Oksana Bashuk Hepburn



Oksana was a 15 year Canadian Public Service executive and president of her consulting firm emphasizing policy and communications. Her extensive involvement in the Ukrainian Canadian community resulted in policy changes locally and globally, including focus on Holodomor recognition by Western governments; equal treatment of Ukrainian issues in Canada. Her commentaries are read internationally and she edits the popular Nasha Doroha, a bilingual quarterly. Oksana's book on Akcija Visla and her docu-novel on the Canada-Ukraine links through three generations of women are both noteworthy.


Why is the Museum covering up Communist crimes?

Mental Calisthenics with Vujko Ilko

Vyjko Ilko has been visiting Winnipeg, the home of the controversial Canadian Museum of Human Rights.  He attended the Ukrainian Canadian Congress public meeting designed to cast some light on the status of the Museum’s treatment of Holodomor. 

“How was the weather in Winnipeg, Uncle Ilko,” I ask as an opener.

“Left me as miserable as the UCC dog and pony show.”

“Why, Unk?”

“Because it’s the 11th hour, that’s why.  For UCC to win a case for a fair and equal treatment for Holodomor at this late date, it needs more than a call to raise money and to write letters to MPs.  That should have been a tactic years ago when they first had a whiff that the Museum was not honouring  its commitment to the proper treatment of the famine genocide.  It seems its been determined for some time now to highlight the crimes of the Nazis while covering up those of the Communists.”  

“Back up Vujko.  What happened during the especially arranged tour for UCC in early February?”

“The UCC was skunked.  Apparently it sent an indignant letter to the Museum but when asked for a copy, none was not forthcoming.  The UCC reports a most unsatisfactory treatment of the Holodomor.  Dr. Curle, the man responsible for content, says the Holocaust will serve to illustrate the danger in today’s world: Germany had a constitution, etc. etc: yet bad things happened.  The same can be said for Ukraine at the time of the Soviets .  It too had a constitution and an ideology that promised heaven on earth…”

“…but delivered hell.”

“Exactly!  Yet this is irrelevant to the Museum.  It treats the Holocaust in an exclusive manner and denies viewers equal access to the overwhelming crime committed by the Communists.  Discrimination plain and simple.

Complete article here

Влада і вплив. Не упустіть свій шанс

Канадська федеральна і провінційна політика дозріла до змін: з`явилася нова можливість для нашого суспільства.

Федеральні вибори 2011 року принесли прем'єр-міністрові С. Гарперові разом із консерваторами більшість. Ліберальна партія Канади, яка раніше історично уступила владу і вплив заради ролі опозиційного сторожового пса, цього разу була не в змозі досягнути ні першого, ні другого. Вона заледве протиснулася до парламенту зі своїми 34 членами, здавши офіційну опозиційну нішу - вперше в історії Канади - Новій демократичної партії (НДП).

Тим часом, найбільша провінція Канади - Онтаріо, яка зазвичай гойдалася міжimage ліберальним і консервативним правлінням (єдине знане виключення в цьому сенсі - НДП уряд Боба Рея, який на той час був НДП-цем) - стала свідком того, як її ліберальний лідер Далтон МкҐинті подав у відставку, відкривши ваканцію до цієї високої посади.

Утім, канадські ліберали готові до змін.  Провінційна конвенція (з`їзд) проводу партії відбуватиметься 25 січня 2013 року, а ліберали федерального рівня продовжать вибори свого проводу до 14-го квітня 2013 року. Перегони розпочалися, ставки досить високі: хто стане провідником лібералів на марші повернення їх в онтарійську і федеральну законодавчі гілки влади? ( Іван Бейкер – готовий до перегонів).

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Power and influence: Don’t miss the chance

Canada’s federal and provincial politics are poised to change: an opportunity for our community.image

The federal elections in 2011 brought in a Conservative majority for Prime Minister Harper.  The Liberal Party of Canada, which historically traded power and influence for the role of opposition watchdog, failed to do both.  It squeaked in with 34 members handing over the official opposition to the NDP; a first-in - Canada’s- history event.

Meanwhile, the largest province, Ontario which has see-sawed between Liberal and Conservative rule -- the notable exception being the NDP government of Bob Rae (the then NDP-er) -- has seen its Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty resign creating a vacancy for the top post. (Yvan Baker right will nominate for Etobicoke Centre Liberal Party candidate in the next federal election).

Canada’s Liberals are poised for change. The provincial leadership convention will take place January 25, 2012 and the federal Liberals will follow with a leadership election April 14, 2013. The race is on; the stakes are high: who will lead a charge to bring the Liberals back into the Ontario and federal legislatures?

Politics is a subject close to the hearts of Ukrainian Canadians.  But it was the Conservative Party that produced the big names including Governor General Ramon Hnatyshyn, Deputy PM Don Mazankowski. The Liberals have not matched these.  Yet!  The opportunity is staring us in the face.

Complete article here

Canada takes lead to keep out criminals

It is critical for democracies to work together and follow Canada's lead in keeping out criminals especially those in high places and shame them as the United States has done. When the terrorist is the state, other states of goodwill must take action.

Canada is taking a decisive step towards keeping undesirables out of the country. The proposed Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act will, among others, make it harder for those who abuse human rights to enter the country.

"We want an immigration system that is open to genuine visitors, while at the same time prevents the entry of foreign criminals," says Jason Kenney, minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism about the proposed legislation.

This is manna for democratically-minded Canadians including members of the Canadian Group for Democracy in Ukraine (I'm one) who have been seeking entry restrictions for individuals connected with the violations of human rights in Ukraine. There, selective application of the rule of law is standard practice in arrests and incarcerations of opponents to the regime of President Viktor Yanukovych. The most notable examples are the seven-year sentence handed to ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and four years to former minister of internal security, Yurij Lutsenko.

Canada's proposed legislation follows months of warnings by Canada and other Western democracies about "serious consequences" should the president fail to live up to Ukraine's Constitution and meet international democratic standards. Now the pussy-footing has stopped. With less than a week left to the Oct. 28 Parliamentary elections, Canada's legislation puts Ukraine's regime on notice.

Complete article here

The Wall Street Journal picks a loser

It is highly unlikely that a Western political has-been who squandered four years in office and positioned his country on the road to autocratic hell would warrant prime space in a global newspaper to promote further decline--on Ukraine’s Independence Day, no less-- after 21 years of freedom from Russia, the country determined to swallow it up again.

Clearly, former President Victor Yushchenko has clout. Is it because his Wall Street Journal piece (Aug. 23 "Ukraine’s democracy hasn’t come of age" Source ) supports Russia’s imperial goals? Or, is he a gofer for President Victor Yanukovych, by downplaying the current leader’s illegal incarceration of opposition leaders while calling on the European Union to grant Ukraine a free trade and association agreement? These are issues dear to the president’s heart and he buys American advisers’ know-how to get his message to decision makers.

Much is at stake. Either the EU signs and in so doing abandons incarcerated opposition leaders, or it stands firm and upholds democracy. Yushchenko does not seem to want the latter. His writing helps to deliver a win-win for the president.

The EU should not listen. Here’s why.

Complete article here

Cat-and-mouse games in Ukraine

From a Canadian Angle

After the successful Euro 2012, some hoped Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych would rise to another occasion and ensure freedom for incarcerated political opposition leaders.

He missed a fine opportunity on July 12, the date of former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko’s appeal hearing. Ostensibly, the seven-year sentence was for Ukraine’s 2010 energy deal with Russia, but most call it politically motivated persecution. For that reason, the international democratic community showed up to hear the appeal.

The gallery was full of observers, including those from the United States and other embassies. The European Parliament delegation included former President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland. There were NGOs, media and plenty of representatives from Batkivshchyna, Ms. Tymoshenko’s Party. Canada was represented by Bob Dechert, parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, and Ambassador Troy Lulashnyk.

In a telephone press conference from Kyiv with Canada’s media, Mr. Dechert said, “The purpose of my visit is to participate as one member of the Canadian observation team at the appeal hearing of Ms. Tymoshenko and in the opening of the Canada Ukraine Foundation election observer mission office.” The foundation, part of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, was a noshow at the hearing.

Complete article here

Fight and win!

Mental Callisthenics with Vujko Ilko

“Sorry.  Can’t make our talk today,” says Uncle Ilko over the phone.  He is cancelling his much-loved mental callisthenics; a chat on things Ukrainian? 

“Are you okay, Vujku?  Is there nothing to discuss?”

“Nothing to discuss?  Ukraine’s opposition member bleeds over the Rada floor fighting the law to make Russian the other State Language; the United States is on the verge of freezing oligarchs’ assets; a key functionary is selling EURO Cup tickets to line his pockets?  Nothing to discuss when our Canadian community is buzzing like a nest of enraged wasps?”

It’s obvious: he’s in fine fettle.

“So what’s up, Uncle Ilko?  Can’t we meet?”

“No time.  Must finish writing letters.  I’m urging the World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations to seek the resignation of all Ukrainian female leaders who are inadequate for their jobs: they’re bad models for our girls. ”

“What’s this, Vujku?”

“Plain and simple.  People like Hanna Herman, Raisa Bohatyrova, and the other female power houses in Ukraine are meant, with the men, to ensure that the State is doing what it set out to do; things women care about - jobs, safe place to bring up a family, good schools, no corruption, the well being of the people. Instead, it’s in a crisis.  The political opposition is in prison; the Americans are threatening to withdraw their ambassador; rumour has it that Russia is setting up Medvedchuk to Russianize Ukraine completely.  So where are the wise women who need to tell the President dosyt!  Rancho relaxo already; let Yulia and the others go.”

“Angela Merkel is saying that.”

“Angela is in cahoots with President Putin.  She doesn’t love Yulia.  She wants Yanukovych out - a more pro-Ruskyj puppet in - and with Russia, control Ukraine.  This is a long-standing historic strategy; including the reason for WWII.”

“Vujku, Yanukovych is in trouble.  Will he listen?”

Complete article here

Museum whitewashing Communist crimes

Vujko Ilko had been celebrating Velykden in Winnipeg. Now, we’re meeting for our own ‘pysanky’ mental callisthenics - discussions on matters of importance to our community in Canada. He didn’t mention any topics but reported that the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of Sts Volodymyr and Olga was packed for “five different paska blessings”, yet there wasn’t a ‘peep,’ he said, in the Winnipeg Free Press.

“The Museum is huge,” he starts “with criticism to match.”

Clearly, he is not pursuing the need to fix the ‘if-you’re-not-in-the-media-you-don’t-exist’ syndrome plaguing our community; and not only about Velykden. Our non-existence in the media is due, mainly, to our inattentiveness. Today’s topic is the cost overruns of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights; 65 million dollars for completion and some 33% surge - to 30 million - on operating costs. The social media is raging with complaints about the unsustainable ‘Museum of Hypocrisy’. The feds said: no further funding.

“So has the work stopped on the Museum, Uncle?”

“No. Its new leadership team means to finish the shell. It looks like a WWII German bunker protecting its position, or like a Roman soldier’s helmet with the visor down. Defensive.”

“Apparently the facility has no provisions for rental space or catering, the financial backbone of most Canadian museums.”

“But here’s the latest gig. Winnipeg City Council has just voted in Mayor Sam Katz’s idea of giving 700,000 free tickets to a water park that will sit next door to the Museum. Underprivileged kids will be subsidized annually by Winnipeg taxpayers to have a little fun. But the real chutzpah is this: I suspect they will need to get educated at the Museum first. And at ten dollars a head, the Museum will get its shortfall of $7,000,000 operating cost.”

“Huumm. What does that mean?”

Complete article here

Канада обговорює українські виклики

Мар’яна Драч

Цей тиждень в Оттаві пройшов під знаком України. Комітет у закордонних справах нижньої палати канадського парламенту провів слухання щодо України, а згодом у канадській столиці зібралися учасники міжнародної конференції «Україна на перехресті». За подіями спостерігала колишній директор відділу зв’язків із громадськістю Канадської комісії з прав людини, а нині одна з активісток Канадського комітету на захист демократії в Україні Оксана Башук-Гепберн, яку Радіо Свобода запросило до розмови. На її думку, канадська політична еліта ще не має чіткої відповіді на те, як ефективніше сприяти демократичним процесам в Україні.

Oksana Bashuk Hepburn

У Канаді живе понад мільйон канадців українського походження, тому там традиційна увага до того, що відбувається в Україні. Оксана Башук-Гепберн була присутня на слуханнях у канадському парламенті, де упродовж чотирьох годин цього тижня обговорювали становище в Україні. Канадських політиків від влади та опозиції найбільше турбує доля ув’язненого українського екс-прем’єра Юлії Тимошенко. Раніше прем’єр-міністр Канади звернувся з листом у цій справі до українського Президента.

«Виглядає, що пан Янукович не прислуховується ані до європейського, ні до північноамериканського, ні взагалі до демократичного світу у цій справі. І тут є побоювання, що будуть негативні наслідки», – вважає Оксана Башук-Гепберн.

Канадська оглядачка закликає українську владу випустити з-за ґрат Юлію Тимошенко, скориставшись прикладом М’янми. «Вони тримали Аун Сан Су Чжи роками під домашнім арештом і нарешті її відпустили, – каже вона. – І реакція є позитивна в бік тих, хто її тримав. Цілий світ аплодує і побачите, які позитивні наслідки будуть з того приводу».

На слуханнях лунали заклики підтримати громадянське суспільство України та активно стежити за виборами до Верховної Ради у жовтні. Якщо під час Помаранчевої революції Канада надіслала в Україну півтори тисячі спостерігачів, то тепер Оксана Башук-Гепберн очікує, що ця цифра може становити близько тисячі осіб. Сам факт такої потужної присутності може бути важливим.

«Я, наприклад, була на шістьох, чи на сімох виборах в Україні як спостерігач, і я знаю, що можна запхати важливий документ у торбинку і сказати: я мушу вийти на хвилинку, і його замінити», – згадує Оксана Башук-Гепберн.

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World marked another International Women’s Day, but struggle is not over

OTTAWA—Much has been accomplished since women-libbers started burning bras some 50 years ago. Yet, as the world marked another International Women’s Day on March 8, it was clear that the struggle is not over. Take Rush Limbaugh, for instance, and his sexual slurs against a law student. He apologized but major sponsors of his radio show are withdrawing support: women matter.

But not in Ukraine. There, the violation of human rights, women’s in particular, is endemic. Not only have its leaders failed to address issues like equality in the workforce, equal pay for work of equal value, or sharing family and household responsibilities, their pejorative language stemming from an antiquated mindset tells the tale.

Consider this.

Earlier this month the Speaker of Ukraine’s Parliament, Volodymyr Lytvyn, who holds a doctorate in the now passé discipline—Soviet ideology, supposedly the sina qua non of the underprivileged—forgot his lessons. During the session designed to bolster gender inclusivity—there were no women in Ukraine’s Cabinet until last month—he set forth that women are lesser human beings because they were created from Adam’s rib. And, to date, sees no reason to apologize.

He is not alone. President Viktor Yanukovych leads the way as his party cronies repeatedly insult women by calling female activists prostitutes and sluts and menacing remarks. Like those during former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s trial: a woman’s job is not in politics.

She is his nemesis, and his hate for Yulia, as she is fondly called, is politically catastrophic for him, his country, and undoubtedly his place in history. Yet he persists. President Yanukovych has allowed—there is no independent judiciary in Ukraine—the incarceration of one of the world’s most brilliant women politicians and in so doing crossed out 20 years of democratic progress. This is unacceptable and it must stop.

Complete article here

Helping Ukraine’s democracy: Some ideas

“I’ve had a eureka moment,’ shouts Uncle Ilko into the telephone.? “Can you come over?”

It’s Christmas Eve and I’m in the midst of twelve dishes signifying the Apostles in the Christian era; earlier, the twelve months in the pagan era, and who knows what before that.? I’m to pick up Vujko in a few hours to join us in a lusty “Boh Predvichnyj” carol opening the magical feast.?

“Can this wait a few hours? I’ll be there after six to miss the traffic jam.?”

“If you insist.? It’s about Yulia.”

“Is the old lady dead?”

“Not the old church lady, silly.? Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s former Prime Minister; the one that’s in jail.”

Chopping onions, mushrooms, sauerkraut and garlic all day has a way of dulling the mind.

“Of course, Uncle. What’s up?’

“The oligarch mafiacrats have taken her to Kharkiv.? They’re isolating her.? Keeping her away from the political centre in Kyiv.”

Indeed, on New Year’s Eve, or shortly after midnight, she was driven some 500 km to a detention centre.? There was no warning; just a dire autocratic message: she’s in our custody; we do as we wish.?

“A horrible development, Vujku, but we’ve covered that already.? What’s the ‘eureka’?”

Complete article

The 2011 Ukrainian Best & Worst List (UBaWL)

Almost everyone has favorite lists this time of year-- best movies, books, persons… For the 9th year, here is my list of the BEST and WORST issues, events and personae that have impacted profoundly on the global Ukrainian community.


BEST 1/ Former Prime Minister of Ukraine and key political opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko--for her fighting spirit during her ‘show trial.’  She condemned presidential interference and the corruption of the judicial process thereby drawing a line between Ukraine’s present governance and where it needs to be as a full-fledged member of the democratic community.

BEST 2/ Ukraine’s journalists--for tenacious pursuit of independence despite the fact that over 60 have died for the cause of truth since Ukraine’s independence. 

BEST 3/ Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper--for a tough message to President Viktor Yanukovych, a letter in which Harper asked him to stand firm on his “commitment to democracy” and warning of “negative impacts” stemming from the politically motivated trial of Yulia Tymoshenko.

[ ... ]


WORST 1/ Ukraine’s political leaders--for failing to learn and apply the sine qua non of democracy: the separation of powers of parliament, the executive (administration) and the judiciary thus putting Ukraine at the top of the world’s corruption scale and losing its formerly high ”free” rating.

WORST 2/ European thinkers and leaders (except Poland)--for locking into the ‘old think’ regarding Ukraine and failing, for the last 20 years, to incorporate it into the European community, a mistake made after WWI and again after  WWII with disastrous consequences for Ukraine, Europe and the world. 

WORST 3/ President Victor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov--for entering into agreements favouring Russia’s interests rather than Ukraine’s, specifically the Kharkiv Accords allowing Russia’s Black Sea Fleet  prolonged usage of Ukraine’s space; the creation of Ukroboronprom to facilitate defence integration with Russia; and the Free Trade Agreement aimed at Russia’s dominance of Ukraine’s economic sector.

Complete article

A gift for Russia

It is not easy to write an opinion piece on Ukraine’s current politics. Much is in flux prior to the European Union-Ukraine Summit on Dec. 19. The day, according to Ukraine’s Julian calendar, also marks the feast of St. Nicholas; time to dispense gifts to the deserving. What gifts might the players expect to receive at the summit?

Certainly, President Viktor Yanukovych would like to get greater integration with Europe. However, he’s been quite naughty this year. The EU has warned him repeatedly about negative consequences for failing to release leading political opposition members, primarily Yulia Tymoshenko. Her imprisonment is widely seen as a perversion of justice. Instead of amends, Ukraine’s corrupted legal system seems determined to prevent her contesting the 2012 presidential elections. She’s seen as the favorite against the president.

Progress towards EU integration, which Ukraine views as its birthright, would be a heavenly gift. Public opinion is consistently supportive while trade--other than energy-- is rising with Europe at Russia’s expense. This will continue as Ukraine “normalizes” relations with Europe from travel to telecommunications. Its nouveau riche have personal and business ties while its children study there.

However, some member states--fearing Ukraine’s size, natural resource base, agriculture and science--impede integration with the “doesn’t meet standards” excuse while the economic crisis there have many Ukrainians asking: Where’s the benefit? Nonetheless, integration is imperative for Ukraine’s peace, security and economic wellbeing. It needs to balance further incursions by Russia with stronger European links. For obvious economic and historic reasons, EU needs this too.

Complete article

Canada taking lead on democracy in Ukraine

It is crucial that Canada finds the public policy approach that will help Ukraine reach an international stature that will allow it to become a country comfortable in the full spectrum of its international relations.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper stepped forward and called upon Ukraine’s president, in a letter, to address the escalating crisis of confidence in that country’s progress toward democracy. It was a direct and resounding call for a reversal of the recent spate of ‘legal’ attacks against opposition leaders. Although the Prime Minister’s language was unequivocal—it warned of “potential negative impact”—the message was unmistakably from one friend to another one on the verge of losing his way.

The Prime Minister’s letter dealing with the conviction of Ukraine’s opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, is a serious response to a serious situation. Will Mr. Yanukovych be persuaded?

Canada’s friendship has been evident from the very first days of Ukraine’s independence where the vast Ukrainian Canadian community, which helped build Canada, has long cherished the hope of an independent and democratic Ukraine. Other Canadians have been party to that dream; its leaders have done much to support it. However, there is now a universal quandary among democratic nations: how best to deal with the crumbling pillars of Ukraine’s democracy?

Complete article

Where have all the women gone...?


Та коли ж ви, нарешті, нажретесь!

When will you have finally gorged yourself enough?!


Mental Callisthenics with Vujko Ilko

“Why aren’t the women protesting,” asks Uncle Ilko as we settle with our cappuccinos. I have no idea what he’s going to raise this time but it’s bound to be interesting if it deals with women.   

“Explain, please, why that feisty woman is not being supported by Ukrainian women’s organizations of the free world?”

Vujko is out to do battle with Ukrainian women in the diaspora. My sense is to advise him to stay gender-neutral, but he’s off.

“She’s been given seven years, for goodness sake and there is no protest.  She’s a woman, a PhD, a politician, a world-class figure - everything these organizations stand for. Where is the outcry to the male chauvinists of the recidivist Party of Regions who aim to make a Joan of Arc out of her and democracy in Ukraine a loser.”

 Vujko is devoting this session on matters Ukrainian to Yulia Tymoshenko, former Prime Minister of Ukraine, put on trial for allegedly abusing her authority in the gas wars with Russia, widely condemned as being pretence to eliminate her as a political force.

Complete article

Yanukovych and his road to salvation

While driving Vujko Ilko to church on Sunday, I’m exposed to his mental callisthenics - insights into matters Ukrainian. 

“I’ll start with the good news,” says Vujko.  “That Ukraine-hater Tabachnyk is being removed from Ukraine’s Cabinet.”  Uncle Ilko means the Minister of Education, Science, Youth and Sports who has been one of the most odious government figures; a seditionist and Ukraine hater, and a lightning rod for anti-Yanukovych sentiments.  

“He claims Ukraine is not a nation; Ukrainian not an important language but urges studies of Hebrew.  A man like that would have fallen in Canada before he could finish his breakfast.”

“What do you think this means, Vujku?”

“President Yanukovych is tilting westward.  He’s concerned about being swallowed-up by Russia.  Ukraine’s oligarchs, as self-serving as they are, don’t want to move into the free zone with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.  They made the President propose a 3+1 option, but Russia said ‘nyet’.”

“This is a seriously independent position.  Will Russia let Ukraine win?”

Complete article

Can the Tymoshenko fiasco bring salvation?

On the eve of its 20th birthday, politics in Ukraine are not good. Its President and other key players -- Russia, the family of global democracies, the diaspora-- need a turnaround if they care about moving forward, image and peace.

It may surprise, but the fiasco involving the Aug. 5 arrest of ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko could become the catalyst for such good tidings if wisdom prevails.

Although Russia has influenced political backsliding in the neighborhood, it is Ukraine’s president who is responsible for the mess at home. Most odious, of course, is the persecution of the opposition with the over-the-top arrest of Tymoshenko.

It was precipitated by her request to have Prime Minister Mykola Azarov’s testimony translated into Ukrainian, the official language of the country! If consequences weren’t so dire the situation would be laughable. But President Victor Yanukovych is playing with a time bomb and must defuse it or the situation may turn catastrophic. Some countries moved to higher diplomatic and military alert. However, things are rarely simple and the Slavic world has a long history of “enigmas wrapped in riddles” situations; this one is no exception.

Consider this.

Complete article

Vujko Ilko…: A country is not run by questions

Snail-mail brings a letter from Uncle Ilko.  His distinctive scrawl devotes several pages to mental callisthenics, his designation for matters dealing with Ukrainian issues.  It’s all here in point form:

In Ukraine:

· Don’t give up on Ukraine.  President Viktor Yanukovych doesn’t have much wiggle room.  The Ruski press him on all sides to join the Customs Union.  So far, he’s “studying” it like any smart politician should.

The phone rings. 

“Ah Vujku, just got your letter. What do you mean it’s dated?  Aha, yes, I see.  Yanukovych sold out to Russia by selling off the strategic enterprises for less expensive energy?  You’re not the only one.  Many were hoping he would withstand Russia’s pressure.  Vujku, let me read the whole letter and call you back.”

Complete article

At first, only the bravest settled in Canada



When Canada was merely 24 years old, two settlers arrived from Ukraine. Today, the Canadian census counts 1.2 million claiming Ukrainian heritage.

Leaving Ukraine for Canada 120 years ago was akin to settling on the moon; only the bravest dared. Reaching the prairies, they were unceremoniously dumped where the train track stopped. There was nothing to mark human progress; distances were overwhelming and other people far away. When meeting them in towns, "established" Canadians mocked the new arrivals' dress and sneered at their language and religion, heart-wrenchingly described in Pierre Burton's The Promised Land. There was the ultimate slap-down: go back where you came from if you don't like it here.

"Here" was Manitoba, where scarlet fever ravaged some 50 children one winter. "Here" was dawn to dusk laying of railway tracks through bogs swarming with mosquitoes and black flies or dying in airless mines. The roster of the perished in shafts, like those in Kirkland Lake, tell the story. "Here" they chiselled through the Rockies to built the magnificent Banff Springs Hotel, but as slave labour; First World War politics made the settlers of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire enemy aliens. This was illegal; Canada's justice failed the "outsiders. "

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When 'maybe' may be enough

Ukraine has the good fortune or the great misfortune of bordering two giants: Russia and the European Union. Historically, it has fused more with Russia than with Europe. Perhaps that is changing.

Somewhat indicative of the shift is the recent refusal by President Viktor Yanukovych to sign the Customs Union--free trade--agreement with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Instead, he proposed a “Ukraine” solution: 3+1. This is news coming from decidedly pro-Russia President: he is catering to Ukraine’s self-interest; putting its wellbeing first.

Only a few months ago the President practically gave a 25-year lease to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in exchange for some energy concessions. Many Ukrainians believe Russia got the better deal; cheap, long-term rent and a military presence, which draws Ukraine closer to Russia’s motherly bosom, a place where Ukraine gets smothered rather than satiated.

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Arab uprisings should avoid Ukraine’s mistakes

The uprisings streaking through the Arab world are magnificent in intent--greater freedoms and well being-- and identical to what some 500 million citizens sought by breaking up the Soviet Union 20 years ago.

Today’s uprisings -- legitimized by a heavily engaged, well-educated, freedom-deprived population -- mirror the needs of the 90 percent of the 56 million Ukrainians who, among others, precipitated the Soviet Union’s demise.

Then as now, poverty, corruption, state incursion into private lives fueled the unrest. Two decades later, however, many expectations driving Ukraine’s independence have not taken root. Sovereignty is threatened, political opposition imprisoned, courts are corrupt. Nearly a quarter of the population lives on $700 per year, some 10 million have left the country, while Forbes, the financial magazine, identifies some of the world’s richest among its population.

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Mental calisthenics righting the wrong

Uncle Ilko is stressed out; more so than normally. No, not angry or annoyed, he said over the phone: broken-hearted. As soon as I arrive for our mental calisthenics - discussions on complex issues - he explains his downer.

“Many things in our community upset me”, he says, “but nothing as much as being hood-winked by the Canadian Museum For Human Rights.”

Oh sure, he admits, the discussion between the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the CMHR significantly contributed to Canadians’ understanding of Holodomor; raised it on par with the Holocaust, where it should be. The former USSR hushed it up; the media white washed it or worst: slurring those who spoke up as Nazi collaborators or war-mongers. Of course, it needs full exposure in the Museum. It was smart, says Vujko, to engage the Canadian Ethnocultural Council in the meeting with CMHR CEO Stuart Murray: enlarge the base; get fair-minded folks on side.

“Why, then, so despondent?

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Prime Minister's deserved award could be undermined by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights issue

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress is giving an award March 25 to Prime Minister Harper in recognition for contributions to Canada, in particular, for his stance on human rights. It is most unfortunate that a government agency devoted to these quintessential Canadian values is on its way to messing up Canada’s reputation as a champion of rights.

The Ukrainian community is aghast that such blatant discrimination is possible in fair-minded Canada, particularly in an institution devoted to rooting out injustice and inequality. ... any well-intended award for the Prime Minister falls under a pall.


Most would agree that Canada’s strong human rights record has made it a global leader.  During his recent visit to Ukraine, Mr. Harper’s performance enhanced this reputation. Visiting there last fall, he took care to demonstrate Canada’s high regard for individual rights and freedoms, no mere gesture as, unfortunately, under the watch of President Victor Yanukovych, Ukraine has been experiencing Russia-like recidivism.  Arrests, violence against--even questionable deaths--  journalist, a trend towards religious exclusivity for Moscow’s orthodoxy and, in particular, the incarceration of political opposition leaders tell a worrisome story.

The violations were not lost on Canada.  To stress our perspective on such matters, Mr. Harper visited Lonsky Prison, the site of a national archives and museum to Ukraine’s resistance to both Nazi and Soviet occupations during WWII: weeks earlier its director has been persecuted in a back-to-the-USSR manner. Then the Prime Minister met with university students whose right to free assembly had been threatened.  Reactions at home and abroad were most favourable; many considered the PM’s performance prize-worthy.

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The Canadian Museum of Human Rights: avoiding a Canadian symbol of inequality

Perhaps the best that can be said about the stand taken by the decision makers of the Canadian Museum of Human Rights-- to accord preferential treatment to some groups in its exhibit space-- is the public debate around this un-Canadian approach.

A little history first. During the conceptual stages, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress--the umbrella entity for some 1.2 million Canadians-- was asked by Museum initiators, led by Gail Asper, the daughter of Canada’s media mogul Izzy Asper, to lend support. For good reason: the government wished to avoid controversy.

Several years earlier, a Holocaust component was proposed to the yet-to-be-built Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. Veteran organizations and others objected. The UCC Ottawa-- I was then president-- sent letters seeking “equitable’ and “inclusive’ representation arguing that recognition of one people’s tragedy was discriminatory and un-Canadian in value. The War Museum was built without the Holocaust or other human rights components. The Aspers tried again.

Their request for government funding for the CMHR was predicated on the condition that other groups be on side; in particular former critics of unilateralism like the Ukrainian Canadians, a group that has been fighting an uphill battle for the recognition of the some 10 million-- according to Joseph Stalin, who should know-- of their own who were starved while the world ignored or chose to white-wash this human calamity. As an aside, it is particularly strange that Shimon Peres, Israel’s President, born in what was then Ukraine, recently tutored Ukrainians to forget their history! Could it be because such a large number of Jews were in the Communist leadership during the Holodomor genocide? Including Stalin’s number two Lazar Kaganovich?

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Canada has it right

Despite losing the cold war some twenty years ago, Russia is determined to regain super -power status without concessions to a new world order.  The policy issue for Canada and others is this: how far to tolerate Russia’s aggression in the name of good relations?  And: will it change, if criminal behavior is accommodated?

Russia’s lawlessness is evident.  It invades sovereign territory, issues passports to citizens of other states and fails to honour agreements to withdraw troops.  It ranks in the top ten percent of the world’s most corrupt states; the only G-20 country with such a distinction.  There’s mischief making in Transdnistria, cyber attack on Estonia, interference in Kyrgyz Republic's internal affairs.  Relations with neighbours are consistently confrontational.  It even uses orthodoxy to spread 19-century pan-Russianism world-wide.

How far to tolerate Russia’s aggression in the name of good relations?  And: will it change, if criminal behavior is accommodated?


The state, under President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, controls virtually all aspects of domestic affairs. Political opposition in the Duma, parliament is stifled.  Much of the media serves its oligarch -- read government --owners.  Insubordinate journalists are murdered; the leading independent paper Novaya Gazeta lost five including Anna Politkovskaya; three others have been killed in the last few weeks.

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Stalin's Jews - ground-breaking article

March 29, 2010

Politics tend to unfold slowly. Or they fast forward as is the case in Ukraine where President Viktor Yanukovych is sending mixed signals on a daily basis.

On the one hand he appoints questionable 'Regionistas' like Dmytro Tabachnyk as Minister of Education and Sergij Kivalov, the chief fraudster of the Orange Revolution to head up Ukraine's corruption investigation entity!!

On the other, the President states that he will revamp the dated gas pipeline carrying energy through Ukraine to compete favourably with Russia's soon to be built North Stream which intends to bypass Ukraine. And -- bravo - he will keep Ukrainian as the country's official language.

More on these developments later.  What peaked my interest today was a forward from a friend in Ukraine.

Although written in late 2006,with a captivating title of "We mustn't forget that some of the greatest murderers of modern times were Jewish" Sever Plocker's piece continues to be relevant. Recent attacks on Ukrainian WWII leaders and freedom fighters calls for a historic context. To some extent, it's provided here:


Equally important, the article serves to explain the depth of brute inhumanity that the Kremlin Communists were able to muster. How well they taught the Nazis the art of mass murder! And, as you will see, how ironic that the weapon was then used against some of the perpetrators.

I hope the author, a Jewish journalist, won't mind that I quote him extensively: I really could not do his words justice by paraphrasing them. He writes:

"We cannot know with certainty the number of deaths Cheka (forerunner of the NKVD and KGB) was responsible for... but the number is surely at least 20 million, including victims of the forced collectivization, the hunger, large purges, expulsions, banishments, executions, and mass death at Gulags.

...In his new, highly praised book "The War of the World, "Historian Niall Ferguson writes that no revolution in the history of mankind devoured its children with the same unrestrained appetite as did the Soviet revolution.

Lenin, Stalin, and their successors could not have carried out their deeds without wide-scale cooperation of disciplined "terror officials," cruel interrogators, snitches, executioners, guards, judges, perverts, and many bleeding hearts who were members of the progressive Western Left and were deceived by the Soviet regime of horror and even provided it with a kosher certificate."

And then Mr. Plocker, who lives in Israel says:

"Within Russia itself, very few people have been brought to justice for their crimes in the NKVD's and KGB's service. (While)... An Israeli student finishes high school without ever hearing the name "Genrikh Yagoda," the greatest Jewish murderer of the 20th Century, the GPU's  deputy commander and the founder and commander of the NKVD. Yagoda diligently implemented Stalin's collectivization orders and is responsible for the deaths of at least 10 million people. His Jewish deputies established and managed the Gulag system. After Stalin no longer viewed him favorably, Yagoda was demoted and executed, and was replaced as chief hangman in 1936 by Yezhov, the "bloodthirsty dwarf."

"...Yezhov was not Jewish but was blessed with an active Jewish wife. In his Book "Stalin: Court of the Red Star", Jewish historian Sebag Montefiore writes that during the darkest period of terror, when the Communist killing machine worked in full force, Stalin was surrounded by beautiful, young Jewish women.

Stalin's close associates and loyalists included member of the Central Committee and Politburo Lazar Kaganovich. Montefiore characterizes him as the "first Stalinist" and adds that those starving to death in Ukraine, an unparalleled tragedy in the history of human kind aside from the Nazi horrors and Mao's terror in China, did not move Kaganovich.

Many Jews sold their soul to the devil of the Communist revolution and have blood on their hands for eternity. We'll mention just one more: Leonid Reichman, head of the NKVD's special department and the organization's chief interrogator, who was a particularly cruel sadist.

In 1934, according to published statistics, 38.5 percent of those holding the most senior posts in the Soviet security apparatuses were of Jewish origin. ...at a Tel Aviv University ...Dr. Halfin described the waves of Soviet terror as a "carnival of mass murder," "fantasy of purges", and "essianism of evil." Turns out that Jews too, when they become captivated by messianic ideology, can become great murderers, among the greatest known by modern history."

His conclusions are relevant in today's climate of political correctness and highly explosive accusations of anti-Semitism and Nazisim:

"The Jews active in official communist terror apparatuses (In the Soviet Union and abroad) and who at times led them, did not do this, obviously, as Jews, but rather, as Stalinists, communists, and "Soviet people." Therefore, we find it easy to ignore their origin and "play dumb": What do we have to do with them? But let's not forget them. My own view is different. I find it unacceptable that a person will be considered a member of the Jewish people when he does great things, but not considered part of our people when he does amazingly despicable things.

Even if we deny it, we cannot escape the Jewishness of "our hangmen," who served the Red Terror with loyalty and dedication from its establishment. After all, others will always remind us of their origin."

I would be interested in hearing your views.


Why is the Museum covering up Communist crimes? [2013.05.05]

Влада і вплив. Не упустіть свій шанс [2012.12.07]

Power and influence: Don’t miss the chance [2012.12.07]

Canada takes lead to keep out criminals [2012.10.27]

The Wall Street Journal picks a loser. [2012.9.19]

Cat-and-mouse games in Ukraine [2012.8.13]

Fight and win! [2012.6.17]

Museum whitewashing Communist crimes [2012.5.13]

Канада обговорює українські виклики [2012.3.28]

World marked another International Women’s Day, but struggle is not over [212.3.28]

Helping Ukraine’s democracy: Some ideas [2012.2.9]

The 2011 Ukrainian Best & Worst List (UBaWL) [2012.1.2]

A gift for Russia [2011.12.10]

Canada taking lead on democracy in Ukraine [2011.11.15]

Where have all the women gone...? [2011.10.31]

Yanukovych and his road to salvation [2011.10.4]

Can the Tymoshenko fiasco bring salvation? [2011.8.11]

Vujko Ilko…: A country is not run by questions [2011.7.11]

At first, only the bravest settled in Canada [2011.7.11]

When ‘maybe’ may be enough [2011.6.10]

Arab uprisings should avoid Ukraine’s mistakes [2011.4.6]

Mental calisthenics righting the wrong [2011.3.15]

Prime Minister's deserved award could be undermined by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights issue [2011.3.4]

The Canadian Museum of Human Rights: avoiding a Canadian symbol of inequality [2011.2.7]

Canada has it right [2011.2.7]

Stalin's Jews - ground-breaking article