Searching for a Place is about many things. It is about history, both general and very personal; it is about places, old and new, rather real and dreamed of; it is about the continuity and changes within a construct known as the “Ukrainian identity”, influenced by memories and new realities, support and disregard, affection and resentment. This book by Lubomyr Luciuk represents the latest among his major works, dealing with the Ukrainian settlement of North America. It provides an intriguing journey into the history of Ukrainian Displaced Persons (DPs) in Canada after World War II, prehistory and circumstances of their arrival, relations with Ukrainian “old-comers”, their own children, and Canadian society as whole. From the first pages of this book right to the Epilogue there is a strong feeling that the story told by the author is a very personal reflection on what it meant to be Ukrainian on the other side of the Atlantic. Such a personal reflection completes this well-documented and well thought through narrative in a way that makes the Searching for a Place even more real and somewhat disquieting.
“The Origins of the Ukrainian Canadian Community, 1891-1920” and “Organizing the Ukrainian Canadian Community, 1920s-1940s” represent an account of the ultimate success of the pre-WW II Ukrainian immigrants in preserving their national identity under rather adverse circumstances. However, hardships, division within the immigrants’ ranks, suspicion and pressure on the part of the Dominion authorities did not succeed in erasing what can be collectively described as a sense of “Ukrainianness”. By the 1940s Ukrainian settlers had established themselves firmly in Canada. When their parent country entered the Second World War, Ukrainian Canadians joined the fight against totalitarianism. This was not a case of divided loyalties, regardless of what their opponents might say. Fighting for Canada was for Ukrainians the same as fighting for the right of people to live in freedom. Any people. But particularly it meant fighting for Ukrainian people and Ukrainian land, for they embodied the image of the “Old Country” that was disadvantaged and needed help. Naturally, not everybody accepted, understood or viewed this issue along the same lines. Dr. Luciuk does justice to this issue by discussing it in Chapters 5-10, where he provides an exhaustive contextual study of the phenomenon.
From the outset, the arrival of Ukrainian DPs to Canada produced both expected and controversial results in relation to the Ukrainian Canadian community, the Canadian authorities, and former Allied powers. The latter two often perceived immigrating Ukrainians as an unfortunate legacy of WW II, which could impede the relations within the anti-Nazi coalition and in a postwar world, and whose arrival could negatively affect the consolidation of Canadian society. As for Ukrainian pioneers, they viewed the newcomers from the “Old Country” as a means of reinvigorating Ukrainian communities in North America, willingly providing the newcomers with practical help and support in their new environment (xxiii-xxiv). According to the author, not all expectations by Ukrainian Canadians and DPs were met, and together with positive contributions to the social, economic, intellectual, and religious growth of the Ukrainian Canadian community, the interaction between Ukrainian DPs and “pioneers” produced a certain degree of antipathy between the Ukrainian settlers, who represented two different “waves” of immigration, possessed different background, propagated different values and expressed different ideas (194). The author describes this interaction as an “inevitable collision” of North American pragmatism, caution and patriotism with “uncompromising, militant, and nationalistic” views of Ukrainians from Europe (xxiii). It appears that this sense of “otherness” initially resulted in the existence of two parallel “Ukrainian identities”, which were rather similar in substance, but differed in the ways of vision, ideas and their manifestation. Dr. Luciuk, however, notices that the first real steps to finding a compromise were made as early as in the late 1940s, when the Ukrainian Canadian congresses promoted a pattern of relationship “between established Ukrainian Canadian organizations and the communities they represented, and the most dynamic of the nationalistic elements within the in-migrating refugee population…” (197). Even though some problems would persist, the precedent for tighter and more prolific cooperation was set (197).
Today there are over one million Canadians of Ukrainian origin (280). Among them are the descendants of those Ukrainians, who came to farm the prairies during the late nineteenth - early twentieth century; there are also the descendants of Ukrainians who arrived between the wars and after WW II, settling throughout Canada. They all had something valuable to offer to their parent country — their hard work, their patriotic fervor, their intellect and vision. The fact that their road to prosperity and recognition was not easy did not prevent them from succeeding in life and preserving their unique identity, an identity that contains uniquely intertwined Ukrainian and Canadian features. Searching for a Place is a story of Ukrainians in Canada. It is also a story of the maturing of Canada and its society. Inasmuch, in summing up this profound and much-needed study I would like to note that, finishing reading the book, I encountered a picture of Dr. Luciuk’s daughter, Kassandra, in it wearing the festive Ukrainian folk outfit and entitled “Canada is her place”. This one picture seems to speak volumes about the Ukrainians in Canada, summarizing what the author had had to say in his work. If someone asked me to come up with one of Canada’s symbols, after reading this book I would portray the country as a smiling young girl, dressed in an embroidered Ukrainian dress and with a wreath of flowers in her hair.