Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A New Revolution

Yesterday I was sitting in on a meeting between the Director of Democratic Initiatives Foundation and Vakhtang Kipiani, a leading Ukrainian journalist and probably an individual with the largest personal collection of Ukrainian Samvydav in the world. We were discussing a project that relates to the changes that started to take place during perebudova but also the fact that Russia likes to write its own history and that it is time that Ukrainians be more active in this area.

Just to give this a little bit of a musical twist, back at that time there was a group from L'viv called Opal'niy Prince, one of their songs was called Nova Revolutsiya, which recalls the events the fall of the Berlin Wall, the deposition of Nicolae Ceauşescu. In that song there are lines such as:

Зрушена в Берлині Флойдова Стіна...
Чауческу мертвий Румунія вперед!...

When I get a chance to transcribe the whole song I will make it available.

During that meeting I discovered some very interesting facts that I would like to share with you all.

Twenty years ago there was a conference held in the mountains between Poland and Czechoslovakia it came to be known as the Wroclaw conference and was supported by the National Endowment for Democracy - It is known that V. Havel said that this conference was an encouraging factor for him personally and a stimulus for the Velvet Revolution. In October of this year NED will be sponsoring a conference to be held in L'viv which looks back at those historic times, there is something about that in the above link to NED.

Tommorow, DIF will be holding the first event that relates back to the period when Ukraine was awakening as it had seen what was transpiring in its neighbouring countries. Actually I personally looking forward to this event and to see Bohdan Horyn. I will digress for a moment so that you all will understand why this is something personal to me. On July 1, 1990 I made my first trip to Ukraine (still part of the USSR). Prior to my departure from Montreal Roman Serbyn had given me a letter which he wanted me to personally hand to Bohdan Horyn. In the mid-afternoon of July 1 together with students from Studentske Bratstvo of L'viv and the other five Canadian students who were traveling with me, we were wandering through Mariinsky Park and Demian one of the Ukrainian students said to me, "There's Bohdan Horyn sitting on that bench, you said you had a letter to give him, now is your chance!" So we approached Bohdan Horyn and our new friend Demian introduced us and the first thing I did was to kindly hand Bohdan Horyn the letter from Roman Serbyn. Mission accomplished. Bohdan Horyn asked each of us in turn where we were from, when he finally got to me an I told him that I was from Montreal... he paused for a moment and asked, "Do you know Roman Serbyn from Montreal?" I chuckled and reminded him that the letter I had just handed him was from Roman Serbyn. Like a young child he raised his hands and waved them around and said, "Jakiy tisniy svit!" [What a small world!] Over the next three days in Kyiv... There wasn't a place that we didn't go that we would not run into Bohdan Horyn.

I hopefully video interview him as well as others at the event tomorrow... and get that up on UkeTube ASAP.

Now given I have mentioned that we have to write our own history the request below relates to this, and I would like your assistance if possible. At the current time there is an initiative group working on setting up an internet exhibit which focuses on the role of civic activism in Ukraine and by Ukrainians abroad during the period from the time of President Ronald Reagan's Brandenburg speech on June 12,
1987 [] until Ukraine's referendum on independence on December 1, 1991.

The group is made up of Tovarystvo Leva in L'viv with support from NED, Democratic Initiatives Foundation in Kyiv whom I have consulted for over the last ten years, and well known journalist and collector of samvydav, Vakhtang Kipiani and myself to a lesser degree.

Now you ask? What it is I'm looking for you all, and from our community in general. Either you or your friends and others who were actively involved in the Ukrainian-Canadian community may have in your personal collections press clippings, photographs, video from demonstrations, marches, talks by dissidents or other such events that took place during this period, in Canada.

For a start from this side of the big pond, I would just like to let you know that I saw some incredible material related to samvydav here in Kyiv. Hundreds of foil plates which were used to print pro-Ukrainian and anti-Soviet materials which activists from throughout Ukraine would transport to Vilnius, Lithuania where this material was most often printed. These are being scanned and enhanced for the exhibition.

For example, I clearly know that members of SUSK were involved in events on January 22, 1989 at the time that the Live Chain from L'viv to Kharkiv was formed by members of Rukh on that day. In Montreal a candle light vigil was held near the Roddick Gates at McGill with a procession to the Soviet Consulate a few blocks away. Natalia Olynec(originally from New York, studied at McGill now lives in Singapore) was on the front cover of The Montreal Gazette holding a candle at that event and there was a write up. In Ottawa a similar event was held on Parliament Hill and I recall that a good friend Wolodymyr Barabash(originally from Edmonton, father was a photographer, met him in Ottawa) and others made the front page of The Ottawa Citizen. What we are looking for are high quality scans of such materials, these are just the items that come to mind at the current moment. I am sure there plenty of other events which we can collectively think of which we as Canadians can contribute to this exhibition. I also remember a talk that Vyacheslav Briukhovetsky did at McGill sometime in the late 1980s and he probably spoke at a number of different locations in Canada, this was shortly after the formation of Rukh.

We must remember that Ukraine's youth, those under 18 years of age have grown up in an Independent nation, and while they receive Ukrainian history as part of their curriculum, I am certain that they are not aware of the true role that individuals and groups of individuals in Ukraine and abroad played.

I am sure that a number of you have personal collections, and I am certain that those of you who were involved at various levels in your communities must have such materials. The organizers and myself would greatly appreciate your contributions. If you can scan such materials at high-resolution, and with each piece include:

  • The event
  • The Date
  • The location
  • In the case of photographs from personal collections your first and last name.

If you have video and you can digitize it let us know and we will figure out a method in which this can be also made part of the exhibition, possibly later as a multimedia product.

In the very near future I will know exactly where to send such materials for this online exhibit.


  1. Awesome work! What a ground-breaking project this is. As an amateur historian, I love the idea. It is long overdue, actually.

    Keep us posted!

  2. Hi Vasyl,
    By total coincidence I read your blog! We lost touch! I'm working in Asia right now but when I get back home I'll send scans of our demonstrations in Canada and the USA but more importantly those in Lviv against the KGB back in 1991. A newscast on Ukrainian TV showed the demonstration in '91 and you might try and track that down! No one could believe it happened. I without arrests! What a beautiful year that was!

  3. Wolodya,
    Is that you? The same one who I last saw at Ivan's wedding in Portland?
    If so I need your e-mail! Put it on here I and won't publish it... Will just paste it....

  4. Looking for Wolodymyr Barabash, whose father was a photographer,in Edmonton, he went to Uvic for a while in the 70"s friend of M, Vulpe. if you think this is the same on, I'd like to contact him. Sue

  5. Sue,
    I forwarded your message to Wolodymyr Barabash and he said if you would e-mail me privately, I could give you his e-mail address he was quite surprised to hear from you in fact. My e-mail is vpawlowsky [at] gmail [dot] com