I learned some Ukrainian history when I went to a 2009 family reunion in Western Canada where I met fifty cousins. In 1898 my great grandparents, Stephan and Sanxiira Tokaruk came from Ukraine to Alberta with my grandparents, Wasyl and Anna Huchulak, as pioneer homesteaders.
As Russia now works to annex Ukraine, current newscasters mention Kiev, where my forebears lived and prospered for centuries. Situated on lucrative trade routes, 11th-century Kiev thrived as the center of the powerful Slavic state of Kievan Rus—geographically the largest state in Europe. The name Ukraine began to appear on maps as part of this area in the 16th century.
Conflict brewed along with wars with Poland, Lithuania, and the Mongols. From these wars came the fierce Cossacks, precursors of Ukraine. The 18th century brought further separation of Ukrainians who then split under Russian and Austrian spheres of influence for control of Europe .
The Cossacks, champion horsemen under the Russian Czars, fled Russia after the Communist revolution. Both my husband’s family and mine spent our pre-World War II years in Shanghai. The Cossacks who had emigrated to China taught Mike to ride.
Recently, a moving performance of Fiddler on the Roof, reminded us of the many societies that have waxed and waned through the ages. Today’s Ukrainians as ever, are caught in the crossfire.