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TORONTO-Inability to save lives, Canadian-Ukrainian Anastasia Baczynskyj is saving books, and not just any books. There are more than 20,000 Ukrainian books, including 4,000 very old of priceless values that have quietly collapsed in a cellar in Queen City, proof if a full Ukrainian identity is necessary. The careful work was recognized at the 29th Toronto Book Fair, of which he was honorary president.
“Let’s start at the beginning if you don’t want to. Where were you born?
I was born in Toronto like my parents. My grandparents were born in Europe. Because of the First World War and the Russian Revolution so my great -grandfather, who was a diplomat in Ukraine, was exiled to France where my maternal grandmother was born.
Is that why you speak Molière’s language so well?
(Laughs). My grandmother forced me when I was 13 years old to study French. But I think it was really the First World War that made me speak French today. Moreover, it is really interesting to draw a parallel between what is happening at the moment in Ukraine and the first war, because Russia’s desire for Ukraine, this desire for the Russification of Ukraine is similar. It was because my grandparents understood that this desire was so dangerous that they tread the path of exile. I don’t really understand this option, but now that I understand them, I feel this connection within me to this new Russian invasion.
What is the relationship of Ukrainians to the French language?
In Ukraine, French is not a business language like German or Russian for example. But it is highly sought after because it represents for Ukrainians a kind of cultural refinement.
What is the nature of your relationship today with Ukraine?
This bond is very deep. I am very active in the community, here and there. I was born into a Ukrainian -speaking family at home and, when we spoke English there, my grandmother scolded us, so you could tell it was my native language. Ukraine is at the center of my life. I come from a deep Ukrainian family, I speak Ukrainian, I read Ukrainian, my husband is Ukrainian and his whole family is currently under bombs, I volunteered in Ukraine with orphaned children. I have had, I have and I will always have a very strong connection to this country.
Do you have any news on your husband’s family there?
Thank God we have daily interaction through the internet and social media. Bad news. What is happening in Ukraine today is very hot. We have families in the east of the country and their homes were destroyed, which caused some to join the front line to defend our country.
Tell us about your commitment here in Ontario …
Prior to COVID-19, I was Director of Youth Programs in the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada. In these years, I have developed five new programs that run simultaneously. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and restrictions imposed, we had to stop these programs. I do a lot of volunteer work in the community, but I’m known for being an emcee. Here, I am kind of the face of the community on stage.
Exactly, let’s talk about the scene. You also had a brilliant career as a singer. Do we have knowledge?
(Laughs). In fact, you are very well informed. I was actually the singer of the band Lemon Bucket Orchestra nine years ago. When we started, we didn’t even have a band name. I sang with them for three years. We shot two records and we even got Juno’s nomination in the Word Music category for the record. Lume Lume. It was a very good time of my life, it was bohemian life for me. But when I had a baby, I didn’t go on. That said, occasionally, group members who are of course friends invite me to come up on stage to sing, case last week.
Do you think you will have a lot of jobs due to the massive influx of Ukrainian refugees in the near future?
Yes. I believe this will be the biggest wave of migration we have seen. There have been five waves of Ukrainian refugees throughout modern history, but this sixth, in my opinion, is not comparable to the predecessors. So yes, I hope to have a job that has never been before. Hopefully this war is over.
You excavated and then restored a valuable treasure in Toronto. Can you tell us more?
Since the creation of the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada in 1932, it has accumulated so many Ukrainian books to promote our culture. Some of these books came from donations from people who bequeathed them to the Foundation after their deaths. The library where they were rescued was turned into a café and these books found themselves stored in a basement in unsuitable humidity and temperature conditions.
I have listed and classified one by one and there are about 20,000 of which 5,000 are rare, not to mention newspapers and gazettes. The oldest book is a Bible from 1822. So I absolutely had to save them, I cannot do otherwise because it’s proof that we have a beautiful language, a cultural identity and an identity, period. I will be the one to save those books because no one else will do it, if not that cultural murder. You can tell I’m at the right time and in the right place. It is destiny.
Some senior Russian officials say the identity of the Ukrainian people is Russian. Aren’t these books there to prove the opposite?
Exactly. These books are testimonies because many of them were printed during the Ukrainian revolution that lasted from 1917 to 1922 in the eastern part. Most of these rare books describe the struggle of Ukrainians for the right to exist. Putin said Lenin invented the Ukrainian people. These works, dated before Lenin himself, prove only the opposite, if only because the language in which they are written is different from the Russian language. This difference is before us today. »
MAIN DATES BY ANASTASIA BACZYNSKYJ:
1983: Born in Toronto
2005-2006: Teacher of modern languages (Les Abymes, Guadeloupe) 2005-2006
2006: Working with orphans in Ukraine
2009: MA in Historiography from the University of Toronto (Subject: Building identity among Ukrainian Canadians)
2010-2013: Singer in the group Lemon Bucket Orchestra
2014: Juno nomination for record Lume Lume
2020: Development of the Rare Book Collection in the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada
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