Friday, October 20, 2006

Bohdan Bociurkiw, A Great Christian Scholar

"[Bohdan Bociurkiw's] many probing works on the former Soviet Union were not welcomed by all. Perhaps a good measure of his diligence was the many critical articles that appeared about him in the official Communist Party press. Continuously denounced over two decades, the attacks were something in which he took great pride."

Here is a beautiful article by Michael Bociurkiw, a Canadian journalist, about his father, the famous Canadian scholar Bohdan Bociurkiw.

The article was first published in the Globe and Mail and reprinted in The Ukrainian Weekly, November 1, 1998, No. 44, Vol. LXVI.

[H]e was a renowned scholar, a world traveler, Ukrainian community leader, human rights activist, teacher, researcher, linguist and artist. Decades after arriving in Canada as a young, displaced person from Ukraine, he leaves a legacy of an eclectic group of six children, a highly praised book and numerous scholarly works on the former Soviet Union, and a strong influence on Canada's multiculturalism policy.

Years after we arrived in Ottawa in 1969, when I was old enough to understand, my father would tell me about his quiet and lonely battle to be accepted as an equal amid the English and French circles that dominated political life in the nation's capital at the time. Whether he was advising one of the many ministers of state for multiculturalism who sought his sage counsel or speaking to members of the National Museums Board, he would often feel not fully accepted. Yet, he persisted and did, I believe, have an impact on policies.

Perhaps his resilience was acquired during the second world war in Eastern Europe. During trips back to Ukraine with my parents, relatives recounted how he suffered tremendously while in the hands of the Gestapo at concentration camps. While others slid towards death, he sketched the portraits of camp guards to gain more food, which he would then share with fellow prisoners.

....My father was very unique in the sense that he seemed to be able to gracefully transcend nationalities and classes: he could be as comfortable in front of a classroom full of denim-clad students as he was demanding concessions from a government minister; as comfortable trying to broker compromise in a smoke-filled Ukrainian community hall as among scholars in mainland China.

But, by far his proudest achievement was the long-delayed publication of his lifelong work, "The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and the Soviet State (1939-1950)," a book on the liquidation of a persecuted institution. Completing it relied heavily on scouring secret government and Church archives in the Soviet Union. It came as no surprise to us, when, upon hearing that the Iron Curtain had come down, he decided to return to square one and begin his research all over again - rather than release an incomplete book.

Of course, his many probing works on the former Soviet Union were not welcomed by all. Perhaps a good measure of his diligence was the many critical articles that appeared about him in the official Communist Party press. Continuously denounced over two decades, the attacks were something in which he took great pride.


In academic circles he is also remembered as one of the founders of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies and as a founding director of the Institute of Soviet and East European Studies at Carleton University.

One of his most memorable qualities was fairness and compassion: he would bristle anytime any of us voiced disparaging remarks about any other ethnic group or individual. Maybe this is why, in his younger years, he served as a valuable Ukrainian community leader who was able to bring together political and religious factions. [Full Article]

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