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On the cover
¹7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope

28 February - 6 March 2014

Ukraine History

A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels

With the recent death toll jumping to nearly 100 and 1,000 injured, Hrushevskoho Street, one of the strongholds of EuroMaidan’s three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the country’s stand against government corruption, abuse of power, and the violation of human rights turned from peaceful protest to all-out revolution. Having witnessed much over the years, Hrushevskoho is a street with a history, and not only care of recent days.


Ukraine Today
Acelebrity using their status and intelligence to influence public views and opinion is rarely seen in modern society, even less so in Ukraine. Here, the majority of celebs use their time, effort, and money to enhance or further their career rather than put their name to something that can do good for others. However, as EuroMaidan intensifies, some are making themselves heard – and they fall either side of the EuroMaidan divide.
It used to be that when rebellion and revolution occurred, the intellectual, creative, and spiritual elite would be front and centre.


Ukrainian Culture

When Walls Can Talk

People have been writing on walls since the dawn of civilisation, we call it graffiti, and ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Sometimes it is merely the creator wanting to leave his or her mark; sometimes there is an underlying social or political reason. And it is due to the latter that graffiti has exploded across Kyiv in recent months. Anti dictator messages aside, we peel back a few layers of paint to look at graffiti in the city in general.


Ukraine Abroad

Getting a Bead on Diaspora Life

Ukrainians have long been a people in motion and no country has been as welcoming to them as Canada, especially in the last century. Ksenia Karpenko talked with a diaspora couple from Edmonton.
Immigration has always been an idea that has seized the imaginations of Ukrainians: from the nineteenth century, when the first waves of Ukrainians helped settle the Canadian prairies, to the present day, when the idea of finding a better life elsewhere still seduces young Ukrainians. Just when I was thinking of writing an article about how the Ukrainian identity is still bound up with leaving Ukraine – for Italy, for Portugal, for Poland, for Canada –I got a phone call from Yaroslaw Skrypnyk, a Ukrainian-born Canadian who was visiting Kyiv with his wife Sofia, who is also Ukrainian-born.

The couple own an apartment here in Kyiv and Yaroslaw wanted to thank this magazine for writing about President Yushchenko’s recent visit to Winnipeg. It seemed the right thing to do to invite him down for a talk about his own experience of immigration from Ukraine, after World War II.
   The Skrypnyks arrived neatly dressed in obviously Western clothing, speaking fluent Ukrainian with Canadian accents. Like most Ukrainian immigrants of their generation, they’re from Ukraine’s west – Yaroslaw was born in Ivano-Frankivsk. They know no Russian, since they got out of the country before the Soviets solidified their control over this country’s western regions.
   Yaroslaw owes his Canadian life to World War II. His is a story that is very familiar among older Ukrainian-born people in the Anglosphere – the war put his family on the move, heading westward. Eventually they were interred in displaced persons camps run by the Western allies before being dispersed as immigrants to western countries after the war.
   Yaroslaw, 87, who now lives with Sofia, 77, inEdmonton, Alberta, has no regrets about ending up in Canada, where he established a career as a scientist and has three grown children. Sofia works as an arts consultant and has been active in showing work by Ukrainian artists in Canada.
   “Life in Canada is extremely well-established for the Ukrainian diaspora. There’s no comparison between life in Canada and life in Ukraine,” Yaroslaw says. Ukrainians have been in that country for hundreds of years, setting up churches and schools. “When I go back to Canada I get the feeling that I’m home. Life there is very calm. I didn’t feel like a stranger when I found myself there.”

The Rich Drive Themselves
Every young Ukrainian, especially if she’s female, is familiar with how difficult it is to get a visa to a western country. I wondered if Canada, with its big and influential Canadian population, was different.
   “You’ve got to know English very well,” Sofia said. (No doubt the language requirements are somewhat different in Quebec.)
   “There are differences in how you arrive in Canada,” Yaroslaw says. “If you move there to work for a couple of years you should have a work visa but if you want to become a permanent resident you’ve got to have some $10,000 in your bank account, to prove that you won’t be a burden to Canada. It used to be easy to get a visa, but now things are changing. There are a lot of illegal residents in Canada who used travel visas to get to Canada and stayed there for good. So the embassy rules are extremely tough here. But if you manage to get there you’ll never regret it.” He continues, “If you’re a registered Canadian resident, the state will support you during your first steps if you know English and you have some money. The country will pay you to take courses to improve your English, and if you’ve got a young child the country will pay for nursing. The country provides you with medical insurance, free hospitals and a discount on medicine.”
   “It’s not a challenge to find the job,” he says, “if you’re a technician or teacher who teaches singing in kindergarten, but if you’re a doctor you’ll have to put more effort into it. First of all, not all diplomas are accepted in Canada. Aside from the fact of whether the institution you graduated from is internationally recognised or not, you’ll have to pass state exams to prove your qualifications and then do an internship in a hospital, and only then can you do private business. But people holding Scottish or British diplomas don’t have to pass any exams.”
An immigrant work ethic will come in handy. “An immigrant is more likely than a Canadian resident to create a good career for himself because an immigrant is more aggressive and decisive,” Yaroslaw says.
 “The reason is that he’s got no choice. Canadianshavesupportasfarasrelativesareconcerned but an immigrant has to work two or three jobs to get ahead. And we’re not ashamed of working, we’re proud of it.”
   Like so many foreigners, Yaroslaw is surprised by contemporary Ukrainian mores. “It’s funny to see that executives here have drivers,” he says. “What for? To prove their class status is the only answer. In Canada we drive our cars by ourselves and there’s no point in hiring a driver, whatever your position. In Canada there’s no difference between executives and regular workers. After work everybody is perfectly entitled to go to the same restaurants, both executives and plumbers. Who cares if you earn a lot of money? And I can assure you that if a plumber works hard he’ll make as much as an executive. Canada doesn’t pay you for your position or status, but for your performance at your job.”
   Sofia chimes in, “People are distinguished in Canada by their morality, by their inner world. The elite, the so-called beau monde, go to the opera, to classical concerts. They don’t increase their purchasing power, because they’ve already got enough. They develop their cultural perspectives.”
     Yaroslaw was astonished by the fact that here in Ukraine there’s a cult of important positions; that, for example, an executive here is entitled to leave work earlier or to take more days off. But Canadian executives are workaholics. The higher your position, the more you work.
    “You should be ready to work as a cleaning person to succeed,” Sofia says, “despite the fact that you were a teacher in your native country.” It was touching to see that a Canadian believed that being a teacher was a prestigious, well-paid position in Ukraine. I didn’t bother debunking the myth.
    I couldn’t help asking Yaroslaw and Sofia what they think of the Ukrainian political situation in these post-Orange Revolution years. I had in mind Yushchenko’s rapturous reception in Canada recently and assumed that the Skrypnyks, like so many members of the diaspora, remain Yushchenko die-hards.
   “I’m not a resident of this country and I’ve got no right to judge,” Yaroslaw says, “but it seems to me that the Ukrainian president was welcomed by the Ukrainian community and the Canadian government at the highest level. We welcomed the Ukrainian president, but not Yushchenko himself.”
  As the expression goes in Canada and everywhere in the Anglosphere goes, enough said.

Ksenia Karpenko

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Comments (2)
You are not authorized! Only registered and authorized users can add their comments!
What's On Editor | 08.07.2008 10:32

Can the person who posted the comment below please write to me at n.campbell@tmu.in.ua. We would like to publish this letter in the magazine and we need your name to do so. Thank you!

"doctor who" from Ukraine | 07.07.2008 19:01

I deeply apologize if I seem a bit rude.Having red your article I just can't help my self to express my disapproval concerning these so-called ukrainian immigrants and their sinister attitude towards their native land which"gave birth" to them.It only proves the well known myth about ukrainians, reputed by our enemies-russian as cowards who flee, betray and leave their country in times of misfortune,only to setle elsewhere where the sun shines and smirk at their fellow compatriots.To my point of view they have no right to regard themeselves neither as Canadians nor Ukrainians.Had they had any affection for this long suffering country,they'd have stayed here and defend its didgnity serving it solomnely as I do by preseving its customes and working as a doctor,saving ukrainian peoples' life for misserable wages-1000 ghryvnas a month.Quoting their words"I'm not a resident of this country, I have no right to judge "your" political situation" or "I find it very funny to witness such a fact that in Ukraine......" just drives me berserk.Why don't they just return to here and make their contribution into stabilising our political and economical situation.

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    Ukraine Truth
    Rights We Didn’t Know We Had

    Throughout EuroMaidan much has been made of Ukrainians making a stand for their rights. What exactly those rights are were never clearly defined. Ukraine ratified the Univer­sal Declaration of Human Rights in 1952. The first article of the Declaration states all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The ousted and overthrown Ukrainian government showed to the world they don’t understand the meaning of these words.

    Kyiv Culture

    Pulling Strings
    Located on Hrushevskoho Street – the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades – children’s favourite the Academic Puppet Theatre had to shut down in February. Nevertheless, it is getting ready to reopen this March with a renewed repertoire to bring some laughter back to a scene of tragedy. Operating (not manipulating) puppets is a subtle art that can make kids laugh and adults cry. What’s On meets Mykola Petrenko, art director of the Theatre, to learn more about those who pull the strings behind the show.


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