LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Kira Muratova: Ukrainian director
Recently the brilliant Ukrainian movie director Kira Muratova has been gaining long-overdue recognition in the West through retrospective showings of her films. In these, unfortunately, she has been characterized as "Russian" (for example, at last year's Lincoln Center retrospective in New York and the recent series in San Francisco).
When faced with objections to this by those who feel she should be considered Ukrainian, the organizers give as their rationale for the label the fact that her films are in Russian and that she is considered Russian by Russians, as proven by the prizes bestowed by them on her as one of their own.
Using language spoken in a film as a criterion for categorization is bizarre. According to this line of reasoning, all English-language films are English - those made in Ireland, India, Hong Kong, Africa, etc. - as are their directors. Mel Gibson, then, is an Arameic director, since his "The Passion of the Christ" is mostly in Arameic. And directors of silent movies are stateless. I doubt that any sane peson would accept such absurdity.
Films dealing with contemporary situations, when striving for authenticity, should have the characters in them speak the language they use in daily communication. Ms. Muratova is right in having the people in her movies speak Russian, since this is the language their prototypes use in real life, even if they live in Ukraine. In her great movie "The Asthenic Syndrome" only two personages speak Ukrainian - inmates in an insane asylum. In the Soviet Union, which is what the movie depicts, you had to be crazy to speak Ukrainian.
And as to awards given out by the Russian government - as we all have read, President Vladimir Putin recently bestowed the title of "National Artist of Russia" on Jack Palance, which Mr. Palance refused since he is of Ukrainian and not of Russian origin. Russian imperialism dies hard.
I don't know Kira Muratova's ethnic background, but she definitly is not an ethnic Russian. She was born in 1934 in Moldova, in the ethnically mixed town of Soroky (a Ukrainian name), right on the border with Ukraine. She was then a Soviet citizen; with the collapse of the Soviet Union, she chose to stay in Ukraine and is now a Ukrainian citizen.
She has been given the title of "National Artist of Ukraine" and has received the Shevchenko Prize with which Ukraine honors its finest artists.
Most of her movies have been made at the Odesa Film Studio, which is in Ukraine, and where Dovzhenko made his famous movies. Many of the actors in her movies are Ukrainian as are the members of the film crew. And her work, though completely original, bears the stamp of Ukrainian poetic cinema.
All of this makes her, without a doubt, a Ukrainian director and her movies Ukrainian.
White Plains, N.Y.
Yuriy Tarnawsky is a Ukrainian American writer, linguist and computer scientist, and a former adjunct assistant professor of Ukrainian literature and culture at Columbia University in New York.
Why can't we have some fun?
Responding to the letter (June 26) objecting to the recent varenyky eating contest in New York City, I wish to reply "Pereproshuyu, Pani!" (Please!) I admit I do not have the May 29 issue to reread the article about this event, and I am taking liberties as if I know the letter writer, Orysia Tracz, from her wonderful folklore articles (yes, I'm a fan of those), but I have to say it: if you are going to complain about any fun activity that easily includes marginal Ukrainians in participating at a Ukrainian event, pack up and go home.
Watermelon or pizza or cherry or pie or pyrohy eating contests are an acceptable U.S. fun thing to do. Don't look down your Canadian nose and tell us we are sinning by wasting food, because we are not. We may be guilty of gluttony, perhaps, but not of wasting food.
Even though in your article "Some mak for the road" (June 26) you speak of it, will you now be shaming those who say they sprinkle items with holy water for good luck instead of invoking a blessing as being shamefully anti-Christian, or those who use the seeds from the poppies blessed on the first Feast of the Savior (August 1/14) or seeds from the herbs used on the Feast of the Dormition (August 15/28) as being superstitious? Sounds like something from a "Saturday Night Live"-style Church Lady.
Why do all Ukrainian events have to be cultural? You wrote in your letters that people can have fun, "But not in this manner. It's beneath us." When you consider that you are speaking of those whose motherland's immediate past president was Leonid Kuchma, how can you say anything is beneath us?
Please don't pontificate against anything unless you have a suitable replacement to offer within the same parameters. Remember, if the Irish sang their ballads only in Gaelic instead of the language of the enemy, who would have sympathized with them? Why do you think our Ukrainian diaspora gatherings today look like the reviewing stand of yesterday's Kremlin on May Day: old and wrinkled icons of orthodoxy rather than youthful faces showing anticipation of glory?
About the "rift" in Illinois UCCA
I am writing in response to Orest Baranyk's article "Illinois UCCA holds annual meeting, hopes to heal rift within community" (June 12), which I read with a great deal of interest. I was fascinated not so much by his egregious inaccuracies but rather by his uncharacteristically insightful words about the future of the UCCA and what the UCCA needed to do to maintain its viability. The text of the article is not in keeping with Mr. Baranyk's views and stance over the past year, particularly during the recent annual branch meetings held in March and May, which were videotaped and tape-recorded, respectively.
In his article, Mr. Baranyk stated that the "regular meeting was cancelled due to a lack of compliance with the by-laws " and "...flagrant disregard of protocol," leading readers to believe that the second meeting was in compliance with the by-laws. This was not the case.
Examples of by-law violations during the second meeting are too numerous to cite. More notable ones include Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS) donors being actively encouraged and allowed to vote contrary to the by-laws (only donors to the Ukrainian National Fund, or UNF, are permitted to vote), and 11 individuals without the right to vote being elected to the branch board. Clearly, the vote and board selection were not based on, as Mr. Baranyk stated, "who was qualified to vote[and] the requirements of the UCCA By-laws."
To his credit, Mr. Baranyk proposed a solution to the by-law crisis that he and others created - the establishment of an ad hoc committee to review and make recommendations to the national by-laws committee.
However, Mr. Baranyk, as a member of the national UCCA board, should know that it is the role of the national by-laws committee to solicit input from all UCCA members through branch chairs, because each branch has unique and valuable perspectives. He should also know that this committee is elected at each UCCA congress (the most recent one being held last fall).
By creating an ad hoc committee, the process loses its transparency and becomes all-exclusive - not something the UCCA leadership should strive for.
Mr. Baranyk also mentioned a "rift" in the Ukrainian community in Chicago. To what is he referring? Is he referring to his arbitrary interpretation and application of the UCCA by-laws, which have disenfranchised a substantial number of UCCA voters, the majority of whom are recent immigrants?
Many new immigrants, including former board members, were told during the March meeting that they were ineligible to vote because they did not pay "appropriate dues." Yet Mr. Baranyk allowed them to be on the board for almost five years without informing them what the "appropriate dues" were.
Also, Mr. Baranyk failed to mention in his article that during the March meeting there were approximately 300 participants. During the May meeting, there were "nearly 80 participants," approximately 10 of whom later walked out in disgust. The difference in attendance can only reflect the fact that, for the first time in branch history, the meeting was held midweek, a time inconvenient for the majority of members. Perhaps the shouts of "Shame!" ("Hanba!") directed toward Mr. Baranyk during the first meeting were not without merit.
Conversely, perhaps Mr. Baranyk's "rift" refers to his unprofessional behavior. Telling people to shut up and threatening to throw them out during the meeting is not becoming of someone who is a branch president, the national UCCA president's deputy, and the national UCCA's external affairs liaison.
Or perhaps by "rift" Mr. Baranyk is referring to a topic that he and a small group of people insist on continually raising to the dismay of others - the sale of 1st Security Federal Savings Bank. In his article, Mr. Baranyk mentions the sale ("merger") twice and states that it "should not be forced onto the UCCA's agenda." Unfortunately, Mr. Baranyk cannot seem to stop forcing it onto the UCCA's agenda and continually making it an issue at meetings. For example, during the May 18 meeting Mr. Baranyk allowed the former CEO of 1st Security Federal Savings Bank to give a prolonged discourse against people who protested this sale.
The Orange Revolution and what the Illinois UCCA branch accomplished were also discussed by Mr. Baranyk. Contrary to Mr. Baranyk's assertions, the branch contributed almost nothing to the efforts of the Orange Revolution in Chicago. In fact, the Election 2004 committee did most of the work with much financial support from Chicago's Selfreliance Ukrainian American Federal Credit Union.
The committee's work included holding three demonstrations in support of free elections in Ukraine (the first of which Mr. Baranyk tried to suppress even though Taras Bilozir from the Yushchenko campaign and Askold Lozynskyj supported such an action), monitoring the elections, registering voters, busing volunteers and voters to and from the Consulate, providing logistical support, and organizing five buses for a demonstration in Washington. Over $350,000 was raised in about three weeks for the Yushchenko campaign, mostly by recent immigrants. The national UCCA leadership should take note of this fact.
What did the UCCA Illinois branch do to support election activities in Chicago? According to Mr. Baranyk's statement on May 18, it rented portable toilets for use by the Election 2004 committee and voters, and had a few observers monitor the elections.
On the national level, why was the UCCA president or his deputy not included on the U.S. government delegation to President Viktor Yushchenko's inauguration? In my opinion, this exemplifies the poor quality work of the UCCA External Affairs Committee, which Mr. Baranyk has headed for a number of years. It appears that the U.S. government does not take the UCCA seriously.
Mr. Baranyk also mentioned finances in his article. However, he erred in combining UNIS and UNF collections into one sum of approximately $80,000. This muddies the true picture of community support for the UCCA. The branch in Chicago has two major fund-raisers each year: one for the Ukrainian National Fund, which supports day-to-day operations of the national UCCA, and the other for the Ukrainian National Information Service.
UNIS collections are supported by a small group of people compared to the UNF collection, which is more representative of the community and its grass roots support for the UCCA. Last year, approximately half of the UNIS collection came from Selfreliance Ukrainian American Federal Credit Union and Julian Kulas' Heritage Foundation, while over a quarter of the UNF collection came from recent immigrants - exactly the people Mr. Baranyk has gradually and successfully alienated. Furthermore, the annual UNF collection for the past five years has been approximately $25,000. But in 2004, only $19,000 was collected. Is this substantial drop in the UNF collection a statistical fluctuation, or is it indicative of a leadership problem?
Finally, half of Mr. Baranyk's article addressed broader UCCA concerns; namely, issues surrounding leadership, professionalism and future directions. Mr. Baranyk uses terminology such as "dialogue," "inclusion" and "effectiveness." Is telling people who disagree with him to shut up "dialogue"? Is denying people the right to vote "inclusion"? Is alienating people effective leadership?
Perhaps the UCCA should follow the example of democratically elected world leaders who are elected for finite terms so that personal ambitions do not become priorities. Although Mr. Baranyk, who has been branch president for 13 years, has asserted for several years that he does not wish to be president any longer, the Orange Revolution has apparently made the position desirable.
When given the opportunity to leave, Mr. Baranyk instead chose to create a "rift" in the community by rigging the voting process so that it worked in his favor. Assisting him was no one other than the national president, Michael Sawkiw Jr. On May 22 Mr. Sawkiw received a letter from me via e-mail which raised many of the issues I have outlined and the same broader UCCA and diaspora issues raised by Mr. Baranyk in his article published on June 12. Is this mere coincidence given the disconnect between Mr. Baranyk's article and his behavior?
In my letter, I proposed a few options on how to resolve the situation in Chicago. It is unfortunate that Mr. Sawkiw appears to have chosen the easiest one - to do nothing in hopes that the "situation" goes away. Professionalism and leadership start at home. Perhaps our current community leaders could benefit from a few of those seminars Mr. Baranyk proposed on ethics, professionalism and leadership skills.
Bohdan L. Bodnar, Ph.D.
Park Ridge, Ill.
Why replace "Kh" with letter "H"?
It is a bloody shame that our brethren in Ukraine do not use the Ukrainian alphabet when transliterating English into Ukrainian. See the enclosed specimen [a photograph of volunteers next to a banner of Heifer International Ukraine that was published on June 19 - ed.]
What happened to the Ukrainian "H"-sounding letter that was replaced by the "Kh"?
Would The Ukrainian Weekly avoid reprinting such ugliness?
More on Church and celibacy
I would like to add some background to the recent discussion of celibacy in the Ukrainian Church.
In the West, mandatory priestly celibacy was part of an effort to reform and modernize the Church. In Greek-Catholic western Ukraine, it was resisted by the conservative, traditionalistic clergy, who formed a virtual caste. Although Rome did pressure the Ukrainian Church to adopt celibacy - the curial sleight-of-hand following the Lviv Synod of 1891 is a notorious instance - later some of our own bishops supported it, too. In fact, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky favored promoting a celibate clergy alongside the married priesthood.
There were several arguments for mandatory priestly celibacy. Having to support not only the village priest, but his wife and children could be a burden on the peasantry and an incitement to hostility. We tend to forget the extent of economically motivated anti-clerical sentiment in pre-war Galicia. This argument seemed even stronger in North America, where the Church received no support from the state.
Furthermore, some felt that a married priest could not please both God and his wife; those familiar with Ukrainian family dynamics might lend some credence to this argument. Proponents of celibacy thought that the burdens of a family would distract a pastor from his flock, and in times of persecution could become a liability. Finally, there was the theological point that the very nature of the priesthood required undivided devotion.
On the other hand, opponents of compulsory celibacy argued that by disrupting the priestly family, which was the chief source of the Galician secular intelligentsia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it would weaken the Ukrainian nation and stunt its development. They saw it as one more encroachment of Polish Roman Catholicism upon Ukrainian religious and national identity.
Today, most of these arguments seem unpersuasive or irrelevant. In the diaspora, for example, a married priest need no longer support his family entirely from his meager income. There are plenty of Ukrainian women in business or the professions capable of supporting a cleric. (Indeed, if there is one profession where mandatory celibacy would be appropriate it is that of the scholar, who can generally offer a spouse neither financial security, nor social prestige, nor even much companionship!)
It would be a mistake, however, to see a married clergy as insurance against sexual misconduct. Marriage is not necessarily easier to sustain than celibacy. Neither state is immune to depravity.
On balance, it seems that Metropolitan Sheptytsky's approach was the best: ordain both celibate and married men.
The Weekly: intellectual feast
Congratulations to The Weekly. It is better than ever: Kuzio, Kupchinsky, Kuropas, Szmagala, Vitvitsky, Deychakiwsky, the editorials. A real intellectual feast!
We impatiently await each issue.
New Paltz, N.Y.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, July 10, 2005, No. 28, Vol. LXXIII
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