“A Tereshchenko dynasty descendant is an example of history being revived”Ambassador Roman WASCHUK on the particularities of memory policy in Canada
In the previous issue, The Day published the first part of an interview with Roman Waschuk, the Ambassador of Canada to Ukraine: “Canada Is not Going to Recognize the Annexation of Crimea.” In the second part, he speaks of the first results of the two countries’ cooperation in the field of defense and about the way Canada remembers the Holodomor. Mr. Waschuk told us how the Canadian government helps Ukrainians preserve cultural heritage and why he chose three photographs of Den’s Photo Competition.
“UKRAINE AND CANADA ARE ACTING AS HIGH-TECHNOLOGY DONORS ON THIRD-COUNTRY MARKETS”
“The prime minister has taken the unprecedented step of publicly releasing all ministerial mandate letters, as part of his plan for open government in Canada.
“In general, the new Canadian government is aimed at the future. It was elected mainly because it managed to draw support from a far larger number of young voters. This increased the national election turnout by eight percent and reminds me a little of the run-off in Mykolaiv. The groups that had traditionally voted inactively saw that Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau was a candidate who was offering them a prospect for the future. What also worked was his promise that women would account for a half of his Cabinet. He kept this promise, and among the new ministers are two Canadian women of Ukrainian origin – MaryAnn Mihychuk and Chrystia Freeland. All this showed a modernization of the political system. As the prime minister said in his swearing-in speech, our Cabinet looks like Canada – in terms of gender and the multiethnic English-French-speaking population.”
Mr. Ambassador, you have told us before that Ukraine is making armored vehicles in cooperation with Canadian company and that it is possible to cooperate in the aerospace sector on the basis of both countries’ expertise and achievements in this field. What is the situation here?
“Cooperation between the two countries is going on. Representatives of a number of Ukrainian businesses are attending the Canadian Aerospace Summit in Ottawa. The first joint project has already started – An 32 airplanes for Saudi Arabia. A trial plane with Canadian turboprop engines is now in the making. This is an instance when Ukraine and Canada are acting as high-technology donors on third-country markets. There is also great interest on the part of Canadian suppliers of radio equipment and avionics, who view cooperation with Ukrainian manufacturers as a good opportunity to enter not only the markets of Ukraine, but also those of third countries.”
“THE HOLODOMOR IS PART OF THE CURRICULUM IN MANY CANADIAN PROVINCES”
What do Canadian high schools and universities teach about Ukraine? What image of Ukraine do history manuals project?
“I would like to single out the Holodomor educational project which is carried out in rather a unique way – as a visual experience. This includes a special bus that was first sent to the province of Ontario and then to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. It is sort of a mobile educational multimedia class about the Holodomor with written, electronic, video, and other aids on this subject. This is mostly a federal government-funded project. The decision to launch this project was made past year. The Holodomor is part of the curriculum in many Canadian provinces as a cultural element of remembering the 20th-century’s great human tragedies.
“I hope very much that Andrii Shevchenko, the newly-appointed Ukrainian Ambassador to Canada, will be promoting the image of present-day Ukraine, contemporary Ukrainian culture, economic, scientific, literary, and cinematic achievements. We are highly interested in this sphere. Our public cultural TV and radio broadcasting service, CBS Arts, has devoted this week to contemporary Ukrainian culture. This may not be on a scale that would satisfy everybody, but there are mechanisms and people on both sides, who can carry out this kind of projects.
“I have just received an annual report of the Shevchenko Foundation which deals with propagating Ukrainian culture in Canada. This foundation has an endowment fund of 31.4 million dollars. It carries out a lot of projects in Canada as well as awards grants to choreographers or other artistes so they could travel to Ukraine. The foundation creates opportunities for cultural fusion. Recently, Ruslana organized a recital in Toronto together with the Shevchenko Bandura Orchestra, the oldest in the Diaspora. She writes in her Facebook that she felt for the first time that she could cooperate with high-profile bandura ensembles in Toronto.
“There also are programs of cooperation between Canadian and Ukrainian choirs. Canadian artistes turn to Ukrainian composers for new compositions. So, it is not a repetition of archaic patterns but a living exchange between modern-day creators. In other words, the two countries’ infrastructure and resources allow them not only to preserve, but also to develop the common cultural heritage.”
“THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT GRANTS TAX REMISSIONS TO THE PEOPLE WHO DONATE FOR CULTURAL AND EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES”
By what textbooks did you learn the Ukrainian language and Ukrainian history?
“In the almost prehistoric times, when I went to school, I used textbooks by Maria Dejko who lived in Australia. She taught at Central Ukraine schools and wrote textbooks aimed at learning Ukrainian as second language in the 1960s. Those books employed methods adopted with due account of the changed circumstances of teaching children. In perhaps the 8th form of a Canadian school, we had a textbook, Many Cultures, Many Heritages, which offered a comparative description of diverse cultural groups in Canada, including the Ukrainians. It was an interesting source. As a matter of fact, we, Saturday school pupils, supplemented our knowledge of history by means of Ivan Krypiakevych’s textbook. As a university student, I was critically appraising various sources. I continue doing so in the process of self-education.”
And, generally, in what way do the Canadian federal and provincial authorities help the Canadians of Ukrainian origin preserve their culture, language, and traditions?
“I can give a very interesting example, which can be of use in Ukraine. In the province of Saskatchewan, where people of Ukrainian origin account for 11-12 percent, the provincial governmental lottery spends a part of its earnings on funding the cultural activities of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’ provincial council. In our country, culture is under the jurisdiction of provinces. And they decide on how to organize this. On its part, the federal government grants additional tax remissions to the people who donate for cultural and educational purposes. In other words, Ottawa fiscally encourages donations for such institutions as the Shevchenko Foundation.”
“THERE HAVE BEEN SOME LITTLE-KNOWN GREAT PEOPLE IN THE HISTORY OF UKRAINE, ABOUT WHOM ONE SHOULD KNOW MORE”
Incidentally, what impression did Ukraine Incognita. TOP 25, a book about some little-known pages in Ukrainian history, make on you?
“There are some interesting points in this book, which show that there have been some little-known great people in the history of Ukraine, about whom one should know more. This can also be traced today. There is an example of Michel Terestchenko whose family line played a prominent role in more than a century’s time. That a Tereshchenko dynasty descendant has become the mayor of a town near Ukraine’s north-eastern border with Russia is an example of history being revived.”
You took part in our photo exhibit and awarded prizes to three photographs. Why did you choose these and not some other?
“In the picture Feeling, the dog has almost human traits. This photo mirrors the great importance of animals – be it cats or dogs – to front-line soldiers. This particularly concerns rehabilitation. For example, there is a Canadian program, Hero’s Friend, which, on the one hand, breeds or trains pedigree dogs to serve as guides for the disabled. On the other hand, dogs are taken from refuges and trained to be companions, in fact therapists, for people who have often had traumatic experiences.
“The second photograph we chose is True Blood. On the one hand, it is interesting for its esthetic geometry, and, on the other, it illustrates how many people in Ukraine literally donated their blood and sacrificed their wages and lives to support the front. For me, this was a somewhat abstract but very striking example of self-sacrificingness.
“The third photograph is Cardinal Lubomyr Huzar. It is a very profound portrait of a person who always reminds us with his articles, sermons, and personal example that spirituality is an applied thing that may concern both business and public life. It is not something to tick off once a year or a week, but something to live with every day.”
“YOU HAVE VERY TALENTED PHOTOGRAPHERS AND STAFF”
What impression did you gain from our photo exhibit?
“My impression is that you have very talented photographers and staff. Obviously, crises and, no matter how terrible this may sound, wars furnish photographers and artists with dramatic and dynamic themes. This is what our Canadian armed forces admitted after World War One, when they suggested establishing the position of an artist in the units. Their job was to catch the essence of an operation. During the joint Canadian-Ukrainian exercise at the Yavoriv proving ground, our military were accompanied by an artist who drew in pencil what he thought were the important moments of these war games. The events in your country have been mirrored to some extent in your photographs as well as in other forms of art. Yes, you have a crisis and very many tragic things, but you should still search for the grains that can be an illustrious example for the future.”