Jewish Ukrainian Relations: Two Solitudes


70 pages
ISBN 0-88962-213-2





Reviewed by Greg Turko

Greg Turko is a policy analyst at the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and


This short book is the product of a joint effort by the authors to outline the potential, and the need, for study in the field of Jewish-Ukrainian relations within the broader framework of Ukrainian history.

The authors use, as their starting point, the observation that the Jews and Ukrainians lived in “two solitudes,” much as the French and English did in Canada. In doing so each group greatly affected the course of the other’s affairs, but each barely understood the other.

To develop their case, and to suggest possible areas of research, Aster and Potichnyj provide a (very) brief history of the Ukraine, in both social and economic terms. We learn, for example that Jewish-Ukrainian relations were influenced, for some time, by Polish landlords in the Ukraine. We also learn of the impact of industrialization on relations as well as the ramifications of political events in the Russian Empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Most importantly, we are shown how these two groups misunderstood each other; in the words of the authors, the Jews lived in “animosity, confusion, bitterness and even enmity” toward the Ukrainians, while the Ukrainians lived with a feeling of “betrayal, exploitation and treachery” with respect to the Jews. The problem is not inconsequential, as even today 800,000 Jew’s live in the Ukraine.

In the course of reading this book one often wishes that the authors had explored one facet or another more fully. This, however, was not their stated aim. Their goal was to stimulate interest, discussion, and research. They have succeeded with this economical volume.


Aster, Howard, and Peter J. Potichnyj, “Jewish Ukrainian Relations: Two Solitudes,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 22, 2024,