Category Archives: People of Interest

Facing Trump-Putin axis, Ukraine turns to a white knight — Chrystia Freeland

Cabinet Shuffle 20170110

Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s new foreign affairs minister is descendant of Ukrainians and fierce critic of Vladimir Putin’s wars

Seen from Ukraine, the news from North America at the beginning of the year was promising.

Chrystia Freeland was sworn in as Canada’s new minister of foreign affairs on Jan. 10.

She is the proud descendant of Ukrainians and a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s wars in Ukraine and his annexation of Crimea in 2014. She has written of his “revanchist policy” and called his characterization of Ukrainians as dupes of NATO, even neo-Nazis, “his most dramatic resort to the Soviet tactic of the Big Lie.” Continue reading

With Closing of East Village Shop, Little Ukraine Grows Smaller


Markian Surmach, the owner of Surma in Manhattan’s East Village. The store, a relic of the once thriving Eastern European businesses in the neighborhood, will close this month. CreditRichard Perry/The New York Times

In July 1910, a teenager named Myron Surmach left his village in Ukraine, boarded the ship Atlanta with a third-class ticket and headed across the ocean to an improbably big city called New York. For 21 days, Mr. Surmach sucked on a lemon to stave off seasickness until he reached Ellis Island. There, he told an interviewer decades later, he was shocked to find an American guard welcoming him to the United States in perfect Ukrainian.

Mr. Surmach began his new life in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., but within a few years, he made it back to New York. Eager to preserve his native culture, he opened a small shop on Avenue A in Manhattan where he sold records, books, clothes and other Continue reading

The Nobel Prize in Literature


Svetlana Alexievich: ‘Reality has always attracted me like a magnet’

The Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to Svetlana Alexievich. The Belarusian writer and investigative journalist is lauded for her unique, and often harrowing, insights into life behind the Iron Curtain.

Watch video 02:13

Svetlana Alexievich wins Nobel Literature Prize

If there ever was a stark manifesto of intent, it came with Svetlana Alexievich’s debut novel “War’s Unwomanly Face.” Released in 1985 and set during World War II, the novel ties together a series of moving and often stark monologues on the brutality and hopelessness of war – all told by women and children. Alexievich made no illusions: she was going to toe no one else’s line.

For those new to Alexievich’s work, the Swedish Academy said Thursday after announcing that she’d been selected for this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature, that “War’s Unwomanly Face” was the one to start with. The innovative writer has “mapped the soul” of the Soviet and post-Soviet people, said the Academy.

First-hand account of Soviet Union’s disintegration

It’s this audacious determination to tell such brutally real stories that had Alexievich on the run for a decade. She was born in 1948 in the Ukrainian town of Stanislav – now the city of Ivano-Frankivsk, in the country’s central-eastern Continue reading

William Vetzal Bandura Designer

Vetzal and Kharkiv-style bandura.

William “Bill” Vetzal (Василь Вецал) (born May 15, 1943)

Born in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, Vetzal is a full-time bandura designer and manufacturer.

Vetzal studied the art of bandura making from the Honcharenko brothers in Detroit in the 1970s. Since then he has made over 480 instruments, many of Continue reading