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CHRISTINE DERZKO


Physician; obstetrician/gynecologist/reproductive endocrinologist

Date and Place of Birth: 1944 in Stryj, Ukraine


Date of Interview: November 9, 2016

Place of Interview: Toronto, Canada

Interviewer: Sophia Isajiw

Length of Interview: 02:23:30 (raw)



(Excerpt):


Interviewer: Can you describe your general overview or opinion of the dynamic of the Ukrainian-Canadian community?

CD: Ukrainians have accomplished an awful lot here in Canada. So let me see, first the negative, and then talk about the positive.

I think one of the problems is still that we do not reach out and we're not inclusive enough. And that's a real challenge because maybe we don't know how to define - are we Ukrainian Canadians? Canadian Ukrainians? English speaking? Non-English speaking? Do we do this? Do we do that? I for example, when I go to Ukraine, and I'll tell you how bad I am, I go to a 'Sluzhba Bozha' (church mass), and when it's in English, I don't mean Roman Catholic because Roman Catholic are supposed to be in English or Latin or whatever I'm going to, but Ukrainian ones are supposed to be in Ukrainian because that's how I was brought up. So every so often I say to myself, "Okay, you can't think that way." And in some sense that's probably part of the problem. So I think part of it: we don't know how to include people and that's my example of where I don't but there are lots of other places where that also doesn't happen. As everywhere else, you know, not only are Ukrainians, like every other society, stratified according to their wealth and their education, and they have power in many ways – and that's good because we need to have leaders, and we have incredible leaders. We've had some really amazing accomplishments.

I think St. Vlad's [St. Vladimir’s Institute] is one of those. I saw St. Vlad's being built when I was on campus here and who would have thought that this thing here – that putting up a Ukrainian residence, what, are you kidding me? That it would serve such a really important function. So somebody had a great vision. But I think there are some things we still tend to exclude. Look at the things we've done. St. Vlad's is more than a student residence. It's not what I thought it was going to be when I was living in a residence across campus on the other side of Queen's Park. But look at what it does, look at the organization in here, look at the important part it plays in, I don't know I can't talk about campus life, because I don't spend that much time really sort of on campus looking at it, but I'm sure it is playing a very important role. It's given the beginning to so many things...with Taras Shykovyk (I think was his name). Brilliant in what he did. And people all came to watch the stuff he did. So I think St. Vlad's is a great example and I think in just a side bar it reflects the incredible dedication of the probably pre-war immigration, the 'pravoslavni' (Orthodox), and my family became pravoslavni, this wasn't a big deal at that point, but those out west who kept their language and their faith, their Ukrainian faith, much more so. I mean look at the things they've done. I mean there's St. Vlad's here and all the other things that they've done, the Shevchenko society [Taras Shevchenko Society], the things that have been done, the various Chairs of Ukrainian Studies that have been put together and I give credit to the, what did we use to call them before we became the 'stari banyaky' [the old pots and pans] there was the 'stari banyaky', but now we're the 'stari banyaky' because we've had all the post-war immigration after that. But they were the people that were there, and in spite of the fact that they didn't have the help that immigrants now have. We didn't have that either but we had my uncle to sort of get us started. But in spite of that, they managed to build community; they managed to build churches. If they didn't keep the language, some of them did that too, but if they didn't keep the language, they kept a knowledge and awareness of themselves as Ukrainians. So that's an amazing thing.

I think the post-second war immigration that we belong to, I think, brought a different group of people here and I think among them were a lot of intellectuals, not that there weren't in the first group, but this is the group that emigrated because they couldn't stay, they were chased out, they got shot or they fled and so I think a different dynamic emerged. Many things came. I mean St. Nick's [St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church] that we belong to. That's an incredible church. It's the one with Father Dr. Lypskyj who he once said 'I didn't know anything about being a parish priest. I was a professor at the theology institute. And look what he's done. The world knows about it. Everybody, certainly of Ukrainians, know about it. So, you know, there was that aspect of things because they brought an incredible knowledge, in-depth knowledge.

In Sarnia we put together a church for everybody. St. Nick's is the prototype that should never change. I mean we should always be able to go back there and touch what was real and even if we have other churches that can't quite do this or can't quite do that, this is the place that really, shall I say, keeps the faith in the traditions as they should be. So I think that's very important. And, there are other examples like that too of the post-second war immigration. I don't know that much about UCRDC [Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Centre] but I suspect that one of the reasons that this came about is, that of that group who emigrated, there was a real recognition of the need for documentation of these things that happened. And they were people who had had the experience and the know-how, and they're going to the younger people now, who are the cinematographers, who are the writers, who can do this and who can do that, and that's very good, but it was that group that came, who had the vision that this is very, very important.

There's so many of these groups. And each of the organizations. I think PLAST has grown to be an incredible organization too. It has re-linked itself up with Ukraine. They do their camps there, and that is quite amazing. I think other organizations like that, and I think СУМ [Ukrainian Youth Association of Canada] does the same thing. Again I don't know that much about them, but I know…and from their ranks have come some amazing people. A lot of the priests that we have now serving in the parishes have come from the СУМ community, which is impressive to me. It's good because we need them. We still need priests to run our churches, even if we only pop in there on Sundays occasionally. We still have to have somebody else who's there. So there's that whole aspect of things. And I think then again...so that's just sort of the Ukrainian things that are done.

I think Ukrainians have played an incredibly important role that's not just Ukrainian but they are Ukrainians who have managed to reach the tops of whatever their professions might be. So when you have somebody that's a top-notch cardiologist, world class, and his name is Kudryk, that's good. When you've got somebody who's doing an amazing presentation somewhere, I mean maybe one day it will be part of the Nobel Prize in some other area, that's what you get. You have people who are writing papers. I'm saying this is now not just about Ukrainian, but who, as Ukrainians, have managed to do well in their own specialty because that's very important too. We can't just be looking inward to what we have to do for Ukraine as Ukrainians or Ukrainian community or whatever we are, but also be part of the world fabric. The more important we become in the world as who we are, the better it is for Ukrainians. And there are so many examples of that.

But now I think one of the challenges is for us to take these people and make sure that we support them. So if we've got somebody, just because he doesn't belong to СУМ or PLAST [National Scout Organization of Ukraine] or go to this church or doesn't go there. I don't mean just use them – because we like to do that – but rather, honestly be there to see these people and try to encourage them. Encourage the students when they're going through their move ahead. Find these people and don't put demands on them, but just say 'how exciting, congratulations.' Let's send a little note saying: 'hey, you did really well, so nice to see your name in the program. Congratulations. We don't want anything from you we just want to tell you we recognize your fine work.' Because that would keep some of these people part of our community because sometimes they're not.  Because they worked, they've seen your people in PLAST, or they didn't, they weren't the people who were at, doesn't matter what the organization, you name the organization, – because we all have our little areas where we can specialize and do things, but we've got to take these other people and bring them in. Maybe it's somebody who's made, I mean people have made a lot of money and have often times given back to the community, but I'm thinking of people who are moving up in the ranks, whether its business, or finance, or banking, or research, it doesn't matter, but maybe how important it is to do documentation like you are doing here, of who we were, what our roots are, so we would be able to stand firmly on the ground and say ‘I'm not going to get bowled over by that next whiff of wing that's going to come along. I know who I am because I stand firmly planted here on all these generations of Ukrainians who have been here before.’

But also seek those out who – maybe his parents just kept the name but that's all they did, and so he doesn't know much about it. But wouldn't it be nice to say 'hey, we're honoring all the people who were gold medalists across Canada or who were, I don't know, I haven't thought of it in particular, but I'm just thinking I have seen people who are of Ukrainian background, recognize that they're of Ukrainian background, but nobody wanted them in PLAST and they weren't so important in whatever was going on with the church, and this didn't speak to them. They come to the student's club, I know my son said he came to the Ukrainian student's club and it just didn't speak to him, because he wasn't part of the group there, and that's fine, he had other places where he could go and be, but that's a loss for him, but that's a loss for the Ukrainian community too because he could do so much and bring so much to it. But he is just a prototype. There many like that who actually might come, might try, but they are not welcome. And I don't think you have to sort of lock them in so they feel they're smothered. But I think we could expand our influence.



CROSS REFERENCES:


Spongale, Michelle. "Lose weight and regulate your sex drive: The complete guide to your hormones." Chatelaine, 28 Mar. 2011


The Canadian Press. "New study links breast cancer to hormone therapy." CTV News, 24 Sept. 2010


Underwood, Nora. "Small Miracle." Canadian Living


Info on Christine Derzko professional life


Publications by Christine Derzko on Research Gate


Board of Directors of Sigma Canadian Menopause Society


Articles relating to Derzko's visit to Ukraine to assess Yulia Tymoshenko in prison:


"Foreign and Ukrainian Doctors Arrive in Kharkiv for Examining Tymoshenko." Kiev Ukraine News Blog, 15 Feb. 2012


  1. "Statement by the Independent Medical Mission sent by the Government of Canada to Examine Ms. Yulia Tymoshenko," CNW A Cision Company, 24 Feb. 2012


Guly, Christopher. "Canadian doctors say Tymoshenko needs urgent medical treatment," The Ukrainian Weekly, 6 May, 2012. 

The interviews can be accessed at the UCRDC. Please contact us at: office@ucrdc.org

excerpt from the Interview with CHRISTINE DERZKO
ORAL HISTORY OF UKRAINIAN CANADA