When the early Ukrainian pioneers came to Canada at the end of the nineteenth century, one of the first things they did was establish Prosvita (Enlightenment) Societies and Reading Rooms (chytal’ni) to promote education and literacy among the mostly peasant immigrants. In the spirit of those settlers, the Alberta Ukrainian Pioneers’ Association (AUPA) recently joined forces with the Kule Ukrainian Canadian Studies Centre (KUCSC) at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) and the Peter and Doris Kule Folklore Centre at the University of Alberta to spearhead the development of Ukrainian studies libraries around the world with donated used books from Canada. Other key partners in this cooperative venture were the Alberta Ukrainian Heritage Foundation, whose facilities were utilized to sort and package thousands of books, as well as the Ukrainian Studies Fund at Harvard, the Ukrainian Benevolent Association of Alberta, and the International Relations Department of the University of Alberta. The latter three bodies made financial contributions to defray processing and shipping expenses incurred in this inaugural phase of Project Prosvita. Of course, over the years CIUS has made regular efforts to supply books to libraries, as well as to scholars and students at a variety of post-secondary institutions, as have other Ukrainian-Canadian institutions and organizations. What makes Project Prosvita unique, however, is the scale and range of this international educational undertaking and the number of partners involved.
The stimulus behind this endeavour is the growing problem of what to do with institutional and personal libraries in Canada consisting mainly of Ukrainian-language books that are no longer being used. Not only are various community organizations closing their doors or refocusing their activities, but books from many individual and estate libraries are steadily being disposed of. At the same time, the number of Ukrainian-language readers in Canada is continuing to decline, notwithstanding recent immigration. It is difficult to find new homes for thousands of titles that have long been out of print, as they are now primarily of scholarly interest. In order to prevent these works—some of which are bibliographic rarities in fragile condition—from ending up at paper recycling depots, the AUPA resolved to take on the task of saving publications that could still be of value to students and academics.
After more than two years of preparatory work, the first shipments of books were dispatched to the following institutions in the late fall of 2009 (the number of boxes sent to each is in parentheses): Slavic collections at the University of Toronto (3) and Columbia University in New York (10); the Slavic program at the University of Milan, Italy (11); a new Department of Ukrainian Studies at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, Korea (49); Ukrainian Diaspora Studies Programs at the Ostroh Academy National University (39), the Mykola Hohol State University in Nizhyn (10), the Ramon Hnatyshyn Canadian Studies Centre at the Yurii Fedkovych National University in Chernivtsi (7), Jagiellonian University in Krakow, and the Taras Shevchenko Museum in Kyiv. Additional texts (6 boxes) were sent to the Pedagogical College of the Ivan Franko National University in Lviv and to the Centre for the Advancement of Deaf Education at the Lviv St. Mary the Protectress School for Deaf Children. In all, the weight of books shipped totalled more than 3,000 kg, and the cost of the project to date amounts to nearly $20,000.
The undertaking was overseen by Jars Balan for the AUPA and KUCSC and by Mariya Lesiv and Lynnien Pawluk for the Kule Folklore Centre. Dr. Serhii Cipko, head of the Diaspora Studies Initiative at CIUS, along with students in the University of Alberta folklore program, were responsible for cataloguing most of the books that were sent to universities in North America and Korea. Invaluable volunteer help was provided by Ivan Stadnyk, Myron Lahola, Valerii Polkovsky, Andriy Chernevych, Peter Melnycky, George Scott, and Bill and Michelle Tracy. It took several months to assemble, cull, organize and box the books, which came from private and institutional collections, including the former library at St. John’s Institute in Edmonton, the Basilian Fathers’ Museum in Mundare, and the Ukrainian Canadian Archives and Museum of Alberta. Other books were donated from the personal collections of Ivan Stadnyk and Jars Balan. The bulk of the shipping costs were covered by casino proceeds earned by the AUPA, as approved by the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission.
Project Prosvita is expected to resume operations in several months’ time, after a break from the effort involved in tackling the first shipment of books. The next phase will focus on building libraries devoted to Canadiana at universities in Ukraine that have started Canadian studies programs, while further supplementing Diaspora studies collections and filling gaps in existing holdings in Canada. Although logistical and financial restrictions prevent the expansion of this Alberta-based initiative beyond the province, and there are limits to the number of libraries that Project Prosvita can distribute, it is hoped that current efforts will make possible the dissemination and long-term preservation of resources critical to the future development of Ukrainian studies, especially Diaspora and Canadian studies in Ukraine.
Ukrainian Pioneers Endowment Fund
Ukrainian Pioneers Endowment Fund, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta: established in 2008 to support Ukrainian cultural activities, publishing of books on Ukrainian life in Canada and bilingual studies, with ongoing UPAA donations.
Kalyna Country Ecomuseum
The Ukrainian Pioneers Association of Alberta has been actively supporting the cultural and historical work of the Kalyna Country Ecomuseum Trust Society: supporting their cultural and historical work, as well as the maintenance and expansion of their website which features articles on the human and natural history of the Kalyna Country region in rural east central Alberta.