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Cynthia Sugars

Pedagogies in Practice

Re-Placing Ethnicity: New Approaches to Ukrainian Canadian Literature

Lisa Grekul

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1Over the past 50 years, Canadian writers of Ukrainian descent have produced a substantial body of literature written in English that makes a rich contribution to Canadian literature. Sadly, however, Ukrainian Canadian writing is under-represented in Canadian literary studies, even though this literature has much to offer current debates going on within the Canadian literary institution. Why is Ukrainian Canadian literature rarely studied by literary scholars? Why are Ukrainian Canadian literary texts largely absent from classroom syllabi? In this paper, I suggest some possible answers to these questions. More importantly, I will outline several strategies through which Ukrainian Canadian literature can become part of the scholarship on and teaching of Canadian literature.

2Admittedly, as a third-generation Ukrainian Canadian and a writer, I have a two-pronged personal investment in the production and reception of Ukrainian Canadian literature. I started thinking about Ukrainian Canadian literature near the end of my undergraduate degree, when I first noticed that I’d never been assigned any Ukrainian Canadian texts in my English courses. I assumed that I’d never studied these texts because they didn’t exist. Why wasn’t my ethnic group represented in my national literature? In order to fill the gap I perceived, I set out to write a Ukrainian Canadian novel. In the process of writing my book, which ultimately doubled as my MA thesis, I discovered that more than a few Ukrainians before me had in fact published novels—novels, plays, poetry, short stories, and non-fiction. Indeed, I came to understand that the writing and publishing of literary works doesn’t necessarily fill gaps in literary canons and literary studies. My novel, Kalyna’s Song, a comic bildungsroman about a young Ukrainian Canadian woman, was published by Coteau Books in 2003. As I made the final revisions to my manuscript, I found myself wondering what would become of my book once it was published: would it be reviewed, studied, taught? If so, how? Where? And by whom?

  • 1 I distinguish between “racial” and “ethnic” minority writing because, as Winfried Siemerling sugge (...)

3Over the past decade, scholars of Canadian literature have been debating the relation between so-called ethnic minority literatures and mainstream literary studies. Few would disagree that Canada’s colonial legacies are British and French but that the nation has always also comprised a vast array of cultural groups. From its beginnings until the present day, Canadian literature has been shaped by writers from many different cultural backgrounds. Certainly since the early 1970s—as a result, in part, of Lester B. Pearson’s Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (1963), Pierre Trudeau’s announcement of a “Policy of Multiculturalism within a Bilingual Framework” (1971), and the passing of the Multiculturalism Act (1988) by Brian Mulroney’s government—myriad changes in the publishing, reviewing, teaching, and critiquing of Canadian literary texts increasingly reflect the relevance of so-called racial and ethnic minority writing to mainstream Canadian literary studies.1

4Scholars are divided, however, in their evaluation of the inclusiveness of the Canadian literary institution. In the introduction to their controversial anthology Other Solitudes: Canadian Multicultural Fictions (1990), Linda Hutcheon and Marion Richmond, for example, suggest that the Canadian literary canon has always been, by definition, multicultural, and that Canadian literary studies have always embraced ethnic minority writers. After all, some of the earliest Canadian writers to achieve canonical recognition—Laura Salverson, Frederick Philip Grove, and A.M. Klein—came from ethnic minority backgrounds. The recent popularity, moreover, of minority writers such as Joy Kogawa, Rohinton Mistry, Wayson Choy, Michael Ondaatje, and many others indicates that the boundaries between “minority” and “mainstream” literatures are becoming increasingly blurred. But as Smaro Karnboureli argues, the token inclusion of a few ethnic minority writers in the canon fails to challenge traditional, Anglo-Canadian definitions of Canadian literature: “[r]epresenting Canada’s multiculturalism,” she writes, “with a spattering of only one or two authors, making such writers visible only by viewing them as representative of their cultural groups, does virtually nothing to dispel the ‘marginality’ attributed to those authors” (Making a Difference 3). And, as Enoch Padolsky observes—correctly, I think—many minority texts are still published by small, minority-oriented presses; these texts are less likely to be reviewed, and they are usually studied or taught by minority critics (375).

  • 2 See Kamboureli, Scandalous Bodies; Bannerji; and Miki.

5The fundamental concern in all debates about the relation between ethnic minority writing and mainstream Canadian literary studies is the extent to which multiculturalism actually promotes diversity. Ideally, the ideologies and practices of multiculturalism preserve and promote the cultural heritages of Canada’s ethnic groups. Realistically, however—and this is the argument advanced by such literary critics and theorists as Kamboureli, Himani Bannerji, and Roy Miki—multiculturalism manages difference while maintaining the Anglo-Canadian status quo.2 Multiculturalism evokes difference in order to neutralize it (Bannerji 109).

6What effect has multicultural policy had on Ukrainian Canadians, their literature, and the study of this literature? Prior to the 1970s, most Ukrainian Canadian writers published Ukrainian-language poetry and short fiction in North American Ukrainian newspapers. Aside from novelists Vera Lysenko (whose novels Yellow Boots and Westerly Wild were published in 1954 and 1956, respectively) and Illia Kiriak (whose trilogy Sons of the Soil was published in Ukrainian between 1939 and 1945, and translated into English in 1959), few Ukrainian Canadians wrote in English about their experiences as members of an ethnic minority group because of the intense pressure they experienced to assimilate to Anglo-Canadian society. Ukrainian Canadians did not begin writing about their experiences of ethnicity until the 1970s, when ideologies and practices of assimilation gave way to the mosaic model of Canadian nationhood. As Anglo-Canadian society began to recognize the value of ethnic minority groups to the multicultural nation, Ukrainian Canadians began to take pride in Ukrainian folk music, dance, and art. Ukrainian Canadian writers, though sometimes critical of this ethnic revival, benefited both directly and indirectly from Anglo-Canadian society’s increasing openness to cultural diversity. They benefited, too, from the general development of the Canadian literary establishment. Multiculturalism created audiences and funding for Ukrainian Canadian literary works, so Ukrainian Canadian writers were ostensibly able to acknowledge and explore their Ukrainian backgrounds for the first time with neither embarrassment nor shame.

7Beginning in the 1970s, and influenced by more inclusive definitions of Canadian nationhood and by the burgeoning of Canadian literature, a number of second- and third-generation Ukrainian Canadians started to write. Ironically, however, what they wrote, and how they wrote it, often revealed their ambivalent feelings toward the language, institutions, and values of both their ethnic and national communities. Although these writers were ostensibly empowered to explore and even celebrate their ethnic subjectivity, the experience of assimilation had profoundly affected them: most, if not all, had adopted English as their mother tongue, and the vast majority had accepted that the immigrant generations’ way of life must necessarily give way to the modernity of Anglo-Canadian society. Yet almost without exception, Ukrainian Canadian writers felt an urgent responsibility to document the personal or private (hi)stories of their people, previously unrecorded in official or public narratives of Canadian history. Many writers, when faced with the self-appointed task of authentically articulating the histories of Ukrainian Canadians, questioned the appropriateness of standard English in communicating the lived experiences of Ukrainian Canadians, and they rejected established literary styles and genres that seemed inadequate for exploring the complex, hybrid identities of individuals who straddle two worlds. Both thematically and formally, these writers foregrounded the uneasy relation between ethnic and national identity, as well as the gap they perceived between language and reality.

  • 3 Potrebenko’s works include a novel, Sometimes They Sang (1986), and Hey Waitress (1989), a collect (...)
  • 4 See, for example, Suknaski’s Wood Mountain Poems (1976), the ghosts call you poor (1978), In the N (...)
  • 5 Kostash writes about her travels to Ukraine in Bloodlines: A Journey into Eastern Europe (1993) an (...)

8Hyphenated identity, however, was—and is—not the only issue addressed by Ukrainian Canadian writers. For example, writers such as Helen Potrebenko, Maara Haas, and Marusya Bociurkiw critically examine the political allegiances, patriarchal social structures, and heterosexism of their Ukrainian Canadian communities.3 Other writers of poetry, drama, and short fiction, including Andrew Suknaski, Ray Serwylo, Maara Haas, George Ryga, and George Morrissette, address the commonalities and conflicts between Ukrainian Canadians and other ethnic minority groups (especially First Nations people).4 All of these writers question their sense of belonging, or their right to belong, in a prairie space that they share with other communities. Writers such as Myrna Kostash and Janice Kulyk Keefer question their sense of belonging to the Old Country from which their parents or grandparents emigrated.5 In other words, for numerous Ukrainian Canadian writers, the specific matter of Ukrainian Canadian ethnicity (what it means to be Ukrainian Canadian) intersects with broader issues of politics, gender, and race, as well as history, language, and place.

9That Ukrainian Canadian literature in English developed alongside discourses of multiculturalism is no coincidence. Nor is it coincidental that Ukrainian Canadian cultural studies programs (and scholarship related to Ukrainian Canadian cultural production) emerged alongside the introduction and institutionalization of multiculturalism. Although Professor Kost Andrusyshen established the Chair of Ukrainian Language Studies at the University of Saskatchewan in 1945 (Marunchak 732), and although some scholarly texts related to Ukrainians in Canada were published prior to the 1960s—for example, Charles Young’s The Ukrainian Canadians: A Study in Assimilation (1931), William Paluk’s Canadian Cossacks: Essays, Articles and Stories on Ukrainian Canadian Life (1943), Vera Lysenko’s Men in Sheepskin Coats: A Study in Assimilation (1947), and Paul Yuzyk’s The Ukrainians in Manitoba: A Social History (1953)—no concentrated unfolding of Ukrainian Canadian scholarship occurred until discussions around multiculturalism began to take place. Not surprisingly, given their long history of social organization and political activism, Ukrainian Canadians—and, in particular, Ukrainian Canadian scholars—played an active, if not central, role in lobbying for the institutionalization of multiculturalism.

10In 1963, when Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson launched the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, Ukrainian Canadians, many of whom had experienced political oppression in the Old Country, balked at institutionalized anglophone and francophone cultural hegemony: according to Bohdan Bociurkiw, they “undoubtedly played the leading role in the development and dissemination of the ideas and policy demands that eventually crystallized into the policy of multiculturalism” (Bociurkiw 100). Between 1963 and 1971, groups such as the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians (AUUC), the Ukrainian Canadian University Students’ Union (SUSK), and the Ukrainian Professional and Business Federation, as well as prominent individuals and representatives from the Ukrainian Canadian press, voiced their staunch disapproval of a bipartite model of nationhood. At public forums and conferences, in newspaper articles and scholarly papers, Ukrainian Canadians reiterated the argument that bilingualism and biculturalism would “[condemn]... other ethnic groups to an inferior, ‘non-founding’ status and their cultures to eventual submersion in one of two ‘official cultures’” (Bociurkiw 105). As an alternative to the proposed “B&B” framework, Ukrainian Canadians called for the federal government to “support the efforts of all ethnocultural groups to maintain and develop their cultural-linguistic heritage”; they suggested that a federal ministry of culture be established to “recognize and give unlimited support to all the cultures of the Canadian multicultural society” (Bociurkiw 105). Interestingly, when Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau eventually announced his new policy of multiculturalism within a bilingual framework, in October 1971, he did so at a meeting of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (Hryniuk and Luciuk 3).

11Discussions among Ukrainian Canadians about multiculturalism, however, did not wane following Trudeau's announcement: now the work of consolidating multicultural policy—and Ukrainian Canadians’ status within a multicultural state—began. Between 1971 and 1988, Ukrainian Canadian scholars convened on numerous occasions to formulate strategies for preserving and promoting the Ukrainian way of life in Canada. In 1974, for example, the “All-Canadian Conference on Ukrainian Studies Courses,” held in Winnipeg, brought together university professors from across the country (and across disciplines) to discuss the development and coordination of Ukrainian studies in Canadian universities (Marunchak 732). In 1977, at the University of Alberta, Ukrainian Canadian historians and political scientists gathered for a conference on “Ukrainian Canadians, Multiculturalism, and Separatism,” where they evaluated the current political situation of Ukrainians vis-à-vis Quebec. “Identifications: Ethnicity and the Writer in Canada,” a conference held at the University of Alberta in 1979, brought debates about multiculturalism into the literary arena, giving both writers and literary scholars the opportunity to discuss unique concerns surrounding ethnic minority writing. (In fact, while the conference title suggests cross-cultural perspectives, the primary focus of the conference was Ukrainian literature in Canada. As Winfried Siemerling points out, this is hardly surprising given that the conference was organized by the Canadian Institute of Canadian Studies on the occasion of the seventy-fifth anniversary of Ukrainian publishing in Canada [26].)

12Interestingly, however, in the Identifications conference proceedings, statements made by writers such as Maara Haas and George Ryga illustrate their refusal to identify themselves as “Ukrainian” Canadian writers: because they feel that ethnic labels segregate them from the Canadian writerly community, they prefer to be seen as “Canadian” writers or simply “writers.” In Maara Haas’s words,

[i]t takes great discipline on my part not to vomit when I hear the word ethnic. My reflex action is to spit on the word that was spat on me in my formative years of the middle thirties. Dirty ethnic, rotten Slavic ethnic, ghetto freak ethnic. I was hyphenated, set apart by the English, Scottish, Irish factors outside the ghetto. Each time the word ethnic rears its hyphenated head, the odour of a clogged sewer smelling of racism poisons the air. (Balan 136)

13For Haas, the ethnic label is “alienating, segregating, hyphenating”: it “hyphenates the writer off the scene” (136). Similarly, Ryga suggests that

[w]e’re discussing Canadian literature in a Canadian context and everything that implies. As a contributor to that literature, I find it difficult to see myself as a so-called hyphenated Canadian....When I wake up in the morning, I check myself out to see if I am still a man. Having determined that I am, I then face the world on its merits.... I do not live in the past. I do not live in my father’s frame of reference, (qtd. in Balan 140–42)

14Ironically, while multiculturalism—the ideology so vigorously advocated by many Ukrainian Canadians—had given Ukrainian Canadian writers opportunities to write about their experiences as hyphenated Canadians, some of these writers were simultaneously critical of the ways in which multiculturalism relegated them and their work to the margins of Canadian literary discourse.

15But despite some Ukrainian Canadian writers’ uneasiness with identifying themselves, or being identified, as ethnically distinct from other Canadian writers, Ukrainian Canadian scholars, often capitalizing on multicultural funding opportunities, continued to work toward establishing distinct Ukrainian Canadian studies programs within Canadian universities. In 1976, the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) was established at the University of Alberta and the University of Toronto: broadly focused on Ukrainian studies in Canada and internationally (especially in Ukraine), the CIUS Press publishes the Journal of Ukrainian Studies as well as scholarly books. In addition to running the Stasiuk Program for the Study of Contemporary Ukraine, the Ukrainian Canadian Program, the Ukrainian Church Studies Program, and the Kowalsky Program for the Study of Eastern Ukraine, the CIUS also undertakes several large scholarly projects including the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, and the Canada Ukraine Legislative and Intergovernmental Project. In 1979, the Chair of Ukrainian Studies was founded at the University of Toronto and, in 1981, the Centre for Ukrainian Canadian Studies (which publishes the Canadian Ethnic Studies journal) was established at the University of Manitoba, providing courses in Ukrainian (and Ukrainian Canadian) literature, folklore, history, and arts. More recently, in 1989, the University of Alberta introduced its Ukrainian Folklore Program. Headed by the Huculak Chair of Ukrainian Culture and Ethnography, the Ukrainian Folklore Program offers students at the undergraduate and graduate level courses in folk song, dance, art, rites of passage, and calendar customs. The University of Saskatchewan, too, in 1999, reorganized its Ukrainian studies program: the Prairie Centre for the Study of Ukrainian Heritage and the newly founded Heritage Press are directed by the Lesya Ukrainka Chair of Ukrainian Studies.

  • 6 Numerous historians and ethnographers have produced or edited broad studies of Ukrainian Canadians (...)
  • 7 Ukrainians immigrated to Canada in three distinct waves. From the 1870s until 1914, approximately (...)

16Over the years, out of these centres, institutes, and programs, an impressive body of scholarly work on Ukrainians in Canada has emerged.6 Aside from works by Frances Swyripa and John-Paul Himka (Loyalties in Conflict: Ukrainians During the Great War, 1983), Vladimir Kaye (Ukrainian Canadians in Canada’s Wars, 1983), and Lubomyr Luciuk (Searching for Place: Ukrainian Displaced Persons, Canada, and the Migration of Memory, 2000), the pioneer period of immigration has received more scholarly attention than the internar or post-World War II periods.7 Some studies of Ukrainian Canadian demographics have been assembled, including William Darcovich and Paul Yuzyk’s A Statistical Compendium on the Ukrainians in Canada, 1891–1976 (1981) and Lubomyr Luciuk and Bohdan Kordan’s Creating a Landscape: A Geography of Ukrainians in Canada (1989). With Martha Bohachevsky’s Feminists Despite Themselves: Women in Ukrainian Community Life 1884–1939 (1988) and Frances Swyripa’s Wedded to the Cause: Ukrainian Canadian Women and Ethnic Identity 1891–1991 (1993), feminist scholarship on Ukrainian Canadian women has begun to emerge.

  • 8 Watson Kirkconnell, a “scholar, university administrator and prodigious translator of verse from d (...)
  • 9 Marta Tarnawsky’s bibliographies Ukrainian Literature in English: Books and Pamphlets, 1840–1965 ( (...)

17In comparison to the significant body of existing scholarly work on Ukrainian Canadian (and, importantly, Ukrainian) history and ethnography, however, much less work on Ukrainian Canadian literature (in Ukrainian or in English) has been undertaken by Ukrainian Canadian scholars. Although most historical overviews of Ukrainian Canadians include discussions of Ukrainian Canadian literature, these discussions are often brief and primarily comprise biographical sketches of Ukrainian Canadian (predominantly Ukrainian-language) writers. M.I. Mandryka’s History of Ukrainian Literature in Canada (1968), then, stands out as the only book-length study of Ukrainian Canadian literature by a Ukrainian Canadian scholar.8 But Mandryka’s book focuses exclusively on Ukrainian-language writers: it is a compilation of biographical information accompanied by some summary of selected texts but virtually no textual analysis. Generally speaking, when Ukrainian Canadian scholars turn their attention to literature, they study or translate the works of Ukrainian-language authors from Ukraine (such as Tara Shevchenko and Ivan Franko). Considerably less work is done on Ukrainian-language authors in Canada, and still less on English-language Ukrainian Canadian writers.9

  • 10 See Rasporich; Glynn; Redl; Palmer Seiler, “Including”; and Mycak, “Simple.”

18In the 1990s, scholars began to publish papers on English-language Ukrainian Canadian texts, primarily in academic periodicals focused on the study of ethnic minorities (the Journal of Ukrainian Studies, for example, and Canadian Ethnic Studies). As with all literary studies, works of fiction—especially novels—seem to receive more attention than poetry, drama, or non-fiction (there exists a disproportionate body of work related to Lysenko’s novel YellowBoots10). Just as many Ukrainian Canadian historians concentrate on the first wave of Ukrainian immigration, so too do Ukrainian Canadian literary scholars show particular interest in literature related thematically to early Ukrainian settlement. And, not unlike current trends in Ukrainian Canadian historical scholarship, feminist studies of Ukrainian Canadian pioneer literature are becoming increasingly common (see Mycak, “A Different Story”; and Palmer Seiler, “Including”). At the same time, in other scholarly essays, Ukrainian Canadian texts are included in broader discussions of multicultural themes in Canadian writing (see Redl and Kirtz). In “Multi-vocality and National Literature,” Palmer Seiler discusses the ways in which multicultural texts (including Ukrainian Canadian texts) can be approached through postcolonial theoretical frameworks. Occasionally, Ukrainian Canadian scholars touch upon the formal aspects of Ukrainian Canadian texts: Robert Klymasz, for example, examines the use of Ukrainian words in English-language texts, and Tatiana Nazarenko explores the distinctly Ukrainian features of Ukrainian Canadian visual poetry. Others seek to establish and articulate the thematically unique aspects of Ukrainian Canadian texts: in “Simple Sentimentality or Specific Narrative Strategy?,” Mycak examines the role of nostalgia for the ethnic homeland in Ukrainian Canadian literature and film, and Maxim Tarnawsky addresses the treatment of Ukrainian history and language in Ukrainian Canadian fiction.

  • 11 Tarnawsky’s “What Is Told in the Green Library” discusses Kulyk Keefer’s novel The Green Library ( (...)

19After reading through the relatively small corpus of scholarly work on English-language Ukrainian Canadian literature, however, my feeling is that the gaps in Ukrainian Canadian literary criticism are more telling than the existing body of scholarship. Ukrainian Canadian writers frequently criticize multicultural ideology and its repercussions for hyphenated Canadians; in their works, they often probe the relation between ethnic and national identity, ethnic and racial identity, ethnic and gendered identity; and, perhaps most importantly, many Ukrainian Canadian writers experiment with narrative style and genre in their attempts to articulate the complex, uneasy realities of hyphenated subjectivity. But with few exceptions, Ukrainian Canadian scholars concentrate on texts that follow traditional generic conventions (realist fiction, most commonly), overlooking texts that challenge generic boundaries. So, for example, Andrew Suknaski’s long poems and experimental visual poetry have received little critical attention from Ukrainian Canadian scholars; nor have these scholars studied the works of creative non-fiction by Myrna Kostash or Janice Kulyk Keefer.11 Similarly, Ukrainian Canadian scholars tend to focus on texts (such as Lysenko’s Yellow Boots) that portray Ukrainian characters actively preserving Ukrainian traditions and customs rather than texts that explore Ukrainians’ difficulties in maintaining their ethnic identity within Canadian society. Hence, few scholars have written about numerous works by Ted Galay, Maara Haas, and George Morrissette. Although feminist scholars appear to foreground the role of women within Ukrainian Canadian texts, they approach select texts (again, like Yellow Boots) that fail to challenge pervasive patriarchal social structures within Ukrainian Canadian communities and that implicitly affirm the cohesive nature of Ukrainian Canadian communities. Texts by Helen Potrebenko and Marusya Bociurkiw that explicitly criticize patriarchal and heterosexist discourses within Ukrainian Canadian communities remain unexamined.

20Why, when Ukrainian Canadian scholars undertake critical work on Ukrainian Canadian literature, do they tend to engage with Ukrainian Canadian texts that affirm (rather than challenge) the cohesive nature of Ukrainian Canadian communities? Why do they do so almost exclusively within the structures of Ukrainian Canadian studies programs?

  • 12 Ukrainian Canadian writer and critic Janice Kulyk Keefer makes this point in “‘Coming Across Bones (...)

21In a sense, Ukrainian Canadian literary scholars’ hands are tied. Since the 1970s (initially in response to the threat of assimilation to dominant anglophone and francophone cultures), the Ukrainian Canadian academic community as a whole has focused its scholarly energy on promoting and preserving particular notions of “the” Ukrainian Canadian community. “The” Ukrainian Canadian community’s history is a narrative of progress in which, out of hardship and strife, despite pressures to assimilate to Anglo-Canadian society, Ukrainian Canadians retained a distinct, unified cultural heritage (a cultural heritage that often relies on folkloric expressions of ethnicity). To voice dissent openly—to advance arguments related to the fissures and fractures within Ukrainian Canadian communities, as articulated by Ukrainian Canadian writers—is perceived as a disloyal challenge to the established institutionalized structures and discourses of the Ukrainian Canadian scholarly community.12 Literary texts that explore the complex and uneasy realities of Ukrainian Canadian experience—literary texts that question existing notions of Ukrainian Canadian ethnicity—receive little or no critical attention from Ukrainian Canadian scholars precisely because they challenge the celebratory rhetoric of multiculturalism espoused by the Ukrainian Canadian academic institution.

22Ukrainian Canadian scholars are in the unique position to teach others about the existence and value of Ukrainian Canadian literature, but to do so, they need to look closely at both how and where they do such teaching; how and where they critically engage non-Ukrainian Canadians in this literature. Instead of reading Ukrainian Canadian literature as Ukrainian (and as relevant only to Ukrainian Canadian scholars), scholars need to read it as Ukrainian Canadian literature by exploring its relevance to literary debates about colonialism, race, gender, and sexuality, as well as ethnicity. Rather than guarding Ukrainian Canadian literature against non—Ukrainian Canadian critical audiences, Ukrainian Canadians need to open this literature to the lively exchange of wide-ranging ideas and arguments within Canadian literary studies. Insofar as Ukrainian Canadian texts can contribute to ongoing debates about ethnicity, nationality, and multiculturalism, and insofar as the Ukrainian Canadian academic institution is resistant to such debates, Canadian literary studies represent a promising alternative—a space where the relation between ethnic minority literatures, multicultural ideology, and mainstream literary culture is already hotly debated, and where more scholarly work on Ukrainian Canadian literary texts can take place.



Balan, Jars, ed. Identifications: Ethnicity and the Writer in Canada. Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 1982.

Bannerji, Himani. “On the Dark Side of the Nation: Politics of Multiculturalism and the State of Canada.” Journal of Canadian Studies 31.3 (1996): 103–28.

Bociurkiw, Bohdan. “The Federal Policy of Multiculturalism and the UkrainianCanadian Community.” Ukrainian Canadians, Multiculturalism, and Separatism: An Assessment. Ed. Manoly Lupul. Edmonton: U of Alberta P; Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 1978. 98–128.

Glynn, Alexandra Kruchka. “Reintroducing Vera Lysenko—Ukrainian Canadian Author.” Journal of Ukrainian Studies 15.1 (1990): 53–70.

Grekul, Lisa. Kalyna’s Song. Regina: Coteau Books, 2003.

Hryniuk, Stella, and Lubomyr Luciuk, eds. Multiculturalism and Ukrainian Canadians: Identity, Homeland Ties, and the Community’s Future. Toronto: Multicultural Society of Ontario, 1993.

Hutcheon, Linda, and Marion Richmond, eds. Other Solitudes: Canadian Multicultural Fictions. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1990.

Kamboureli, Smaro, ed. Making a Difference: Canadian Multicultural Literature. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1996.

—–. Scandalous Bodies: Diasporic Literature in English Canada. Don Mills: Oxford UP, 2000.

Kirtz, Mary K. “Old World Traditions, New World Inventions: Bilingualism, Multiculturalism, and the Transformation of Ethnicity.” Canadian Ethnic Studies 28.1 (1996): 8–21.

Klymasz, Robert B. “Art of Intrusion: Macaronicism in Ukrainian-Canadian Literature.” Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 16.3–4 (1989): 763–69.

Kulyk Keefer, Janice. “‘Coming Across Bones’: Historiographic Ethnofiction.” Essays on Canadian Writing 57 (1995): 84–104.

Marunchak, Michael H. The Ukrainian Canadians: A History. Winnipeg: Ukrainian Free Academy of Sciences, 1970.

Miki, Roy. Broken Entries: Race Writing Subjectivity. Toronto: Mercury, 1998.

Mycak, Sonia. “A Different Story by Helen Potrebenko: The Pioneer Myth Re-Visited.” Canadian Ethnic Studies 28.1 (1996): 67–88.

——. “Simple Sentimentality or Specific Narrative Strategy? The Functions and Use of Nostalgia in the Ukrainian-Canadian Text.” Canadian Ethnic Studies 30.1 (1998): 50–63.

Nazarenko, Tatiana. “Ukrainian-Canadian Visual Poetry: Traditions and Innovations.” Canadian Ethnic Studies 28.1 (1996): 89–126.

Padolsky, Enoch. “Canadian Ethnic Minority Literature in English.” Ethnicity and Culture in Canada: The Research Landscape. Ed. J.W. Berry and J.A. Laponce. Toronto: U ofToronto P, 1994. 361–86.

Palmer Seiler, Tamara. “Including the Female Immigrant Story: A Comparative Look at Narrative Strategies.” Canadian Ethnic Studies 28.1 (1996): 51–66.

——. “Multi-Vocality and National Literature: Toward a Post-Colonial and Multicultural Aesthetic.” journal of Canadian Studies 31.3 (1996): 148–65.

Rasporich, Beverly. “Retelling Vera Lysenko: A Feminist and Ethnic Writer.” Canadian Ethnic Studies 21.2 (1989): 38–52.

——. “Vera Lysenko’s Fictions: Engendering Prairie Spaces.” Prairie Forum 16.2 (1991): 249–63.

Redl, Carolyn. “Neither Here nor There: Canadian Fiction by the Multicultural Generation.” Canadian Ethnic Studies 28.1 (1996): 22-36.

Siemerling, Winfried. Introduction. Writing Ethnicity. Spec, issue of Essays on Canadian Writing 57 (1995): 1–32.

Tarnawsky, Maxim. “What Is Told in the Green Library: History, Institutions, Language.” Canadian Ethnic Studies 31.3 (1999): 104–13.

Wcodsworth, Judy. “Watson Kirkconnell and the ‘Undoing of Babel’: A Little-Known Case in Canadian Translation History.” Meta 45.1 (2000): 13–28.


1 I distinguish between “racial” and “ethnic” minority writing because, as Winfried Siemerling suggests, “[e]thnicity has... been rejected sometimes as a serviceable category by those who feel that it might depoliticize issues by conflating them, for instance those [issues] concerning minorities in general with those concerning visible minorities” (11). While I use the terms ethnic minority and mainstream literatures, I use them cautiously and provisionally, conscious of the possibility that such terms, by perpetuating a rigid division between centre and margin (Anglo-Canadian versus non-Anglo-Canadian cultural practices and institutions), fail to account for the heterogeneity and fluidity of both.

2 See Kamboureli, Scandalous Bodies; Bannerji; and Miki.

3 Potrebenko’s works include a novel, Sometimes They Sang (1986), and Hey Waitress (1989), a collection of short fiction. Haas has published The Street Where I Live (1976), a novel, and On Stage With Maara Haas (1986), a collection of poetry and short fiction. Marusya Bociurkiw has published a collection of short fiction, The Woman Who Loved Airports (1994), and a collection of poetry, Halfway to the East (1999).

4 See, for example, Suknaski’s Wood Mountain Poems (1976), the ghosts call you poor (1978), In the Name of Narid (1981), and The Land They Gave Away: New and Selected Poems (1982); Serwylo’s novel Accordion Lessons (1982); Ryga’s play A Letter to My Son (1981); and Morrissette’s long poem Finding Mom at Eaton’s (1981).

5 Kostash writes about her travels to Ukraine in Bloodlines: A Journey into Eastern Europe (1993) and The Doomed Bridegroom: A Memoir (1998), and Kulyk Keefer documents her return to Ukraine in Honey and Ashes: A Story of Family (1998).

6 Numerous historians and ethnographers have produced or edited broad studies of Ukrainian Canadians that touch upon various aspects of Ukrainian life in Canada, beginning with the arrival of the first pioneers: see Paul Yuzyk’s Ukrainian Canadians: Their Place and Role in Canadian Life (1967); Ol’ha Woycenko’s The Ukrainians in Canada (1968); Michael Marunchak’s The Ukrainian Canadians: A History (first published in 1970); Manoly Lupul’s A Heritage in Transition: Essays in the History of Ukrainians in Canada (1982); Jaroslav Rozumnyj’s New Soil—Old Roots: The Ukrainian Experience in Canada (1983); Jars Balan’s Salt and Braided Bread: Ukrainian Life in Canada (1984); O. W. Gerus and J.E. Rea’s The Ukrainians in Canada (1985); Lybomyr Luciuk and Stella Hryniuk’s Canada’s Ukrainians: Negotiating an Identity (1991); Ramon Hnatyshyn and Robert Klymasz’s Art and Ethnicity: The Ukrainian Tradition in Canada (1991); and Orest Subtelny’s Ukrainians in North America: An Illustrated History (1991).
Some historians have focused on more specific aspects of the Ukrainian experience—settlement patterns and social trends, for example, in particular provinces and/or during specific time periods: see Vladimir Kaye’s Early Ukrainian Settlement in Canada 1895-1900 (1964); J.G. MacGregor’s Vilni Zemli [Free Lands]: The Ukrainian Settlement of Alberta (1969); Helen Potrebenko’s No Streets of Gold: A Social History of Ukrainians in Alberta (1977); Zonia Keywan’s Greater Than Kings: Ukrainian Pioneer Settlement in Canada (1977); and Manoly Lupul’s Continuity and Change: The Cultural Life of Alberta’s First Ukrainians (1988).
Other scholars have recorded first-person accounts of settlement: see Harry Piniuta’s Land of Pain, Land of Promise: First Person Accounts by Ukrainian Pioneers 1891–1914 (1978); and William Czumer’s Recollections About the Life of the First Ukrainian Settlers in Canada (1981).

7 Ukrainians immigrated to Canada in three distinct waves. From the 1870s until 1914, approximately 170 000 Ukrainians came to Canada; between the wars, some 68 000 immigrated; and between 1947 and 1950, a further 32 000 arrived.

8 Watson Kirkconnell, a “scholar, university administrator and prodigious translator of verse from dozens of languages” (Woodsworth 13), is often cited as one of the first scholars, translators, and promoters of Ukrainian Canadian literature. His Twilight of Liberty (1946) examines Ukrainian pioneer literature (in Ukrainian). Kirkconnell s other work on Ukrainian Canadians include: The Ukrainian Canadians and the War (1940), Our Ukrainian Loyalists (1943), The Ukrainian Agony (1943), and Seven Pillars of Freedom (1944).

9 Marta Tarnawsky’s bibliographies Ukrainian Literature in English: Books and Pamphlets, 1840–1965 (1988) and Ukrainian Literature in English: Articles in Journals and Collections, 1840–1965 (1991) offer comprehensive (though not upto-date) information on Ukrainian Canadian literary scholarship. The vast majority of works assembled by Tarnawsky relate to English studies of Ukrainian (as opposed to Ukrainian Canadian) authors and their texts.

10 See Rasporich; Glynn; Redl; Palmer Seiler, “Including”; and Mycak, “Simple.”

11 Tarnawsky’s “What Is Told in the Green Library” discusses Kulyk Keefer’s novel The Green Library (1996).

12 Ukrainian Canadian writer and critic Janice Kulyk Keefer makes this point in “‘Coming Across Bones’: Historiographic Ethnofiction”: “I know that in the eyes of the Ukrainian Canadian community, my emphasis on a history that cuts both ways, showing Ukrainians as both oppressed and oppressors, may be perceived as the attitude of someone so alienated from her ancestry that she has taken to fouling her own nest” (99).


Holds a PhD from the University of British Columbia, where she now teaches Canadian literature. Her thesis is a critical study of literature written in English by Canadians of Ukrainian descent. Her novel, Kalyna’s Song, was published by Coteau Press in 2003

© Les Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa | University of Ottawa Press, 2004

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