Friday, December 27, 2013

Celebrities -- their behaviour and lives

Sleaze is the new black -- at least in the celebrity world.  It is totally mind-boggling and beyond normality that nudity, sleaze, offensive sordid trashy behaviour are now the norm, and are in the news.  

Miley, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Bieber, and so many others need the attention and the money that attention brings.  At what price?  What happened to self-respect and dignity?  There are many performers and actors out there who still rake in the dollars, but are dignified and normal.   Ah, yes, "what is normal"?   No splitting hairs here, most of us know the difference between letting it all (and more) hang out for the world to see -- and not doing so.

Don't they have children, parents, relatives?  

Young and not so young women exposing themselves to the world - as if no one else has boobs and cleavage.  At least, if them boobs were real!   But no, she's showing off to the world that the two half-canteloupes attached to her chest are so fake, and she paid a lot for them, so here they are, with the outline so clearly visible.  Yes, mind-boggling.   

And the media eats it up.  Sleaze sells.  But after you've exposed all to the world, what's left to do?   Aha, twerking and sticking out your dirty tongue?  Showing that you don't wear underwear?  Performing bodily functions in public?   Ah, yes, contemporary Western culture....

Sunday, December 22, 2013


To all my friends and readers who are celebrating the "first" (Gregorian) Christmas.   For a number of my articles on Ukrainian Christmas traditions, you can scroll through my articles on this blog, and also Google my name and "Ukrainian Christmas" or similar topics.  And a note:  hopefully, by this time next year, my book on Ukrainian Christmas traditions will be out.   Working title:   "First Star I See Tonight:  Ukrainian Christmas Traditions."     [applying for grants right now, but if there is a generous philanthropist out there to help with the publication, will be grateful!  The lottery numbers ain't working....]

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!

Friday, November 22, 2013


I had just arrived in D.C.  Was a brand-new eager freshman at George Washington University.  Thanksgiving was about a week away and, of course, everyone was planning on going home for the family feast.  I was walking up Wisconsin Avenue towards my dorm (way past Georgetown), when I stopped into a fabric store for something.  Everyone was watching the TV.  The President had been shot.  It was surreal.  Took a while to sink in. 

That was the Thanksgiving no one went home.  My roommates and I stayed in town the whole week.  We went to the lying-in-state at the Capitol.  As we stood (hung) from the light platforms listening to the ceremony inside, we heard on someone's portable radio about Oswald's shooting.  Someone in the group even cheered.   I did go through the line to give respects at the catafalque.   We were there early sitting on the curb on Connecticut Ave. opposite St. Matthew's Cathedral, listening to the service, and watching the procession back towards the White House.  All the city buses had black ribbons on their antennae.  We watched whatever we could on TV.  

It was sad, bewildering, and historic.  

A dear room mate's father was active in the Democratic Party in D.C., and was on the LBJ committee of transition.  She and I got tickets to the Inaugural Ball.  She went, I didn't.  I had learned that you may get a beautiful engraved and gold-embossed invitation, but to RSVP and attend, you had to pay!   As a scholarship student, I did not have the $150 or $200 or whatever it was for the ticket...   Still have that invitation someplace.  

I loved being in Washington.  Beautiful city.   I walked and walked.  But this was an unexpected and sad introduction to a fascinating historical city.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Genocide by Famine in Ukraine, the HOLODOMOR:

Sunday, August 18, 2013


Why do celebrities and wannabies think it's "cool" to pose in underwear or even less?  What will that get you?  Publicity?  Sure.  There you are, exposed to the world, forever on social media, with you boobs (often obviously fake) and your full behind luxuriating in full-colour for all the world to see.  The tabloids (and sometimes semi-news agencies) have headlines about this or that celebrity bimbo with her beach body or her wardrobe malfunction, or the baby bump (no one else has every gotten pregnant?) and the perfect post-baby-body a week later (yeah, sure!).  Or, horrors, a celebrity is a (gasp!) size 12 or 14  (quelle horreur!) -- a normal human body in the real world), or may display some cellulite.  

Then the celebrities who "forget" to wear their underwear.  My, just slipped my mind to put on some panties.   Or is that the thong (a really comfortable necessary functional piece of clothing....).  We're not even mentioning bras -- those don't matter nowadays.  Then you've got the side boob thing.

Even the teen celebrities have gotten sleazy.  That'll get you ahead in the world?  For some, I guess.   Onto the pages of the men's magazines.  But for how long, and for what purpose?  You don't have parents, relative, children?  No shame?  No self respect at all?  What will this type of fame get you?


Thought I'd share with you my comments to the folks attending the lovely Osvita Foundation Banquet in my honour  (am still amazed at that!).
on June 20, 2013 at the CanadInns Regent.

Dear Friends,

This is such an unexpected, overwhelming honour.  My deepest thanks to the Board of the Osvita Foundation – Vicky Adams, Marusia Haluk, Ken Romaniuk, for the nomination.  And apologies for messing up your schedule.  When Vicky called, she said the date was June 6.  I replied that I was going to be in Australia.  Deep silence on the other end.  They had to scramble to find another date and location.   Also, my thanks to Susan Zuk and Natalia Sovinska of MPUE.

This morning when I logged on – it said -- on the calendar:  you have no events scheduled today Thu Jun 20, 2013   (I guess I was getting ready for Australia)

I’m not sure that I should be up here. Over the years, I have contributed to Ukrainian education and information – but it’s for ulterior motives – selfish ones.  The research and the writing has been for me.  If I could share it, that’s a benefit, but primarily I do this for myself.  Ever since I can remember, I have wondered about why we Ukrainians do what we do.  Why this custom, why this food, why this ritual on this holy day, what does this song mean?  The reply from my parents was – bo tak, bo tak maye buty, bo tak vse robyly --- because, because that is how it is supposed to be, because it has always been this way.  Bo tak. 

Monday, August 12, 2013


Greetings, dear folks,

Have been remiss in not writing for a while.   Hope to correct this.  Stuff happens.  Have been attending the wonderful festival in Winnipeg -- Folklorama - Kyiv Pavilion  .

But as I watched last week's Spirit of Ukraine Pavilion and this week's Kyiv Pavilion dancers (various groups), I remembered an article I wrote for The Ukrainian Weekly back in 2008 -- it still stands.   But not much has changed.   Now that the USSR is no more and stage costumes can be ordered from designers in Ukraine, the folks in North American have to realize that those designers are in business (i.e., make money) -- they will present you with selections of who knows what, and try to tell you that this is a fine stage costume from Polissia or Bukovyna..... yeah, sure.  The artistic director or choreographer here should know enough about regional costumes to select what is appropriate or ask for a redesign, not accept what is presented.  Many of those designs are ridiculous.  And the groups here pay big money for inappropriate and wrong costumes.   If you're reading this, and are concerned, please pass this on to your dance group directors.  Do ask the knowledgeable people at Ukrainian museums, or reliable consultants before you waste your money - and then look bad on stage.  Sure, you will be colourful and pretty -- but that Hungarian- or Slovak- or Russian-influenced costume is not a Ukrainian one, and is not presenting the UKRAINIAN folk costume in all its beauty.


The Ukrainian folk costume, in its almost infinite regional variants, is truly something exquisite.   Both the male and female, but especially the latter, are so rich in symbolism, ornamentation, and just plain beauty, that it is amazing.  Throw in some of the strange and downright weird items of clothing and accessories, and you really have something that means much more than simple and practical protection from the elements.

Some of us have grown up with the Kyiv/Poltava "national" folk costume, and the Hutsul one (from the Carpathian Mountains).  The Volyn, Polissia, Boiko, Podillia, Bukovyna, Zakarpattia, Lemko, and other regional costumes were less familiar to us.   Even within each of these there are many variations, some broader than others. 

And we learn more about costumes all the time.  Dance ensembles and performers appear in newer and newer costumes, branching out to the lesser-known regions.  But some of these "new" outfits defy belief and authenticity.  I can't help but cringe when I see a supposedly Ukrainian Zakarpattia dance performed with the girls in crinolines and lacy hats that are so clearly from the Slovak or Hungarian side of the border, and not at all from the Zakarpattia side.   And one group has the Zakarpattia dancers in mauve or violet outfits!   Some of the Volyn costumes have veered into the Polish sides of the boundaries.    Of course there is some blending along borders; this is normal.  But if a dance group is to choose a costume for a particular region, surely it should be one representative of the Ukrainian part of that region, and not one where the other nationality from across the line is more obvious in the outfit.  

Don't even get me started on the Bukovyna shirts and costumes.  Beginning in the late 1950-early 1960s, the Rumanian influence on the traditional Bukovyna costume grew.   It was the local Ukrainian women that adopted the look from south of their border, and abandoned their elegant, symbolic, truly exquisite Bukovynian silhouette.  Instead of the tree of life, the ornamental and abstracted female figures and birds on the shirt sleeves, in the traditional three-part arrangement on the sleeves, there are now fully-beaded multicolored flowers all over the sleeves and bodice.   These may be bright, some may even think they are pretty, but they are not true Bukovyna sorochky [shirts], not even close.  In the old sorochky, there are touches of beads, sequins, and metallic threads, but not all-beaded.   And yet, these variegated big-flowered shirts are extremely popular – even Kateryna Yushchenko has one. 

Then there still are the women wearing the Rumanian blouses (on the chiffon-type fabric), with the almost-smocked gathered neckline.   These are lovely blouses, but should not be worn in place of Ukrainian ones, because they are not.  How offended would we be if at a Polish or Rumanian event, the women wore Ukrainian sorochky?   Of course, you could wear whatever you wish, but if it is an occasion for which a Ukrainian sorochka is appropriate, it should be one.  

True, traditional folk art and costume do develop and change over time, but we are no longer part of anything truly "folk" – no one is, whether in Ukraine or anywhere else in the world.  Even in the villages there are no real folk anymore.   The babusia or dido tending the cows in the field sits there reading a book or the newspaper and talks on a cell phone.  The traditional regional costumes are the ones handed down from the past, or should be. They are a special national treasure.    What a shame that some people are abandoning their precious "old" valuables, and are adopting what is popular and in style at the moment.   I recently saw photographs from a Hutsul village where all the women were wearing vests and shirts in designs, colors, and combinations that were completely foreign to any Hutsul tradition.   Because it's in style?  The Ukrainian global village?

With stage costumes for dance ensembles, the designers or costume committees want their group to be different, to stand out.   Well, some of them do, but for the wrong reasons.  Someone has to know where Volyn ends and Poland begins, or Zakarpattia and Slovakia and/or Hungary do.  Serious research needs to be done, and reliable, knowledgeable people need to be asked.  It is a shame to spend all those hard-earned funds, and be stuck with a costume that is just not right – and not really know any better.  

Then there was the influence of the Soviet-era Ukraine dance groups – Virsky and Veryovka, who at one time had some awful stage folk costumes.  The ensembles in North America accepted these as authentic, and were inspired by some of these.  The Hutsuls wearing boots started there.  Can you imagine any Hutsul climbing the mountain trails in boots?   How quickly would he slide down the path, all the way down on those leather soles?  I suppose it was easier for costume changes backstage, but it certainly deprived the Hutsul costume of an integral part. The postoly, the leather moccasins with the turned-up toes, were perfect for climbing the mountains – the toes wouldn't catch in the roots along the trail.   Nowadays, it is too bad that few Ukrainian groups anywhere wear postoly.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Updates -- Testimonial Banquet and other surprises

Hi, dear folks

Have been behind in everything!  A few followers have asked about new postings.  Will catch up to myself eventually.

Not used to self-promotion (well... not much....  ;-)   )

I'm not used to being on the receiving end of these things.   Just last year I was the MC for this banquet honouring William Solomon of Hoosli.

I should be in relatively good shape on the 20th - after recuperating from a trip to Australia!   Will keep you posted about that soon.  

A heads-up -- have finally begun serious preparation on my Ukrainian Christmas book of my many articles over the decades.  Will be launched in the fall of  2014 (she said optimistically).  Very much to learn about the business and publishing angles of this.  Then there's the fundraising.   

thanks to all for your interest, and will be in better touch.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


Had an interview about pysanky on CBC Manitoba Weekend Morning Show with Ismaila Alfa  (March 30)

If you check this out a few days from now, you'll have to scroll down to this date.

 Five minutes!   I could talk for hours!   Don't they understand?!?!   ;-)

Thanks, Ismaila.    You're so good!

Friday, March 29, 2013


Before I forget, here are some of my articles on pysanky, those gems of Ukrainian folk art.  There are some earlier articles, too, but I still need to extract them from earlier files.

Tracz,  Orysia Paszczak.  “A Pysanka Mystery Almost Solved”  Ukrainian Weekly  April 27, 2008: 7      A discussion of the (unacknowledged) influence of Zenon Elyjiw’s work on Erast Binyashevsky’s book about traditional Ukrainian pysanky.   (part 1)   [still nee to finish the translation of this one!   Oy!]

and more info on pysanky here:

Sunday, March 24, 2013


From The Ukrainian Weekly, April 4, 2010   (If you don't subscribe to it yet -- do so!   )


Orysia Paszczak Tracz

The man ahead of me in line to receive the loza on Kvitna Nedilia (Flower, or Palm Sunday) looked bewildered.  He got the myrovannia (anointing with oil on the forehead), and his fat pussy willow branch, and as he was headed towards the exit, watched the members of the congregation hitting each other (gently, of course) with the branches, and smiling and reciting something.  The people who already received the branches even went back through the pews to gently hit the ones who were still waiting in line.  Then I did it to him, and he was really confused.  He had no idea what was going on!  I explained to him that this was a special ritual for Ukrainian Palm Sunday, and that it meant that Easter and spring were coming, and also meant a wish for health.  He smiled and thanked me for the information, saying that now he understood.  The man was clearly not Ukrainian, but loves the service, the singing, and the rituals, and comes every Sunday.  I’m not sure what he’ll think about people bringing baskets of food to church on Easter.

He is not the first person to be confused and confounded about our old but new ways.  There really is an explanation for all this.  What is admirable and amazing is that these rituals, well modified to suit the present, are still carried out at all.

In the olden days, we had Ukrainians sleeping on the stove/oven – ok, the pich (peech) – an appliance/piece of furniture pretty difficult to explain in English.  Then you have young folks dumping pails of water on each other on the second day of Easter (nowadays, the SuperSoaker works so much better). At Midsummer’s Night (Kupalo to us) they also jump over bonfires, alone or holding hands with a significant other.  On special feast days, rolling around in the early morning dew in your birthday suit was also very common and beneficial.  The jumping over bonfires at Kupalo is no longer birthday-suit-obligatory, as it used to be extremely long ago [that wouldn’t go over too well with the camp uprava, eh?].  Of course, in the weeks after Easter, there will be services, and food and drink in the cemeteries, on the graves of the departed.  This is reminiscent of El Día de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead, the honoring of ancestors also from time immemorial.   And I am sure many of us still follow our mother’s ritual of burying the eggshells and other remnants of the Easter breakfast deep in the garden.  With composting being so popular now, we’re really “with it” – but then, we’ve always been, right?
These are all traditions and rituals from our ancient past, from pre-Christian times.  They each had particular reasons, purposes, and symbolism for the actions.  The power of traditions has kept them alive through all the persecution and hardship of our people through the centuries.  The fact that these strange and often not well understood actions are still done so enthusiastically and so willingly by people far-removed by time and place from their ancestral homeland shows how indeed powerful tradition is.  We continue to write our pysanky and bake our paska and babka for Velykden’ [Great Day – a pre-Christian name that survived, and is still the Ukrainian name for Easter].  We sit down to the Easter breakfast and share the slices of the one egg (a symbol of the togetherness of the family) and go to church to watch the hahilky [ritual spring round-dances].  At Christmas, we reverently sit down for the special Sviata Vechera [Holy Supper] of twelve dishes, leaving that empty chair and place setting for our ancestors.  At weddings today, the couple stands on a rushnyk [ritual cloth] and has its hands ceremonially bound with a rushnyk by the priest, and often the “crowns” on the couple’s heads are wreaths of barvinok (periwinkle).  These rituals – and so many more -- are practiced in Canada, the USA, Brazil, the Balkans, other countries in Europe, Australia, the far east of Russia in Zelenyi Klyn, as well as in the homeland itself.  Some of the modifications that have emerged in Ukraine are quaint or even bizarre, but then some of the ones in the other places are pretty strange, too.  But the thought is there, as is the inherent desire to carry out an action that connects us to our distant, very distant ancestors.  We are very rich, indeed.


Dear friends, 
Have been behind with my posts.   A dead computer will do that.   Then to get used to the new laptop, and transfer everything and all that......    Hoping to keep up now.   Have to many projects on the go....   I never learn.
For now, here are some of my articles on Easter [Velykden' in Ukrainian - Great Day] from years ago.  This doesn't change.
Will post more later.   How nice that my "Paska and Babka Forever" article is so popular with my readers.
Wonder where the parishes in Winnipeg who celebrate on the new calendar will be getting their pussy willows for today -- still much snow out there!   And then, for the old calendar, the folks may need to travel far north to find them -- may be too warm here in May?