -- only ten paragraphs down does the article say:   
" Born into a Jewish family called Rosenbaum in St Petersburg, she was just 12 when she witnessed her father's pharmacy being seized by the Bolsheviks." 

The family was not "Russian" (even though they were Russian citizens), but was Jewish.  That's where the credit should go.  So many prominent people get misidentified by just place of birth rather than their family's origins and ethnic background.  Important.  

I wrote about this in previous posts, e.g.,;postID=1645205368523626549

And the most recent:   Associated Press writes that Koch was "the second of three children of Polish immigrants".   Koch had a different opinion:

Sunday, July 8, 2012


The more things change.....   This was published in my column "The Things We Do" in The Ukrainian Weekly August 19, 2007.  Five years ago, and what has changed?

They taught them well. Over the centuries of the Russian tsarist empire, and especially during the 70 years of the Soviet empire, they taught them very well, indeed. Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the lyrics for the musical “South Pacific” (music by Richard Rodgers) in 1949. In the musical, this song is about an inter-racial romance, with Lt. Cable expressing his frustration at being uncomfortable over loving a Polynesian girl: “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear. You’ve got to be taught from year to year. It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear. You’ve got to be carefully taught. You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late – before you are six or seven or eight, to hate all the people your relatives hate. You’ve got to be carefully taught!”

In the case of present-day Ukraine, it is not hating another group or race that is the problem. 
It is self-hate – hating yourself and all your own – your nation, your culture, your language. For patriotic Ukrainians, such people are “yanychary” – or “yanuchary” (supporters of Yanukovych and others). These are the contemporary equivalent of the Janissaries (yanychary in Ukrainian). The young boys captured during the Tatar and Turkish raids and invasions of Ukraine in the 15th-17th centuries were brought up to forget their past and to become loyal Turkish soldiers. They were indoctrinated to forget and to turn against their own, because later, as soldiers, they returned to Ukraine as raiders, repeating the cycle.  The yanychary today are those Ukrainians raised or educated to think that anything Ukrainian is second-class, and not as “prestigious” as Russian. They are the ones who speak Russian rather than Ukrainian, who pull for closer ties with Russia and consider Ukrainian as just not cool. To them, even though they are home in their own land, they are enemies to everything Ukrainian. Ukraine is a convenient place, not a homeland.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


The registration for this year's tour is closed.  

Start planning for 2013!  Families, friends, one and all -- plan on a family or friends' group together.  Dates have not been set yet, but usually we go in August.  If you have a large enough group, we can custom design a tour just for you, including the ancestral villages and sites you wish to visit at a time convenient for you.   

And please remember -- you don't have to be Ukrainian or know Ukrainian to go!  We've had folks from all across North America, and from Australia and Japan.  They all become honourary Ukrainians.  I interpret and translate all the time.  I'm the mother hen for the group.

Please see my previous post "WHAT A REUNION, WHAT A CENTENNIAL!  TOUR TO UKRAINE" with the article by Marvin Marykuca.  And do check my other postings about my tour.  Details here.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


The special FYI issue today is on Ukrainians in Winnipeg and Manitoba.  I'm honoured that I was asked to contribute    (one correction, though:    in my article on surnames -- IBAHKO   was what I had, but it lower case - as was "corrected" is Ibahko...   whaaaa?! -- misses the point) 

You will have to search for "Ukrainians FYI" for individual articles.  Trying to find a specific link to the whole section.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


This was written in 1987, and published in The Ukrainian Weekly.

My father, Vasyl, died almost nine years ago. The day after my sister's
wedding, he suffered a severe heart attack, spent two months in a coma, and
died without regaining consciousness on November 1, 1978. For some reason,
Father's Day is the hardest day in the year for me, more painful than the day
of his death, or his birthday.

Tato lived a life similar to that of thousands of Ukrainian men of his
generation (born right before and during the First World War). He was born
and grew up in the Boyko region. His mother died when he was very young,
and the stereotypical evil stepmother came into his life. He finished the
schooling available under Polish rule to the children of the village (selo). The
family was strongly aware of its national and cultural ideals, and participated
in the organized life of the selo.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Wedding season is in full swing.  We attended one last week, and are going to another one today.  Gorgeous weather, sunny, lovely, God is good!

People in Manitoba look forward to being invited to a Ukrainian wedding because it is fun.  Much fun.  Also, full of tradition.  And, you don't get married in 15 minutes!  Takes a while.  But still fun.

Many years ago, I presented a paper on Ukrainian Manitoba weddings for the Manitoba Historical Society Conference at the University of Manitoba.  It was published in The Ukrainian Weekly in two parts here and here.

Please check the references at the end of part II for more info.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


about Ukrainian issues.

A few good sites for current and historical information:   [esp. history, politics, announce]

And there are so many others.  Keep informed!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

May 9th anniversary

Please scroll down to REMEMBER -- 11/11/2011

Applies to the supposed "victory" for Ukraine at the end of WW II.  Some victory.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


As I'm learning how to blog, with so much help from Paulette/Pawlina of Nash Holos Ukrainian Roots Radio, I'm blown away by the "statistics" button on the blogging page.  It shows page views by country and, holy mackerel, I would never have expected to have readers around the world -- not only Canada and the USA, but Ukraine, Russia, Indonesia, Netherlands, China, Gabon, France, Georgia, Chile, Australia, Mexico, Israel, Germany, Belgium, Hungary, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Czech Republic, South Africa, Phillipines, Latvia, and Thailand.  Who woulda thunk!   Now if some people would leave comments.... or become followers.....   that would be great.  Thanks, everyone!


My article "Mama's War" had been around for many years now.  I have received comments about it from around the world.  Many people whose parents lived through the same events wrote that parts of this life could have been their mother's or father's story.  

Who knows how that generation survived the war and aftermath?  But they made our lives possible.  

If you haven't yet, write down your parents' and grandparents stories for yourself and your children. Don't let them be forgotten.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


This was the beginning of the end of the USSR.  When the Soviet authorities ignored, then denied the explosion at Chornobyl, and subjected Ukrainians, Belorusy, and the rest of the world to radiation  -- and did not ask for help -- that was the beginning of the end.  Especially because a few months later, when the Armenian earthquake happened, and Gorbachev appealed for aid -- there was that contrast.  Why no appeal for aid for Ukraine?

A few years later in the late 1980s, I met a Ukrainian artist from Kyiv here in Winnipeg.  He spoke very openly about the Soviet system.  He said he is no longer afraid.   "When they endangered my children, and my elderly mother, and yet got their own families out of Kyiv without warning the rest of us -- that was it.  No, I am no longer afraid."   

It really began to unravel then.

In a few hours April 26th will begin in Ukraine.  Let us remember the ones who lost their lives in the accident, in the rescue, who had their lives affected and lost by radiation, who were displaced, who suffered physically and emotionally and mentally from the explosion and the effects of the cruelty, insensitivity, and politics of the government.

Chornobyl is a wild plant, a medicinal one.  This is an article about it I wrote a few years ago.  And let's remember that the Ukrainian transliteration is ChOrnobyl, not ChErnobyl.

Вічная Память!

Vichnaya Pam'iat'!     -- May Their Memory Be Eternal!


I wrote this article for The Ukrainian Weekly back in 2003, and received much positive feedback.

But I never expected how far and wide the Weekly's readership is -- until I got an email from the editor, Roma Hadzevych, passing on a message from the editor of Azerbaijan International!  She was asking permission to reprint the article in her magazine.   

The topic is universal.   So get out the notepaper, and the recorder!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Paska and Babka Forever

Quick! What's tall, yellow, inside, and has 60 to 120 eggs (mostly yolks)?  No, not one of Big Bird's relatives, but an old-fashioned Ukrainian babka — a traditional Easter bread. Perhaps such an irreverent opening may offend some — it is only meant in jest — because to Ukrainians, all breads, especially the Easter paska and babka, are considered  not only special, but holy and reverent. 

Gunn's Bakery, Selkirk Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
I still remember my mother baking pasky (plural of paska) when I was quite small. Whether it was Good Friday or Holy Saturday I can no longer remember (I am getting older!), but І do I know that it was a day of fasting until  we visited church — so all I could do is smell the sweet, warm, fresh paska, then smell the kovbasa being prepared. Together the scents reminded the famished me of Easter morning breakfast. Come to think of it, it was probably Holy Saturday, because kovbasa would not have even been out (with no meat or dairy products eaten on that day) on Good Friday.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


On his Anderson 360 show on CNN on Tuesday, April 10th, Anderson Cooper commented on the Polish holiday Dyngus (Easter Monday) and made it the butt of his Ridiculist.

He did apologize the next evening, and explained that it was himself that he was calling "stupid", for giggling again.  And he does appreciate all the groups in America with all their customs.  He was placing those who missed Dyngus Day on the Ridiculist, not Dyngus Day itself.  Yeah, sure, and I'm a Vanderbilt on my mother's side!

I'm not sure this is the real story.  I think he got a reaction from the Polish community.  They didn't appreciate being laughed at.  I wrote in (and I'm not Polish).  First of all, by having this item on the Ridiculist, he already made it a mockery.

Maybe the Poles in Buffalo didn't explain the origin of their traditions clearly enough for him.  If you take any culture, there are very old customs that look silly or strange to us, but we still carry them out because of tradition and respect for our heritage.  But these rituals should not be laughed at.  

Whatever Cooper's background (Dutch, Irish, and English, I think) -- there are many rituals and customs of each of these that would also lead him to place them on the Ridiculist, and to giggle about them -- disrespectfully.

Monday, April 9, 2012



The journalist Mike Wallace passed away yesterday.  A very accomplished man.  If critics are concerned about a journalist asking a candidate for high office "what newspapers do you read?", they sure would have had conniptions about his direct and hard-hitting questions of so many prominent people.  

My comment is about media reports on his background:  "son of Russian immigrants" mentioned a few.  No, he was not.  He was the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia.  Very big difference.  His Jewish heritage should be given credit -- not his family's place of origin (could have been any place -- it was his family and upbringing that made him what he was).   

I wrote about this in a long-ago post,  regrettably, on a difficult individual.  Also, much earlier, I wrote "Did Your Baba Come from Austria?"  The essence of my point remains.  It's not where you are born, but to whom.