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excerpt from the Interview with SOLOMON, IRENE


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IRENE SOLOMON


Date and Place of Birth: October 10, 1961, Toronto, Ont. Canada  
Date of Interview: February 20, 2020
Place of Interview: Toronto, Ont. Canada
Length of Interview: 1 hour 19 minutes
Interviewer: Ariadna Ochrymovych
Language: English


(Excerpt):


Interviewer: So In terms of Ukrainian Traditions did your mother keep up  all these all the traditions?

Irene: My mother did learn how to cook Ukrainian dishes, varenyky (pierogis)and holubtsi (cabbage rolls) and at Christmas,  it was an interesting tradition at Christmas and Easter because my uncle and my aunt were both Ukrainian and for Ukrainian Christmas we tended to go there as a family and they would prepare the Ukrainian meal, the traditional meal.

My mother would invite everyone over for English Christmas because that was her Christmas so we would do turkey and all the fixings on the 25th and then for January 7th we always went over to my aunt and uncle’s and we had the Ukrainian traditional twelve course meals, the lenten one on Christmas eve and then meat on Christmas Day. But we always went Christmas carolling as a family and we were literally a travelling choir because there were six of us altogether and once in a awhile we would grab some kids from the neighbourhood so we were like a built in little choir going for Ukrainian Christmas and carolling. And we would carol for our school and my uncle, God bless him, he would take us around, he would be dressed in his hutsul* outfit, we always had our vyshyvanky, our embroidered blouses on.  And I loved those times, I absolutely loved going Christmas carolling, there was just  something so joyous about it. 

Interviewer: Do you consider yourself Ukrainian, Ukrainian Canadian, Canadian Ukrainian, when somebody asks you what do say?

Irene: The question of my identity has always been a big part of my life and, unlike some people, some people who embraced their dual identities I always struggled with it. When I was younger I was definitely Ukrainian Canadian. When I got older I became Canadian Ukrainian because I felt that  there were issues in Canada, that I was born here and that really I was a Canadian with a Ukrainian heritage. And I almost felt like saying Ukrainian Canadian  did not recognize the fact that I was born in this country. I was born in Canada, Canada accepted my parents and other immigrants and when we grew up we heard very much about the fact that the United States was a melting pot. And so they were all American first and Canada was multicultural and so we were allowed to have our heritage, which we did. But when I got older and traveled to the United States I found that ethnic groups also kept their heritage. There were Ukrainian churches, Ukrainian organizations in the United States. People kept their traditions but they were very much united along the fact that they were Americans. And so when I got older I started to question this thing about saying I was Ukrainian Canadian when really I was Canadian with a Ukrainian background and also a German background. So things got a little bit confused.

When I graduated from university I back-packed around Europe and I got a chance to spend time with my German relatives which I did not have a lot of contact with growing up. My father never had anything against friends of my mother’s who were German or relatives that were German, in fact, he was a very outgoing person.  I do remember my mother had, once a year, somebody, a person that emigrated to Canada, from her small town, who would host a reunion of people from the same area once a year and people would take turns hosting this party and and my father would go and have a great time with all these people. My father thought he could speak German but he really kind of butchered the language but he still managed to get along somehow with people, I mean, he just had that kind or personality. So later on when I said that I went back-packing through Europe , and I spent time with my relatives it was a very emotional thing for me because I realized that there was a whole part of my life that I really didn’t know about and didn’t really  influence me that much. So when I was there all of a sudden I had this great swelling of pride for my German side, and I had wonderful relatives and absolutely adored them and I thought Wow, you know, this is part of who I am . When I went to Ukraine for the first time I remember somebody asking me, well, same question, how do you identify and I had to think about it long and hard. And again with my Ukrainian relatives, the first time I met them it was also a very emotional experience because my whole life I had learned about Ukraine, Ukrainian school, being part of the Ukrainian community,  and how beautiful the country was and listening to talk about Kyiv, the capital and Lviv,  and the Dnipro, and how rich the country was. And I get there and I’m meeting my relatives for the first time and I could barely speak sometimes, it was so emotional.  But my answer to them at the time was, when I’m with Ukrainians I feel Ukrainian, when I’m with Germans  then I feel German and the rest of the time I feel Canadian.