Where did we begin?
The project Local Narratives: The Lives, Legacies, and Locales of Edmonton’s Ukrainian Canadian Community was conceptualized by Larisa Hayduk, director of URDC, in the spring of 2021. After co-producing a short documentary with filmmaker Brandy Yanchyk of Brandy Y Productions on the philanthropists Drs. Peter and Doris Kule, Hayduk became inspired to explore the stories of the many Ukrainian Canadians who have made an impact on their respective communities and wider society.
Hayduk hired local researcher Kalyna Somchynsky to collaborate and carry out the research for Local Narratives. With a background in community engagement, Hayduk decided that Local Narratives should be carried out as a community engaged research project. As a result, Hayduk invited a selection of academics and community leaders to provide advice and ongoing consultation, as required. The initial meetings consisted of discussions surrounding what projects were completed in the past, what projects were currently being undertaken by various organizations, and identifying new avenues of research. The meetings allowed Hayduk and Somchynsky to understand both the complexity of the Ukrainian community and the timeliness of undertaking the project. Both formal and informal conversations with community members have shaped the trajectory of the project as the simple act of having a conversation has allowed Hayduk and Somchynsky to glean both overt and subtle stories that are important.
The stories included on this website all started with research into the current literature and archives available pertaining to a certain individual and place. We explored what has been published, who may have valuable insight and experiential knowledge, and where there are gaps in available information available. Local Narratives is a research project that is continually unfolding; the trajectory of the project is determined by the stories encountered.
How do you tell the story of the Ukrainian Canadian community in Edmonton?
We decided to conduct Local Narratives as an oral history project. We believe that oral histories are valuable because they encourage individuals to share their subjective memories and experiences, to think deeper about their inspirations and motivations, reflect on their careers and work, address challenges, and imagine the best possible future. Oral histories allow individuals whose lives may not be documented through a published record to have their stories heard and preserved. We believe that no story is too small to tell, and no detail irrelevant.
Conducting interviews with members of the Ukrainian Canadian community revealed several unexpected benefits. Sitting down for a conversation (albeit virtual) allowed the interviewer and interviewee to meet one another and build a relationship that will undoubtedly have an impact on wider community life. The interviews strengthen community ties. Within the isolation of an ongoing pandemic, the interview functioned as a form of human connection and a moment of exchange; it was an excuse for people who do not know one another to speak.
The interviews featured on this website that have been conducted by Kalyna Somchynsky have received ethics approval by the Research Ethics Board at MacEwan University. Due to the lingering threat of COVID-19 in 2021-2022, most interviews conducted by URDC took place over Zoom to protect both the interviewer and interviewee.
Who has made significant contributions to the Ukrainian Canadian community?
We decided to begin our project from where we are—MacEwan University. We reflected on the history of URDC and the individuals who have collaborated with URDC over the course of their careers. It was only natural to begin by interviewing URDC’s founding director, Dr. Roman Petryshyn. In our conversations with Dr. Petryshyn, we learned about the activities and fascinating lives of many of his colleagues and friends. We knew we had to interview them as well.
We hope that Local Narratives will be a long-term project that will put us in contact with a wide array of Ukrainian Canadians living in Edmonton. We believe that it is important to interview individuals who represent the diversity of the community by including individuals linked back to every wave of immigration, various generations of Ukrainian Canadians, and individuals who have made contributions to the community through different sectors (arts, museums and cultural organizations, the church, education, politics, healthcare, volunteerism).
What places have brought community together?
We believe that communities are reinforced by places and events that unite people physically or symbolically in celebration, commemoration, discussion, and support. Local Narratives chronicles not only the individuals that have built our communities, but also traces the places—contemporary or historic, still standing or demolished—that hold meaning and memory to Ukrainian Canadians in Edmonton.
The stories behind buildings, businesses, and gathering places are often overlooked, understudied, and poorly preserved. We strive to rebuild places that no longer exist with the memories of individuals who frequently interacted with them and tell the stories of places that continue to exist through the testimony of those who built, manage, and frequent them.
The Local Narratives website functions as a public and open-access archive of oral history interviews and documentary films accompanied by narrative text, a reference guide for further reading about a particular person or place, and a collection of visual materials. It is both a repository for our own research and a launching point for future research questions.
The interviews, raw footage from documentaries, and supporting materials featured on this website have or will be donated to the MacEwan University Archives. MacEwan University Archives will preserve these materials as long as MacEwan University is in existence. These materials are available to researchers and the public by appointment.
Please note that permission is required by URDC to reproduce any information featured on this website or within the archival holdings of MacEwan University Archives.