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University Professor

Date and Place of Birth: 1950 in Leeds, England

Date of Interview: 26 May 2017

Place of Interview: Toronto, Ontario

Interviewer: Sophia Isajiw

Length of Interview: 02:11:35 (raw)


MS: I remember there was an incident that has always stuck with me. I was at a dance in Bradford. You won’t believe this: I used to take the bus 8 miles to Bradford for these Saturday night dances, because the girls were just so fantastic, it was worth it. But the last bus, the last serving of beer in the pubs, is 10:30pm – and very often the last bus, it was 10:30pm. If you missed the 10:30 bus that was it, you had to walk 8 miles from Bradford to Leeds, and I regularly missed that last bus. So, in a bit of a drunken stupor, I had to walk 8 miles and get in at right about 1 in the morning or something. But I did this on a regular basis, I loved those dances, I loved to dance the kolomiyka and put my arms around good-looking young women; it was lots of fun. One time, I remember I was at this zabava [a dance] and one of these older guys came up to me, I was walking up the stair with my hands on the bannister and he sort of grabbed my arm and he said, “You know, you realize that it’s important that we tell the story, that we tell our story?” He was just an ordinary guy, but it was the sort of passion and the seriousness of what he was trying to convey that made me realize that you have a responsibility. And if you’re in a position where you can do something, you can say something, you can explain something to people, you have to do it.

And I think something connected there, for me, that I had a job to do. I had a certain privileged understanding, a certain privileged position, and I could explain things in ways that ordinary people like he couldn’t. So, looking back on it, I think these sort of moments left me thinking that, you know Ukrainians have had a rough deal in the twentieth century, and somebody needs to say that, somebody needs to explain that. And that became a driving force for me. It was only augmented and multiplied by the fact that I met teachers like these profs at Cambridge who said 'your language doesn’t exist, your culture doesn’t exist, your people don’t exist, there’s no such thing as Ukrainian patriotism, the Kozaks were all bandits'. You know, I started putting two and two together and I began thinking: somebody has to write some books here! Or, somebody has to give some lectures or explain things to these people. And I think maybe that kind of pushed me in the direction of Ukrainian Studies.

Interviewer: Do you teach with passion?

MS: I think I do. I’ve won several awards. I’ve been Professor of the Year at the University of Manitoba, that’s one of the awards I’ve won. I’ve won outreach awards. And that’s one of the things that people say – that they enjoy my classes because I try and bring a sense of seriousness to the class but I try also to seduce the students, not force them into something, but make them want to learn more, to make it interesting. I think that’s the key, you have to make it interesting. Then, once you’ve made it interesting for students, you’ve done your job. They can then study on their own. But you have to kind of get that motivation going.


Myroslav Shkandrij webpage at the University of Manitoba

Myroslav Shkandrij fonds at the University of Manitoba

Myroslav Shkandrij blog: Ukrainian Winnipeg

excerpt from the Interview with myROSLAV shkandrij

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