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Hope for Ukraine is Half a League Onward

By: Tim Cusack

  |  Posted: Saturday, Mar 08, 2014 06:00 am

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When I moved from the Maritimes to Alberta in the early ’90s, I found it particularly interesting that so many folks queried me about the origin of my surname. While it is Irish and French in composition, I was fascinated that so many people thought it was Ukrainian. I chalked it up to the consonant blend of the letters and perhaps my love of great food.

Though I learned in upper elementary that many central and eastern Europeans settled in western Canada, I soon came to a profound realization that the Prairies were indeed home to a vibrant and dynamic Ukrainian population. In my mid-20s I was, at last, introduced to an array of food, dance, customs and traditions. I was invited to many Orthodox weddings, attended dance performances, festivals, funerals and many other cultural events. I found myself captivated by the traditional music, costumes and customs of this wonderful culture.

In St. Albert one need not travel too far to find an authentic taste of Ukrainian cuisine. A little further east and the historical Ukrainian Village provides rich insights on the establishment and history of Ukrainian culture in this region. I recently read that approximately two million Canadians claim Ukrainian heritage. The Ukrainian culture is clearly an integral part of our province’s composition. Thus there is tremendous concern over the recent Russian troop incursion into the Crimean region of Ukraine. This is not simply a crisis in some foreign land. It impacts our community.

Russia claims to be protecting the human rights of the Russian-speaking minority in Ukraine. Ousted president Viktor Yanukovych has purportedly requested military support from Russia in the hopes of restoring the rule of law and order to the people of Ukraine. Russia claims that western interference has undermined the legitimate governance of Ukraine. Always two sides!

The toothless UN, which has veto-wielding Russia as a permanent member of the security council, can only join in the finger-wagging and deep frowning coming from the leaders of G7 nations. Yes, there are a lot of stern words and the threat of economic sanctions but the lessons learned in Germany’s 1938 foray into Czechoslovakia remind us that appeasement might not end with the annexation of Crimea. Putin, unshaken by the rhetoric from the west, seems intent on maintaining Russian access to warm water ports. It is too bad that Russia cannot be stripped of its position on the security council. That might be something for Putin to consider.

Under the guise of what some would call a Russian attempt at Anschluss, Ukrainians find themselves in a situation that is precarious at best. There has already been too much bloodshed. It is difficult to watch these events unfold. I can only imagine the impact it has on those Canadians of Ukrainian heritage.

Cannon to the right of them, cannon to the left of them … we pray that cooler heads prevail.

Tim Cusack is a writer, educator and member of the naval reserve.


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