Ukrainian Museum of Canada Workshop on Women Writers - March 11, 2000

Recognizing Their Literary Contributions, Role in Ukrainian Women's Movement

A workshop of historical importance, funded in part by a City of Saskatoon Cultural Participation Grant, was held at the Ukrainian Museum of Canada in Saskatoon earlier this year. Entitled Spirit of the Times, this workshop focused on the contributions of women writers to Ukrainian literature and their role in the Ukrainian Women's Movement in Ukraine and Canada.

This workshop was inspired by the publication of the first four volumes of the series Women's Voices in Ukrainian Literature. This translation project made the works of eight prominent Ukrainian women authors accessible to the English reader. The Spirit of the Times -- Olena Pchilka (1849-1930) and Nataliya Kobrynska (1855-1920); In the Dark of the Night -- Dniprova Chayka (1861-1927) and Lyubov Yanovska (1861-1933); But…the Lord is Silent -- Olha Kobylianska (1863-1942) and Yevheniya Yaroshynska (1868-1904); and From Heart to Heart -- Hrytsko Hryhorenko (1867-1924) and Lesya Ukrainka (1871-1913). The short fiction written by these women between 1883 and 1927 portrays a turbulent period in history when traditional values were being undermined; issues of political power, cultural oppression, and social justice were being debated; and Ukrainian women activists, together with their counterparts in many parts of the world, were embarking on a long and difficult trek to political, social, and economic equality.

Together, the books constitute an unsystematic but compelling social history of this era and allow us to experience the varied and compelling life stories of ordinary people of the day -- urban and rural, rich and poor, educated and illiterate, those whose lives were ruled by tradition, and those who fought for change. History describes the conditions and social forces that shaped the lives and values of our immigrant ancestors, it is literature, however, that gives their stories a human face. The picture that emerges helps us understand our immigrant ancestors and corrects many of the misperceptions that left both us and our non-Ukrainian countrymen with incomplete or distorted views of our past.

The all-day workshop, organized by Marie Kischuk and Randy Koroluk of the Ukrainian Museum of Canada, attracted over thirty participants. The setting for the workshop included a special exhibition, consisting of photographs and write-ups about notable female figures in Ukrainian history, prepared by the museum for Women's History Month in Canada, and a display of literary and historical books prepared by the translator and editor of the translation project, both former faculty members at the University of Saskatchewan.

During the morning session, chaired by Marie Kischuk, Dr. Victor Buyniak, Professor Emeritus of the University of Saskatchewan, provided the historical, social and literary contexts for the period under discussion. Dr. Roma Franko, the translator of the series, spoke briefly about the translation process and presented a paper entitled "Two Faces of Feminism" in which she discussed the approaches used by women writers in Ukraine in tackling the political, cultural, and social issues of their day. Sonia Morris, the editor of the series, analyzed the authors' portrayal of the lives of women of different social classes in Ukraine at the time of the first immigration of Ukrainians to Canada.

The afternoon session, chaired by Sonia Morris, began with a presentation by Natalie Ostryzniuk, a student of Ukrainian women's organizations in Canada, who highlighted the evolution of the Ukrainian Women's Movement in Ukraine and its influence on the development of a similar movement in Canada, making specific reference to the contributions of several of the authors featured in the series. While viewing the slides accompanying this talk, workshop participants greeted with applause two of the leading pioneers of the Ukrainian Women's Movement in Canada who were in attendance at the workshop: Dr. Savella Stechishin and Mrs. Mary Tkachuk.

The second speaker of the afternoon, Dr. Natalia Aponiuk, Director of the Centre for Ukrainian Studies at the University of Manitoba, provided an in-depth analysis of the manner in which Ukrainians have been depicted in Canadian literature and stressed the importance of the series, given that Ukrainian women writers were not well known, particularly to readers with no knowledge of Ukrainian. The final presenter, Dr. John Lyons of the University of Saskatchewan, shared his views about the lives of Ukrainian women in both Canada and Ukraine based on his observations and personal experiences while growing up in the multi-ethnic rural settlements around Swan River, Manitoba, and on his travels to Ukraine on professional educational exchanges. The workshop concluded with a summary of the proceedings by Marie Kischuk.

During the noon-hour break, Roma Franko, on behalf of Language Lanterns Publications, presented, in memory of notable Ukrainian-Canadians, six-volume sets -- the four volumes already published and the two additional volumes to be published in fall of 2000 -- to the libraries of the following institutions: the Prairie Centre for the Study of Ukrainian Heritage at the University of Saskatchewan (Dr. C. H. Andrusyshen); St. Andrew's College at the University of Manitoba (Rev. Dr. Dmytro Stratychuk); the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at St. Paul University in Ottawa (Mr. John Gutiw); the University of Regina (Mr. Paul Hleck, QC); and the Saskatchewan Teacher's Federation Resource Centre in Saskatoon (Mr. Steve Kobrynsky).

In their evaluations, the participants expressed their appreciation to the six presenters for their highly informative and well-prepared addresses. They also commended the organizers of the workshop for recognizing the need for an educational workshop to bring to light the valuable, but often unrecognized contributions of Ukrainian women, and strongly recommended that other such workshops be organized in the future.

For information about exhibits and programs at the Ukrainian Museum of Canada visit the Web site: For more information about the series Women's Voices in Ukrainian Literature, visit the Web site:

Ukrainian Museum of Canada news release Nov. 14, 2000.

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