A Heritage in Transition: Essays in the History of Ukrainians in Canada


344 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-7710-5388-6




Edited by Manoly R. Lupul
Reviewed by John Stanley

John Stanley is a policy advisor at the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and


This volume on the Ukrainian-Canadian community is one of the lengthiest works in the series “Generations,” sponsored by the Secretary of State. Its length reflects the high profile of the Ukrainian community in the struggle for multiculturalism in Canada.

Ukrainian immigration to Canada began in 1896, composed chiefly of poor peasants from Galicia and Bukovina, two provinces of the Austrian Empire. The Canadian government, eager for settlers on the prairies, encouraged such immigration. The second, inter-war as well as the third, post-war emigrants were better educated and more urban than their predecessors, but it was the first wave which created the infrastructure of community organisations, newspapers, and churches which welcomed the immigrants of the 1920s and 1940s. Professor Himka provides a useful background to this immigration in his first chapter on Ukrainian history within the Austrian Empire from 1848 to 1914. Wsevolod Isajiw’s essay on “Occupational and Economic Development” points up the differences between the three waves.

The Ukrainians have the largest number of organisations and are among the most politicised ethnic groups in Canada. Indeed, Isajiw believes them “addicted ... to the extremes” (p. 131). There is a strong anti-Communist fervour within the Ukrainian community (understandable, given Soviet policies). Simultaneously, however, Ukrainians are over-represented in Canada’s small Communist Party. Contrary to the experiences of other groups, the Ukrainians have not given up their ethnicity as they have been “Canadianised.” The more highly educated, the more ethnically conscious has been the general rule. While Ukrainians have risen in local and provincial politics, they are under-represented in the federal parliament as well as in the Ottawa bureaucracy. Surprisingly, given their numbers in Ontario, they are also under-represented in that province’s political life as well.

Among the weakest essays is that by Senator Paul Yuzyk, who discusses religious life. In describing the Uniate Church, Yuzyk decides to adopt the term “Greek Catholic” — confusing, since the Uniates are neither Greek in nationality nor Catholic in liturgy. Moreover, Uniate churches exist among the Belorussians and Romanians, too. While there were numerous Ukrainians of the Orthodox faith in the seventeenth century, one cannot speak of a “Ukrainian Orthodox Church” in that period, for the Church had no separate Patriarch or independent status. Even the present “Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church” is not recognised by any other Orthodox patriarchy. Yuzyk considers the Protestants as “not an integral part of the Ukrainian-Canadian community” (p. 164) and goes on to indicate the participation of three leading Protestant preachers in the 1973 World Congress of Free Ukrainians. He also admits that the two main Ukrainian churches — Uniate and Orthodox — have lost support to the Protestants. Indeed, Protestants now compose one-third of the Ukrainian community in Canada. Sen. Yuzyk refers to the Carpatho-Ukrainian state, which arose from the ruins of Czechoslovakia in 1939, as “democratic,” which stretches the truth. (Indeed, it would be difficult to credit this state with any traditions, since it survived as an independent entity precisely one day!) Sen. Yuzyk sees this state’s destruction by Hungary, Nazi Germany’s erstwhile ally, as having united the Ukrainians against Hitler. Unfortunately, none of the writers in the volume even once alludes to the extensive collaboration between elements of the Ukrainian émigré community in Europe and the Germans, who sought to use them to rule in the occupied Ukraine.

Ol’ha Woycenko’s essay on community organisations is one of the better contributions. While there is some overlapping with the chapters on political life, she dissects political and religious history from an organisational viewpoint, underlining the divisive nature of religion in Ukrainian life. Certainly, the sheer number of organisations — and the bitter divisions which they signify and further develop — reflects the fact that “few Ukrainian organisations are non-denominational” (p. 178). Woycenko also gives more attention than any other writer to the Communist movement. Certainly, the failure to devote a chapter to this important element in Ukrainian-Canadian life is one of the greatest lacunae in this volume. Oleh Gerus, however, discusses one of the few organisations which were secular and managed to tie the entire community together — the Ukrainian Canadian Committee.

Faced with Russification in the Soviet Ukraine and Canadianisation at home, the Ukrainian diaspora has sought to create a Ukrainian nation abroad. The chapters on private schools, language education, and the press, as well as the essays on the fine arts and literature within the Ukrainian-Canadian community, serve to demonstrate this policy’s effectiveness.

The strengths and weaknesses of this volume reflect the state of research in the field. One cannot help feeling, however, that the lack of essays on either the extreme left or right is an attempt to ignore pages in history which present-day Ukrainians might prefer to forget. There are some lesser criticisms as well. While one cannot object to the use of Ukrainian names for Ukrainian places, “Bukovina” is now standard English usage and not likely to be replaced by “Bukovyna.” A translation of Symon Palamariuk’s poem on page 297 should have been included. Whatever the criticisms a reviewer might have of this volume, no one can doubt that this work represents a useful starting point for any researcher in the field. It is likely to be of interest not only to those researchers interested in the Ukrainian experience in Canada but also to those readers interested in the immigrant experience and the new multiculturalism. One can only hope that other ethnic groups have as much success in preserving their traditions as have the Ukrainians.


“A Heritage in Transition: Essays in the History of Ukrainians in Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/38936.