From Where I Sit – Use It or Lose It

We can all learn a lesson from our aboriginal and French-Canadian cousins. Collectively, they have mastered the art of working to preserve and protect their cultures. I’m not sure how it translates into the actions or beliefs of the individuals within the subgroup. But from the outside looking in, there appears to be a deliberate, united effort to shine the light on the best their cultures have to offer.

As a Ukrainian living in east-central Alberta, I am learning that lesson. They say that necessity is the mother of invention; for several reasons, the time is nigh.

I’ve assumed the role of coordinator for an exciting new undertaking called Babas & Borscht Ukrainian Festival. I created the concept in response to a challenge from our county’s economic development manager, who was looking for a new tourism event with long-term potential: something the county could get behind.

The first Ukrainian immigrant to Canada, Ivan Pylypow, settled in this county. Soon others of his kind followed until this became the first, largest, and most homogenous block settlement of Ukrainians in Alberta. Lamont County is also home to the most churches per capita anywhere in the world; the majority of them are Ukrainian.

Capitalizing on what already exists here seems a no-brainer. The idea caught fire, and plans are well along for the August 24-25 weekend. Anything I can draw on from my own memory or background to help authenticate the experience for festival-goers makes my job easier.

I also feel some urgency, because I married a Ukrainian boy and gave birth to two Ukrainian children. Our little Ukrainian grandson is even further removed from our origins. I feel a sense of guilt; I don’t think we did a particularly good job of honouring our roots or passing along traditions. And maybe That’s because our parents didn’t do a good job with us. They were all Canadian-born, and perhaps letting go of the past and embracing the new was a sign of enlightenment and progress. Certainly some people of that generation were ridiculed, especially by teachers, into adopting the Canadian way.

Bottom line, for whatever reason, I don’t know as much about the history, customs, and traditions of Ukrainians as I should. I don’t know the reason things are done the way they are. I’m not likely to become an expert; others, thank God, have devoted their lives and careers to studying things like this. I will be drawing on their expertise.

We know the best learning takes place when people are enjoying themselves, so making the weekend fun and family-focussed is our goal. A signature drink; a triathlon of silly games; a passport bearing a new Ukrainian identity; song and dance; and food, food, and more food are some of what’s in store. ?Cause It’s use it or lose it, from where I sit.

Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.

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