Ukrainian Writing

Ukrainian Writing in Canada began in the 1890s with the first major wave of Ukrainians. The first story was written in 1897 by Nestor Dmytriw while he was visiting Calgary, and the first poem in 1898 by Ivan Zbura near Edmonton. From modest beginnings this literature developed and flourished in the genres of poetry, stories, novels and plays. After WWII, books of literary scholarship appeared.

The first period of Ukrainian writing, 1897-1920, was permeated with folklore. Zbura, Teodor Fedyk and Daria Mohylianka epitomized the pioneer poetry, which could hardly be distinguished from folklore. However, prose fiction by Sava Chernetskyj, Myroslav Stechyshyn, Pavlo Krat and Vasyl Kudryk had a higher level of creative achievement. These authors and others not only depicted hardships of pioneering but expressed the revolutionary flavour of struggles for a better life.

In the second period (1920-50) the Ukrainian writing in Canada broadened thematically and became more artistic. Ivan Danylchuk, born in Saskatchewan, published sophisticated poetry and Onufrij Ivakh (Honore Ewach) tried to philosophize in his works, paying attention to aesthetic expression, while Myroslav Ichnianskyj (Ivan Kmeta) poured out strong and impressionistic lyricism.

In prose fiction, Illia Kyrijak (Elias Kiriak) distinguished himself with his realistic trilogy Syny zemli (1939-45; tr and abridged as Sons of the Soil, 1959), a panorama of the life of settlers on the prairies. Oleksander Luhovyj also depicted Canadian life in his novel Bezkhatnyj (Homeless, 1946) and plays. Semen Kowbel and Dmytro Hunkevych were active in drama.

The third period opened with the arrival of political immigrants after WWII. In contrast to the previous realism, there appeared various literary trends and styles, including modernism. Mykyta Mandryka produced poetry with original images and the versified narrative Kanada (1961; tr Watson Kirkconnell as Canada, 1971). Canadian themes were prominent also in Ulas Samchuk's novel Na tverdij zemli (On the Hard Soil, 1967). Yar Slavutych, in his poems Zavojovnyky prerij (1968; tr R.H. Morrison as The Conquerors of the Prairies, 1974), pictured his impressions of settlers' life and the severity of the North. He has also written the long versified narrative "Moja doba" ("My Epoch"), in Zibrani tvory (Collected Poems, 1978).

Since the 1960s there has been a revival in Ukrainian literature in Canada. Among the active authors have been lyrical poets Borys Oleksandriv (pseudonym of Borys Hrybinsky), Bohdan Mazepa, Vira Vorsklo, Svitlana Kuzmenko and Teodor Matvijenko; patriotic bards Levko Romen, Dan Mur and Oleksa Hay-Holowko; the thinker in poetry Volodymyr Skorupskyj; the woman poet with preoccupations in ancient Ukrainian mythology, Larysa Murovych; and modernists Iryna Makaryk, Maria Revakovych, Marco Carynnyk, Danylo Struk and Oleksander Olijnyk. In prose fiction, Fedir Odrach, Ivan Bodnarchuk and Oleksander Smotrych have been extensively published. Mykola Kovshun has written drama and Oleh Zujewskyj has been very active in translating, besides writing symbolistic poetry. Orysia Prokopiw has translated much Ukrainian poetry into English and René Coulet du Gard into French.

Ukrainian authors in Canada formed their own literary society, which has published 8 volumes of the almanac Slovo (1970-87) and the Antolohija ukrajins'koji poeziji v Kanadi, 1898-1973 (1975). Another almanac, with Canadian overtones, was Pivnichne siajvo (Northern Lights, 5 vols, 1964-71). Among books of literary scholarship, Studia Ucrainica (4 vols, 1978-87) and Ukrainian Shakespeariana in the West (1987), which also includes translations, should be distinguished. The Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in Canada and the Shevchenko Scientific Society have regularly published their proceedings and other scholarly books. Despite the great variety of themes and significant ideas in Ukrainian writing, there are only some 15 Ukrainian Canadian authors whose artistic accomplishments place their literature on a level equal to that in Ukraine or higher. See also ethnic literature.