Much of Ukraine, the second largest country in Europe, is covered by vast plains and plateaus. The country is famous for its breads and pastries, including the special wedding bread called korovai, braided Easter loaves, and kolach, a Christmas bread given to members of the household during the traditional meal. The population is comprised mainly of Ukrainians and Russians, and the official language is Ukrainian, a musical and poetic language similar to Russian and influenced by Polish.
Ukrainian culture draws from both Eastern and Western European traditions, with some of these traditions shared with Poland, Russia, Slavic countries and Turkic people. Christmas, with its 12 course dinner, and Easter, with its pysanky (painted Easter eggs) and elaborate breads, are the two main celebrations during the year. Other celebrations dating back to pagan times include the Maslyantsya, the celebration of the end of winter, and Ivan Kupala night, the summer solstice. Ukrainians are known for forming strong friendships and hospitality is regarded as a sacred duty. An example of that is the vechornytsi, social gatherings taking place in the fall and winter during which folk songs are sung, jokes told and food served to visitors.
Their folk art is rich and colourful and Ukrainians love decorating their clothing with intricate red and black embroidery. Carpet weaving, straw weaving, and woodcarving are also important forms of Ukrainian art. Music plays a large role in Ukrainian culture with many people belonging to singing or folk dance groups. The country also has a strong tradition of opera and classical ballet––the Kyiv Ballet is one of the best in the world.
Ukrainians settled in Canada in three main waves of migration. The first of these was set off by Ivan Pylypiw and Wasyl Eleniak in 1891. These two men were pioneers of the Ukrainian Canadian community, which, as the fifth largest ethnic group in Canada, numbers over 1,250,000. Early settlers were instrumental in opening up and settling the Canadian west, and it is estimated that Ukrainians pioneered 40 percent of this country’s wheat land and helped Canada become the ‘Granary of the World.’ They established many churches, community halls, and organizations like the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada, and have had a profound influence in many areas of Canadian life including literature, sports and academics. Ukrainian Canadians introduced the concept of multiculturalism, which has been the official policy of the Canadian government since 1971. A number of Ukrainian foods such as beet soup, perogies, cabbage rolls and bagels are consumed on a daily basis in this country, and many annual festivals, such as Manitoba’s national Ukrainian Festival, preserve the history and heritage of Ukrainians in Canada.
Sponsor: Ukrainian Canadian Congress (St. Catharines Branch) | Photos courtesy Wikimedia Commons