A History of the AUUC in Vancouver since 1918

Title

A History of the AUUC in Vancouver since 1918

Description

A historical biography of the Vancouver AUUC written for the occasion of the AUUC's 80th Anniversary. Written by Anna Moysiuk.

Date

1998

Type

Text

Rights

Reproduction may be restricted. Contact AUUC.

Coverage

Vancouver, BC

Creator

Moysiuk, Anna

Language

English

Text

Originally, the AUUC was a self-help and cultural organization that eased the transition of an immigrant community into Canadian society. Having its roots in the reading rooms of Western Ukraine formed to educate the largely illiterate peasant and working classes – the Ukrainian Labour-Farm Temples in Canada (the forerunner of the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians) sought to promote progressive ideas, mutual assistance and a non-religious, inclusive movement through its social, cultural and educational work. This activity was extremely important in view of the economic exploitation, racial prejudice against Slavic people, language barriers, and cultural dislocation that these people experience.

Ukrainians arrived in BC as early as 1902 and organized cultural activities in Nanaimo. In 1911 the first play took place in Vancouver, and by 1916, a brass band made its appearance on a local stage. These early performers were male workers who did seasonal work in logging camps, in mines and on fish boats. The establishment of the ULFTA in other parts of Canada from 1918 gave impetus to a Canadian branch. By 1925 there was enough of a community group to facilitate the building of a hall over the next three years with money borrowed from forest workers to build the first "People's Home" (narodny dim) at 805 East Pender Street, that facility which is still used today.

During the Depression, the work of the AUUC were very much integrated with the struggles of working people. In Vancouver they fed and housed hundreds of men on relief, and helped to organize the takeover of the Post Office by the unemployed, and later, the Trek to Ottawa. Memebers participated in Neighbourhood (defence) Councils to prevent evictions of the unemployed for non-payment of rent. The play by US writer Clifford Odets, "Waiting for Leftie", was reflective of the concerns of that era, and as an AUUC production it fired the morale and imagination of the unemployed in their fight for social justice. The play won at the Dominion Drama Festival and toured the province.

During the Second World War, many drives were undertaken to assist the Canadian war effort, and send aid to the former Soviet Union. Unfortunately, the government outlawed the organization under the War Measures Act (ostensibly because of the Soviet non-aggression pact with the Nazis in 1939), and confiscated the temples for several years. Many temples across Canada were sold to nationalist groups who in turn destroyed many precious artifacts. The Vancouver building did not suffer serious violation, but many valuable documents were lost during this period as members were forced to hide materials for fear of vandalism and destruction. The federal government had given the building (sold for $6,000) to the Orthodox Church and after the War purchased it back for $9,000. Many prominent members were interned at Petawawa and Kananaskis under the War Measures Act.

After the War, the AUUC members continued to develop cultural life, and to preserve the culture of their home land, but in a Canadian context. Hundreds of children of all different ethnic backgrounds passed through the cultural school, learning music, Ukrainian language, plays, dancing, and crafts.

In addition many members of the organization participated in the burgeoning peace movement in the 1950's and beyond, as opposition to the Cold War and as proponents of banning nuclear weapons through the Stockholm Appeal and other initiatives. One member, a Mrs. Moysiuk, collected 6,000 signatures in 1950 and 22,000 signatures in 1975 (at age 73) going door to door. At the 1975 World Peace Congress, the Second Stockholm Appeal called for a ban on all weapons of mass destruction as well as nuclear weapons. Mrs. Moysiuk received a standing ovation at the World Peace Congress for her efforts.

Today, the AUUC supports a Folk Orchestra; a senior dancing group, the Dovbush Dancers; several junior dance groups; a folk choir - the Jubilee Choir; and a Saturday morning cultural school for children. In addition, senior citizens have their own branch with a variety of activities, as as bingo, lunches and dinners, an exercise and health class, socials, etc. Some elders of the organization are housed in a beautiful, subsidized housing development next door, the Lesya Ukrainka Manor. Community organizations and unions rent the hall at 805 East Pender Street for regular meetings and special events.

Nearing the Millenium the organization reflects on its vital past and contemplates a future in the context of a changing society and world. What do we want to maintain and what do we want to change to?

- Based on interviews with John Chitrenky, Sonya Worobetz, Nadya Niechoda and research by Nina Westaway.

Original Format

Print

Citation

Moysiuk, Anna, “A History of the AUUC in Vancouver since 1918,” Association of United Ukrainian Canadians - Vancouver, accessed April 18, 2021, https://auucvancouver.digitalhistoryhub.com/items/show/288.