Borys Gudziak | Keynote Address | Texts and contexts: The global framework of Ukrainian studies

Dr. Borys Gudziak 

Bishop of the Paris Eparchy of St. Volodymyr the Great for France, Switzerland, and Benelux; President of the Ukrainian Catholic University; Head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

BISHOP BORYS (GUDZIAK), president of the Ukrainian Catholic University and a historian active in higher education reform, is today engaged primarily in pastoral and community leadership. He serves as bishop of the Paris Eparchy of St. Volodymyr the Great for France, Switzerland, and Benelux and as head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. He studied biology and philosophy at Syracuse University and theology at the Urbaniana University in Rome while living in the circle of Patriarch Josyf Slipyj. He received a doctorate in Slavic and Byzantine Cultural History from Harvard University. In 1992 he moved to Ukraine, where he founded the Institute of Church History in Lviv and later served as rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University. Bishop Borys is the author of numerous scholarly works, among them Crisis and Reform: The Kyivan Metropolitanate, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the Genesis of the Union of Brest (1998).

Volodymyr Kravchenko:

Before I invite our keynote speaker to take the floor, let me introduce a team of devoted, friendly, and industrious people who are ready to help you during the conference.

Oleksandr Pankieiev is our tech and IT specialist (ACE[1]). Steven Bello, our team lead and CIUS administrator of finance. Mr. Oliver Rossier, ACE Senior Officer. Susanna Lynn and Serge Cipko. Dr. Cipko is the academic coordinator of the conference organizing committee, and Susanna Lynn is the administrative coordinator of the entire 40th anniversary project.

Now I am delighted and honoured to give the floor to Bishop Borys, Eparch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy of Paris. Named after St. Volodymyr the Great, besides France it also includes Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. Bishop Borys is also head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and president and founding father of the revived Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. Dr. Gudziak earned a doctorate in Slavic and Byzantine cultural history from Harvard University. He is a well-known historian who is published internationally and is the author of numerous scholarly works. His monograph Crisis and Reform: The Kyiv Metropolitanate, the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and the Genesis of the Union of Brest was published in 1998 and is well-known in the academic world. Eparch Borys was awarded the French Order of the Legion of Honour, the Ukrainian Award for Service, a governmental award of the second and third degree granted by the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yushchenko, the Antonovych Prize, and the Order for Intellectual Courage.

Dr. Borys Gudziak:

Professor Kravchenko, I want first of all to thank you for this invitation, which was a complete surprise for me. The process began earlier, but when I was finally appointed a bishop in Paris, it finally reached its culmination. I had become a scholar déclassé, and to be invited to speak at a scholarly conference before my teachers, my colleagues, my friends, our donors, and community leaders who were already great when I was a toddler is a very great privilege and pleasure for me, and I thank you for this invitation.

I greet all the dignitaries from the university, the provincial political leaders. In a special way, I would like to salute Peter Savaryn, who is one of those leaders I saw as a child in the newspapers that my parents subscribed to, and who was so instrumental in the development of Ukrainian studies at the University of Alberta.

I would also like, in a special way, to mention the directors. I think we all are aware of the unique opportunity that we can have at least four of the directors—Manoly Lupul, Frank Sysyn, Zenon Kohut, and Volodymyr Kravchenko—here with us. I do not know if it is going to happen again. I hope it does. I hope that there will be a meeting of the five, and I hope I can be there, but I think that is not very likely.

At this time of celebrating our fortieth anniversary, we should remind ourselves of some of the context for Ukrainian studies in the modern period, which helps us understand how important the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies is in a much broader context—how much it has served for social justice, for the recognition of the dignity of people, for giving people the wings of their language, their literature, their history, their identity.

Most Ukrainians in the middle of the nineteenth century were in Ukraine; there were very few emigrants. And in the first half of the century, most of them were serfs. They did not have freedom and dignity, they did not own their life, they could not move freely, they could not read or write. The abolition of serfdom in the Austrian Empire and then in the Russian Empire, the latter happening only in 1861, shows us how late, how long Ukrainians did not have basic human rights. We cannot even imagine it today. That is why Shevchenko is so prominent in our legacy—somebody who emerged from that impossible situation to paint, to write, to speak the myths and legends of the people, to read their moral history. In the absence of institutions—in fact, with the legal prohibition of institutional life, of the very language—we remember the Valuev Circular of 1863, which said that there is no “Little Russian” language, there was no “Little Russian” language, and there can never be a “Little Russian” language. It was followed by the Ems Ukase of 1876, which forbade all publishing in Ukrainian; this prohibition lasted until 1905.

This was the time when the great North American universities were taking off—the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth. This great institution [the University of Alberta] was founded in 1908. At the same time, Ukrainians were forbidden to use their language in print, and most Ukrainians were illiterate.

Ukrainian studies have not emerged in modern times as a purely academic discipline. One of the themes pervading the subsequent century, and now a century and a half of history of Ukrainian studies, is the theme of Art for Art’s Sake—really pursuing objective research and science, as it was framed in the time of a prevailing positivistic mindset—and the very immediate sense of need to be with the marginalized people, the poor, the oppressed, whose language was taken away, whose literature was negated, whose history was stolen.

These are passionate words, but it is that passion that was behind the development of Ukrainian studies through institutions like the Shevchenko Scientific Society, created in 1873 in Galicia as a language and literature organization. “Let us speak, let us have our say!” With its reorganization in 1893, while having no state, no nation, and no government budget a veritable academy of sciences was created, including not only the humanities—literature, language, history, and philology—but also the social sciences, and mathematics, and the natural sciences. This happened without government support, Ukrainians being a third-class people in the Austrian Empire—one rung below the Poles, who were, after all, themselves lorded over by the Austrians.

The short period of Ukrainian independence at the time of World War I opened new possibilities for Ukrainian studies, which had a period of development even in the Soviet Ukrainian Republic in the 1920s. But this was soon most brutally crushed during a period in which Ukraine was the most dangerous place on the globe: when the famine, the Holodomor, was perpetrated, and when, with World War I, the purges, and World War II, between ten and fifteen million Ukrainians were killed or lost in an unnatural way. In Western Ukraine, outside the Soviet Union, in the newly reconstituted Polish state, various efforts were made by the Ukrainians to foster, develop, and begin again the study of their identity. An underground university existed from 1921 to 1925 in Lviv, and the Ukrainian Free University, first in Vienna, then in Prague, and later in Germany, now settled in Munich. In Lviv, Metropolitan Andrei (Sheptytsky) in 1928 founded the Lviv Theological Academy, which was to become a Ukrainian university but could only do so three generations later.

Many of our founders, those here present, were raised in a context in which these factors were part of Ukrainian consciousness. These were the issues, these were the challenges, this was the history—and there was a hope for free study, to be yourself, to know your heritage, to speak your language, to write your poetry, to develop your own philosophy. After the cataclysms of World War II, which brought many more immigrants from Ukraine to the Western world, many people now who had educations, people who had institutional academic experience, the Ukrainian community strengthened its commitment to scholarship on Ukraine. An émigré Shevchenko Scientific Society, the Ukrainian Free Academy of Sciences[1], the Bound Brook Center for the Orthodox community, the Ukrainian Catholic University established in 1963 by Patriarch Joseph—all were examples of this commitment.

In speaking of Ukrainian studies in North America, allow me also to speak from a very personal experience. I grew up in the home of a Ukrainian studies donor. Not only a donor but a fundraiser. My father would go house to house in Syracuse to raise money for the Ukrainian Studies Fund. I distinctly remember as a teenager when Adrian Slywotzky, now the world-famous business guru, came to our house as a Harvard law student to push the campaign for Ukrainian studies in Syracuse, New York.

It was also as a teenager that I met Patriarch Josyf and, still as a teenager, went to Rome to live and study with him at a university that at that time had eleven students. We were too young not to believe what he told us. He said, “You have to work for change. It will come. Evil will not prevail. The Soviet system will fall. You have to develop Ukrainian ecclesiastical scholarship, theology. I am signing you up for the Lviv Archeparchy.” It was like becoming a seminarian for an eparchy on the moon. You could not go there. I was refused a visa. But in this little community—which was presided over by a man who walked straight out of the Bible, as those of you who remember Josyf Slipyj and his visage [can attest]—we had the great privilege of serving cocktails to the different scholars and professors in Ukrainian studies the world over who came to pay homage to the Patriarch. It was a school in itself.

And one of the people I met in Rome—actually it was in St. Peter’s Square, through the mediation of Vasyl Markus—was Omeljan Pritsak when he was coming out of the apostolic palaces, where he had just had an audience with John Paul II. Many at Harvard would repeat the stories of Professor Pritsak: when he said, “You know, I went to communion at the Pope’s mass,” people would say, “Yes, Professor Pritsak had his first holy communion.” But there I met the man who encouraged me to come and do graduate work at Harvard. I said I wanted to do a Master’s, and he said, “Come, come.” When I came, I found out there was no Master’s program in the humanities at Harvard. I said, “I don’t really know how to apply, you know, I have a degree in biology, another in philosophy, I am finishing a degree in theology, I have no undergraduate degree in Slavic studies.” “That’s all right.” “Can you review my application?” “Yes, yes, just apply.” The old school was not concerned with bureaucracy but was guided by a passion for study, for teaching, for research, and so I came and visited and met with Ihor Ševčenko [Shevchenko]. Those of you who remember him can imagine: the conversation ended with the words “Pane Gudziak, shkoda shcho vy ne pravoslavni.”[2] [Laughter.]

I emerged bewildered after a conversation with Horace Lunt, who said, “You know, you really should go to Vienna for what you are interested in.” And then I met Frank Sysyn, who took me under his wing, and took me to lunch, and started to explain the ways of this world. It was all there, incredible standards. Pritsak, who read sixty languages and did not think you were finished until you were approaching his standards. Ihor Ševčenko, who would say to a graduate student in a seminar, “You know, Mr. So-and-So”—it wasn’t actually to me, because I was not old enough, but—“You know, by your age, Byron was already dead. [Laughter.] What have you accomplished?” An émigré who grew up speaking Ukrainian and Russian, and in Warsaw, in a French lyceum, who studied in Prague—Nazi Prague, German-occupied Prague—speaking perfect German and Czech, who did a second doctorate in Brussels, in French, spoke perfect Italian, and who knew Greek probably better than any person on earth, if you take it from Homer to demotiki, picking up some Turkish and Arabic along the way. The standards in Ukrainian studies were high, and the vision was broad. From the Huns to Byzantium, from literature to numismatics, from demographic studies to minute linguistic detail—I am proud to say that I think in many of our places of study and research, people in Ukrainian studies set standards for other scholars in the number of languages they knew and the number of points of view they could understand, and in the hard work they had to put in to overcome the biases. You always had to be better if you wanted to make Ukrainian studies part of the scholarly mainstream. During our conference, many of you who know this much better than I will detail the achievements, the books, the research projects; you will describe the study programs that embrace so many students and people, members of the community.

I would like to say a few words on how Ukrainian studies in North America, Ukrainian studies in Canada, Ukrainian studies at this university have had a global impact. Volodymyr Kravchenko already mentioned how the histories written here in Canada by Orest Subtelny, [Paul] Robert Magocsi, the different publications of this Institute, the project at the Jacyk Centre headed by Frank Sysyn, the exchanges organized at the Institute under Zenon Kohut, how they galvanized Ukrainian studies in Ukraine. I do not think Volodymyr Kravchenko would be in Edmonton if it were not for almost two decades of co-operation of Edmonton with Kharkiv, something that was supported by donors who were not scholars but had an intuition, had a largeness of heart. Yaroslav Hrytsak came to this Institute—was it 1989 or 1990?—and read Ivan Lysiak Rudnytsky. He [Rudnytsky] was one of the early stars here, in Edmonton, who had emerged out of a strong centre, seredovyshche, in Philadelphia, whose essays on Ukrainian history have become a methodological manual for a whole generation of scholars. But it was the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies that brought Yaroslav Hrytsak here, opened up this legacy to him, and he then opened it up to the rest of Ukraine.

The work in folklore, the work in Ukrainian dance, the teaching of Ukrainian language and literature, something that emerges out of that sense of mission, the desire for dignity, the need for social justice. No other institution outside Ukraine taught Ukrainian language as much as this university. And that became part and parcel of the program of multiculturalism, of which Canada can be proud, a program that can be a model for other countries at a time when the rhetoric of Trump attracts millions. When the populism spawned by fear and hatred extends from the Philippines to Poland. Teaching Ukrainian language has a meaning besides the number of students in the classroom. This sense of mission, this dedication to real, critical scholarship was a source of great inspiration for scholars in Ukraine in the late 1980s and after Ukrainian independence in 1991.

Few were the scholars in Ukraine who had access to your publications before perestroika, but even they had a glimmer of hope, knowing that somewhere at the end of this ideological tunnel—which in many ways was a continuation of the prohibitions of the nineteenth century, which was still a continuation of the serfdom, the slavery— a glimmer of hope that you could have free scholarship, that you could think freely, speak freely, that you could name things and people by their names, recognizing their God-given dignity. Those of us who had the privilege to travel to the Soviet Union and meet these scholars will never forget those images. From Yaroslav Dashkevych I heard how, in his little home in Lviv, which was not well heated, when visited by Omeljan Pritsak, they both just crawled into bed, covered themselves with quilts, and kept talking. It was very romantic, it was dangerous, but Ukrainian scholarship was on a mission.

Ukrainian studies had a true cause. So much in terms of methodology, so much in memory was brought or returned to Ukraine through the work of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, through the chairs in Toronto, the professorships occupied by specialists in Ukrainian studies all over North America, through the Fulbright Program led by, among others, Martha Bohachevsky-Chomiak.[3] We worked very hard. The institutes that emerged in North America were first spurred by students who in the 1950s started saying, “We need institutionalization. Only through our presence in the establishment will our language, literature, and history gain full respect.” Omeljan Pritsak’s proposal in the 1960s to create three chairs and an institute at Harvard, which happened in the late 1960s and early 1970s, was followed by the initiative here. In some ways, maybe Harvard legitimized the notion that was taken to a new level in a province, in a country where Ukrainians had a profile, a presence, some political clout. At that time, the global network and the relationships were strengthened. The gradual completion of the Ukrainian encyclopedia project in Sarcelles in the mid-eighties was followed by the translation of the encyclopedia into English in Toronto. Sarcelles is part of my pastoral mandate. Those of you who know what it is, I would like to call upon you to save Sarcelles, at least the archive there.

Building on the bursy[4] that the Ukrainian community established in Saskatoon, Winnipeg, and Edmonton, scholars and students together established communities of Ukrainian studies, the study of language. The policy of multiculturalism created the bilingual schools that fed into the undergraduate programs, and the undergraduate programs fed into a top-notch PhD program—here, at the University of Alberta.

I venture to say, maybe it could be an exaggeration, but ten years ago there was no place that had such a sophisticated community of Ukrainian historians as the University of Alberta; scholars of the early modern period, the modern period, the Soviet period, and contemporary history, second to none. These programs, created in Canada, became a place to which PhDs from other places flocked. They found jobs at a time when the job market was very difficult. My colleagues from Harvard—Victor Ostapchuk, Maxim Tarnawsky, Uliana Pasicznyk, Olya Andriievska [Olga Andriewsky], Roman Koropeckyj, and others that I might fail to mention—all came to Canada and continued this marathon. These achievements, this sense of community mission, this sense of responsibility to the community needs to be recognized and cherished.

One of the most beautiful aspects of Ukrainian studies is the relationships that are developed. In 1988 I went, as the only American PhD student at the time, to Ukraine for a six-month internship, and I was placed in a dormitory on Lomonosova [street in Kyiv], where already there was a colleague whom I did not yet know, Bohdan Klid, resident in this dorm. I had the privilege to be a witness at his wedding, and then he and Halyna took great care of me. I did not have anything but a teapot for six months. We would go to the so-called milk bars, molochni bary, where everything was white, and you had a sense that it could be clean, whether the milk, the cheese, or the manna kasha.[5] And then one time, I remember it was the second anniversary of the Chornobyl disaster, I was followed from a demonstration by the KGB, and unfortunately, I had just received a few volumes of underground literature from Lviv that I was to deliver to Moscow, and I was pretty scared. I did not come home, I did not come back to the dorm for a day or two, and when I finally returned, Bohdan and Halyna embraced me, and Halyna said, “My vzhe pytaly, chy ne postupyv iakyis’ amerykanets’ v morh.” They had been checking the morgues already to see if I had not perished somewhere. A great solidarity in a context that cannot and, hopefully, will not be recreated.

A few years later, in 1993, already after independence, during the second international congress of the International Association for Ukrainian Studies, a big enthusiastic celebration was being held in Lviv for our little Institute of Church History, the cornerstone for the revival of the Theological Academy and, later, the creation of the Ukrainian Catholic University. And Frank Sysyn, Olya Andriievska, and Mark Von Hagen brought me, to Lviv, by plane, paper plates and paper cups for this gala event hosting three hundred people. These are little details of the connections, the willingness to help, to serve, to accompany, be in solidarity, because there was a sense of cause, there was a sense of mission. Now, not all the time, in all situations, were we on a high moral level. There was some nasty competition once in a while, a bit of backbiting, some devious deeds. Maybe an anniversary is a time to forgive, to be grateful for the solidarity that we have enjoyed, but also to recognize where we did not use to the utmost the opportunities that we have had. I want to say not only “I’m sorry” but also “thank you,” in a special way, to the donors.

Peter and Doris Kule have been so generous to this university. And without them the Sheptytsky Institute [for Eastern Christian Studies] would be unthinkable. Peter and Nadia Jacyk have established programs that are bringing the best of scholarship to the attention of the broader English-speaking world. The translation of the Hrushevsky magnum opus [History of Ukraine-Rus’] is only one aspect. The co-operation with historians in Lviv is touching the lives of so many young people. Jim Temerty, who is not here, with the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter[6] and the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium, is really making waves. I have already mentioned the program in Kharkiv sponsored by the Kowalsky family. There are many, many other donors, many generous people. How moving it is to remember the lists at the end of the individual volumes of the Encyclopedia of Ukraine! Do you remember those, in the Ukrainian version? Three dollars, five dollars from Edmonton, fifteen dollars from Shenandoah…At Harvard, the administration was floored. Never in the history of Harvard University was a chair endowed by so many donors. It was American oligarchs who endowed chairs, not the widow with her mite, not the factory worker who was semi-literate. These are the people who have stood behind us for the last decades.

Today I hope many of you will raise questions on how to go forward. We are heirs of a great legacy. You are creators of a great legacy. We have received, in this history, many indications, signposts, the inspiration to work together, realizing that it is not just academic. It needs to follow the rules of the academy, it needs to be real, critical in dialogue and in discussion, but it also needs to serve. When we remember that our Ukrainian studies make a difference in the world, we get great energy. Today Ukraine is in a geopolitical hotspot. There is a war in Ukraine, and today we are saluting those who are dying at this moment on the front, defending the dignity and freedom of the Western world. But the greatest war is a war of information. There is a hybrid war that is being conducted through falsification of history, of sociology, of politics, and it is only through good scholarship disseminated by students, by the media, by political structures that this hybrid war can be won. Again today we are reminded about the crucial importance of our vocation. What a privilege to be here to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta. What a privilege it is to serve together. Let us go forward again.

[1]    Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences (; Ukrainian acronym: UVAN).

[2]    “Mr. Gudziak, it is too bad you are not Orthodox.”


[4]    Bursa: boarding school.

[5]    Cream of wheat.


[1]    Arts Collaboration Enterprise, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta.