1973-1974: During 13 months vanning through Europe and North Africa, we gazed at the Ukrainian landscape from the Bulgarian border. Being independent travellers, we were not allowed to cross unless escorted. Those were the Cold War days.
We paid our respects in many WW II military cemeteries and memorials in Holland, France, Italy, Germany and Tunisia. The fallen of both Allied and Axis armies were buried there. Among them there must have been men and women who could have become my teachers, employers, co-workers or next-door neighbours.
At each, whether they were friend or foe, I reflected upon the price of war and felt gratitude I was born about 21 years too late to serve.
In each cemetery I was moved, but only to tears in the Canadian war cemeteries. That’s what nationalism and patriotism do, no matter how shallow one’s roots may be.
I was born in Canada. So were both of my parents, but their Ukrainian ways were as deep as if they had been born in Ukraine. Where they were born (Ethelbert, Manitoba and Coniston, Ontario) the foods, language and culture were more Ukrainian than Canadian. Only until we moved to Toronto when I was five years of age did I begin to learn English and become exposed to ‘Canadian’ foods such as pizza, spaghetti, tacos, curry and sushi.
At an early 1970 air show at CFB Trenton there was a Ukrainian Air Force aerobatic team. The yellow and blue colours on their MiG-27 aircraft and the sound of distantly familiar Ukrainian being spoken by the pilots stirred something deep within me. I was reminded that Ukrainian was hard-wired in my DNA.
I sometimes attend a bilingual mass at Ottawa’s Ukrainian Catholic church. The ceremony is heavy with unfamiliar ritual, yet I feel comfortable with it.
Once again, war has come to Ukraine. These days, even if your family name is MacDonald, Smith, Van Den Oetelaar or Latreille, your attention and sympathies are directed toward the plight of Ukraine. Most of the civilized world is attempting to do something for that country and its citizens. The brutal foray that Putin has unleashed is not only raining violence and destruction upon Ukraine, but economic harm is beginning to be imposed upon the entire world. May Russia’s decadent oligarchs be relieved of their ill-gotten luxuries. May Putin’s military conscripts be freed of their immoral duties. May Putin get what he deserves. May the citizens of Russia one day have a government that serves them. One day, may I visit the land that is deep within me.