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.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Ne ya b'yu, baz'ka b'ye, za tyzhden' Velykden' ye!

Today is Kvitna Nedilia, or Flowering Sunday, or Palm Sunday on the Julian Calendar.  Ukrainians don't do palms.  Pussy willows are the branches.  Here and here are two of my articles on this.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Goose pysanky (single and double yolk) from my collection

Hand-carved and inlaid Easter basket by Mykola Hrepiniak of Richka, Carpathian Mountains, Hutsul Region, Ukraine

I have been researching, writing, and speaking about Ukrainian traditions for a few decades now.  The subject fascinates me.  The origins of Ukrainian rituals and traditions start in deep prehistory (Paleolithic and Neolithic), and have blended with the new faith of Christianity from 988.  This blend is called dvoyeviria/two faiths, or dualism.  It just is.  Here and here are some of my articles on Easter traditions, published in The Ukrainian Weekly over the years.  

There are many more articles that I've written on Velykden'/Easter for The Ukrainian Weekly, but some are in Highbeam or Scribd.  If you Google my name and the subject, they're there. 

You can also check the archive of the Weekly:
The Ukrainian Weekly archive (1933-2010) is open to the public. The current year’s issues, however, are reserved for online subscribers. We invite you to subscribe and have access to the latest Ukrainian news.

                                                  Chicken egg pysanky from my collection


Time to repost this
I remembered that ten years ago I had translated a portion of a chapter from Ukrainian Political Prisoners in Nazi Concentration Camps by Dr. Michael Marunchak. It was published in that year's Easter Saturday edition of the Globe and Mail (Toronto). Afterwards, Dr. Marunchak heard from a number of colleagues from around North America who also survived the camps.   It was reprinted in The Ukrainian Weekly here

I was happy that Dr. Marunchak was still around to see and read the translation.  He passed away two years later.   He encouraged me to translate the rest of his book, to tell the world about Ukrainian sacrifice in World War II. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


To celebrate Velykden' - Great Day (Easter), here and here are two of my articles on pysanky and what they mean.

From my pysanka collection

Monday, April 2, 2012



Window in Old Lviv

Ukraine is such an amazing place for photographers -- the sites, the people, the panoramas!  Truly beautiful.

I like photographing windows, doors, gates, and passages.  Every so often, I'm truly surprised at a good result -- wow!  The Carpathian Mountains -- Karpaty -- are really blue in the distance, as so many Ukrainian songs sing.

People are fascinating, too.  Ukrainian faces are really beautiful, whether young, old, or in-between.  Some faces look as if they stepped out of history, say, the 15-17th c.   If from a great distance, I don't ask, just shoot.  Closer, I do ask if I can photograph. 

And you can join me -- and bring your camera -- this September.

A window at the Pecherska Lavra (Monastery of the Caves) in Kyiv

A potter in Kosiv, at the folk artists' cooperative, where they make the Hutsul pottery.  We watch as they make pieces, from a glob of clay - to seeing the artists ornament the vessels -  to walking into the kiln (if it's not cooling down) - to buying as much as we can carry (the pieces are signed).  Remember, pottery is heavy, and fragile.

In Shevchenko Grove - Shevchenkivs'kyi Hai, in Lviv, an outdoor architectural museum of original buildings from across Western Ukraine, some from the 1600s +, brought to Lviv and restored.