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  • Re-imagining Ukrainian Canadians: History, Politics, and Identity ed. by Rhonda L. Hinthur and Jim Mochoruk
  • Mary K. Kirtz
Rhonda L. Hinthur and Jim Mochoruk, eds. Re-imagining Ukrainian Canadians: History, Politics, and Identity. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011. 481 pp. Notes. Index. $35.00 sc.

Ukrainians, one of the largest ethnic groups to immigrate to Canada during the twentieth century, were, for much of that same century, primarily derided as “men in sheepskin coats” with unpronounceable names or praised as “stalwart peasants” who domesticated the harsh prairie lands of the Canadian West. In spite of the fact that they arrived in three separate waves of immigration, with distinct differences among these waves in terms of geography, education, and political leanings, Ukrainian Canadians have most often been placed within a monolithic, pop-culture construct rooted in the image of the illiterate prairie farmer and his babushka-wearing wife. This wide-ranging, interdisciplinary collection of essays successfully puts the lie to this myth, instead revealing Ukrainian Canadians as a people who grappled not only with unifying a trifurcated ethnic identity, but were also deeply engaged in establishing a political identity that reconciled old world allegiances with new world roots.

The editors have divided the essays into five distinct sections: “New Approaches to Old Questions,” “Leaders and Intellectuals,” “Diplomacy and International Concerns,” “Internal Strife on the Left,” and “Everyday People.” A solid introduction clearly explains the editors’ intent and provides the background against which the essays should be read. A shorter conclusion summarizes the material and also points out issues that need further exploration. Each section is itself introduced in a brief overview tying the essay topics in that section to others beyond it, teasing out connections and contrasts to be found among them. This “connective” material exemplifies the very thorough approach taken by the editors to ensure the relevance of the entire collection towards fulfilling an ambitious goal. They wish “to advance the discourse on Canadian immigration and ethnic history” (15) and broaden the discussion both among experts and students in a number of different disciplines and courses of study: social history, community studies, public history, family history, and particularly the history of Canadian radicalism. Indeed, it would be possible for a teacher in any of these areas to create an entire course syllabus around these essays; the framework is equally helpful to students and other novices as they navigate their [End Page 365] way through the collection and understand how these disparate parts reveal the complexity of the Ukrainian Canadian experience.

Perhaps the most innovative aspect of the collection is its very thorough analysis of the development and decline of radicalism within the Ukrainian Canadian community, particularly among those settlers in the first two immigration waves. The essays do not follow a straightforward chronological timeline—the very first essay begins in post-World War Two Toronto and the last primarily discusses two murders that took place before World War One. The essays thus form a mosaic, rather than a straight line, and the pattern becomes clear only after one examines the whole. The various essays assessing the rise and decline of the Left, in particular the Ukrainian Labour Farmer Temple Association (ULFTA), form the spine of the collection: six of the thirteen essays deal with this group and other leftist organizations. Two others, in the section on diplomacy, deal with the left’s response to the Soviet Union. Only one essay is devoted to the interwar (1920s and ‘30s) immigrants who were supporters of Nazi Germany, while another briefly deals with the post-World War II ‘displaced persons’ as anti-Soviet refugees whose entry to Canada was opposed by the Ukrainian Canadian radical Left. This third immigrant wave, the smallest of the three, but also the most urban, educated, and professionally trained of the three, is scarcely mentioned in any of the other essays.

While this may seem to be an imbalance, it is actually a fair representation of the role of politics within the Ukrainian Canadian community. The oldest and largest wave of immigrants, variously called Ruthenians, Galicians, and Bukovinians (rather than Ukrainians) because their birthplaces were under the control of Russia, Poland, or the Austro...


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