- Re-imagining Ukrainian Canadians: History, Politics and Identity
In Re-imagining Ukrainian Canadians: History, Politics and Identity, editors Rhonda Hinther and Jim Mochoruk and their contributors seek to challenge the perception of Ukrainian-Canadian history as the story of hardy settlers in 'sheepskin coats' who settled the vastness of the Canadian West in the Sifton era. This popular image and the perception of Ukrainians as 'dangerous foreigners' tied to radical leftist politics, they argue, have skewed the diverse and rich history of Ukrainians in Canada. This is certainly true, although the topic has been addressed in various ways over the years. The works of Frances Swyripa, Orest Martynowych, Lubomyr Luciuk, and Stella Hryniuk throughout the 1990s all contributed to diversifying and complicating our understandings of Ukrainian-Canadian identity. These authors moved the discussions surrounding Ukrainian identity away from seeing Ukrainians as rugged, homesteading pioneers and instead focused on the role of women in the community and the urban lives of Ukrainian Canadians. Luciuk and Hryniuk, in their edited collection Canada's [End Page 332] Ukrainians: Negotiating an Identity, focused specifically on how Ukrainian identity was not fixed but continually remade in Canada from the days of the earliest Ukrainian immigrants to the present. Hinther and Mochoruk acknowledge that 'this collection does not pretend to break completely from past treatments of Ukrainian-Canadian history.' Rather, they present the collection as a 'second wave' of scholarship that seeks to further build on what has already been done. It is perfectly acceptable to build on past scholarship, and their collection certainly succeeds in greatly expanding and diversifying our knowledge of Ukrainian-Canadian history.
The collection offers a tremendously varied look at the Ukrainian community from authors with diverse backgrounds, only some of whom are academics. Divided into five parts, the book presents a multitude of perspectives on Ukrainians, from 'Intellectuals' to 'Everyday People' and even 'Diplomacy and International Concerns.' In the section entitled 'New Approaches to Old Questions,' Hinther persuasively argues that the decline of the Ukrainian-Canadian left in the post-war period was linked to deep-seated gender and intergenerational divisions that privileged the old-guard male activist within the community, and excluded immigrant women and Canadian-born Ukrainians. Other chapters also highlight the intersections between the Ukrainian community and Canadian society and reveal tensions within the Ukrainian community itself. For instance, Ledohowski's chapter examines the generational transition from 'being' Ukrainian to 'feeling' Ukrainian, and Martynowych's piece looks at Ukrainian war veterans who sympathized with Nazi Germany during the 1930s and remained largely indifferent to the suffering of their Jewish victims. Rounding out the collection, Zembrzycki provides a fascinating study of domestic abuse and murder, an oft-neglected topic in immigration histories, successfully demonstrating that in the Ukrainian-Canadian community 'morality was not only gendered but also socially constructed along ethnic lines.'
While the collection certainly provides a deeper appreciation of the diversity of Ukrainian life, many chapters suffer from being overly insular. Mochoruk's chapter, for instance, examines the long-standing rift that emerged between the Ukrainian Farmer Labour Temple Association (UFLTA) and the Communist Party of Canada (CPC). This rift was, in his view, long-standing and largely due to the ways in which UFLTA members saw themselves not just as members of the Comintern but as Ukrainian communists. Yet Mochoruk does not venture beyond the Ukrainians in making this point or in his discussion of how the UFLTA halls fulfilled a cultural and political purpose. There is [End Page 333] no comparison between the Ukrainians and other groups such as the Finns or Croatians where studies have come to similar conclusions. However, the chapter, which Mochoruk presents as a preliminary study, does help historians better understand the dynamics of the conflict between the UFLTA and the CPC.
In sum, this collection greatly expands our knowledge of Ukrainian-Canadian history and offers an even more thorough look at this diverse and culturally rich group. It will certainly be valuable for scholars looking to expand their historical knowledge on...