The CBC in Ottawa has tapped me to help look for traditional Ukrainian Christmas dishes to be shared on the radio next week in preparation for Christmas. Not being in Ottawa myself, I thought I’d extend the search out to any Ottawan who can make a mean Свята Вечерa dish for the show hosts, share their recipe and explain their food and the background of our Christmas. If you’re willing, give me a shout either via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter and we’ll get you set up!
The good old CBC, our national public broadcaster. While it’s under constant attack from the right (for the benefit of its rival Quebecor and Sun News over French-language markets and beyond), it’s one of our only real Canadian culture outlets (when was the last time the private TV networks like Global or CTV aired a Canadian show in prime time?). In parliament and editorials on TV and radio, all you hear about the CBC is what a drain of tax payers money it is and the scary ‘1 Billion dollars’ it commands. But in reality that investment almost quadruples what it puts back into our economy and only costs Canadians $34 a year – a fraction of what other public broadcasters such as in Britain or Australia cost. Luckily the majority of Canadians favour the CBC, and it has been charging ahead into the digital realm even in the face of drastic budget cutbacks from the Harper government.
Today CBC launched its new free digital music service that allows users to listen, share and purchase Canadian music. Browsing through, I was happy to see artists from its youth/alternative online station Radio 3 – which includes up and coming Ukrainian bands sicj as Ukrainia, Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Klooch and Zirka. And for all the readers of my site, I’ve compiled a list of their songs on one convenient playlist! I hope you enjoy it 😉
For those with the specialty TV channel CBC Bold, it has picked up a show that ran multiple years on the Natives’ APTN network called ‘Mixed Blessings‘. It’s about a Ukrainian man marrying a Cree woman and having their families live under the same roof a-la the Brady Bunch but in Fort Mac, Alberta. The show airs a few times a day except for Tuesdays and Friday.
If you get a chance, do give these a try and let me know what you think about them in the comments 🙂
Edit: Since I’m posting about the CBC, perhaps you would like to know if any of the staff are Ukrainian… well some are!
The above picture of the varenyky done up as the CBC logo is courtesy of radio host and producer David Shumka.
If you ever watched the show Being Erica that wrapped up this winter, you’d be happy to know the lovely star Erica Karpluk is of Ukrainian descent. The show, while not currently airing on TV right now can be seen on its CBC page as well as on NetFlix (which is an awesome service that you should definitely try!).
For your weekend listening pleasure, the BBC has published a two-part documentary podcast on ‘useful idiots’ – a phrase coined by Lenin about Westerners who endorsed the Soviet Union and its Communist ideologies, usually in the press.
The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw and American journalist Walter Duranty were some of those people who also visited the Soviet Union. They mingled with political leaders, were escorted into the countryside by Joseph Stalin’s secret police, and returned home to speak and write of ‘a land of hope’ with ‘evils retreating before the spread of communism’.
However as stories mounted of mass murder and starvation in parts of Russia and the Ukraine, reporters such as Gareth Jones and Malcolm Muggeridge investigated and reported on ‘the creation of one enormous Belsen’. Duranty responded with an article in the New York Times headed ‘Story of the famine is bunk’, and got an exclusive interview with Stalin.
Soon after, Jones died and Muggeridge’s career nose-dived. Duranty was awarded a Pulitzer.
How can intellectual curiosity transform into active promotion of a dangerous lie? Why so many ‘useful idiots’?
That popular ‘Carol of the Bells’ song you hear at Christmas? Yup, it’s Ukrainian!
The melody was created in 1916 by Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych (1877-1921) and titled “Shchedryk” (lyrics). Based on an old Ukrainian folk song, the original lyrics describes the swallow flying into a household to proclaim the plentiful year that the family will have. The song’s title is derived from the Ukrainian word “shchedryi” which means “bountiful.”
The original song in Ukrainian: Choir Irkutsk University – Shchedryk
The song was originally written for the New Years, not Christmas:
the original folk melody that Leontovich used to compose his work was one of many well-wishing tunes sung in many Ukrainian villages on Jan. 13 — New Year’s Eve on the Julian calendar — usually by adolescent girls going house to house in celebration of the new year. As the girls sang the tune predicting good fortune, they were rewarded with baked goods or other treats.
It was also written at a time of brief Ukrainian independence after World War I to promote its nationality and culture:
“Very few people realize that the composition ‘Shchedryk’ was composed and performed during a time when there was intense political struggle and social upheaval in Ukraine,” Potoczniak said. The same choir director who commissioned the song formed the Ukrainian National Chorus, mandated by a fledgling Ukrainian government, in 1919 to promote Ukranian music in major cultural centers in the West. Touring across Europe and North and South America, the chorus performed more than 1,000 concerts.
The Ukrainian National Chorus did not limit its performances of “Shchedryk” to the Julian New Year, and the song became popular in other parts of the world as the choir introduced it to other nationalities, including the United States, where they first performed the song to a sold-out audience at Carnegie Hall Oct. 5, 1921.
After being introduced in the US in the 1930’s the song was later ‘adapted’ (and profited) by western audiences as ‘Carol of the Bells (lyrics)‘ and again in the 40’s as ‘Ring, Christmas Bells‘ with its lyrics changed to include the Nativity scene:
When American choir director and arranger Peter Wilhousky heard Leontovich’s choral work, it reminded him of bells; so he wrote new lyrics to convey that imagery for his choir. He copyrighted the new lyrics in 1936 and published the song, despite the fact that the work had been published almost two decades earlier in Soviet Ukraine. In the late 1930s, several choirs that Wilhousky directed began performing his anglicized arrangement during the Christmas holiday season.
Now called “Carol of the Bells,” the song has become associated with Christmas because of its new lyrics, which include references to silver bells, caroling and the line “merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas.”
The song has been recently modernized with a popular rock variation from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra:
It’s also parodied in popular culture (if you don’t get it – you probably don’t want to know) :
And it looks like it will continue on:
The following is an interview with Prof. Andrea Graziosi of the University of Naples on Stalin and the Holodomor:
Andrea Graziosi is Professor of History at the University of Naples "Federico II" and President (from 2007) of the Italian Society for the Study of Contemporary History. He is the author, among other things, of:
- Lettere da Kharkov (Torino, 1991 and Kharkiv, 2007)
- The Great Soviet Peasant War (Cambridge, MA, 1996 and Moscow, 2001),
- Bol’sheviki i krest’iane na Ukraine, 1918-1919 (Moscow, 1997)
- A New, Peculiar State. Explorations in Soviet History (Westport, CT, 2000)
- Guerra e rivoluzione in Europa, 1905-1956 (Bologna, 2002, Kyiv and Moscow, 2005)
- L’Urss di Lenin e Stalin, 1914-1945 (Bologna, 2007)
- L’Urss dal trionfo al degrado, 1945-1991 (Bologna, 2008)
He serves on editorial boards of a number of French, English, Italian, Ukrainian and U.S. specialized journals, co-edits in Moscow, since 1992, the series "Dokumenty sovetskoi istorii" (15 volumes in print) and is a member of the editorial board of the series Istoriia Stalinizma (Rosspen, Moscow).
Telephone interview with historian Dr. Andrea Graziosi, conducted by Roman Brytan, producer & host of Radiozhurnal, Edmonton’s daily Ukrainian radio program on 101.7 World FM.