The Ukrainian diaspora comprises Ukrainians and their descendents who live outside Ukraine around the world. Today more than twenty million Ukrainians live outside Ukraine. You can find them all over the world in post-Soviet states, as well as in other countries such as Poland, the United States, Canada, Brazil and, for example, the Netherlands.
The Ukrainian diaspora is considered to have started between 1608 and 1880 with the settlement of Cossacks in Turkey and in Western Europe. The First World War and the Russian Civil War led to the first massive political emigration. After the Second World War, the Ukrainian diaspora increased due to a second wave of displaced persons. This second wave of emigrants was an impuls for Ukrainian organizations in the Americas and Western Europe. In 1967, in New York City, the World Congres of Free Ukrainians was founded. Ukrainian migration in the USSR to shape in the later decennia of the Soviet Time. After the Ukrainian independence (1991) many Ukrainians emigrated to Western countries because of the economic depression in the 1990’s. Today, due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, millions of Ukrainians left home and hearth and turned into displaced persons.
Your are not born as a ‘diasporian’. Even the word ‘diaspora’ was not used by the first generations Ukrainian migrants. Being a refugee, an exile or migrant does not mean belonging to a diaspora. There are many reasons to migrate: seeking a beter economic future, fleeing political repression and terror, or escaping the violence of war. Being part of the Ukrainian diaspora means belonging to an imagined community re-creating Ukrainian identity, culture and ideals. Being a diasporian means balancing between belonging and longing. Belonging to the country where you live and work. Longing for the Motherland, cherishing its culture or being a political activist for a free and independent Ukraine.
In several episodes devoted to the Ukrainian diaspora, under the title ‘The Ukrainian diaspora as a third front’, we want to examine the diaspora as a political force. The title is of course suggestive. It suggests that apart from the political and military front to stop and defeat the Russian Federation, we should consider a civic front, of which the Ukrainian diaspora could be its core. Tonight we discuss this question and look back and forward at the Ukrainian diaspora with Christina Santore and Mychailo Wynnyckyj.
Christina Santore (1966, Philadelphia, USA) is a writer and communications, editorial, publishing and cultural consultant and entrepreneur whose professional experience spans three decades, two continents, multiple sectors and various media. She spent the first half of her life in the US Ukrainian diaspora, and the second in the Ukrainian diaspora in the Netherlands, where she also volunteers as a Ukrainian cultural and community advocate and activist. Christina is the founder of the Netherlands branch of Plast Ukrainian Scouting, co-founder of Friends of Lviv Foundation, and initiator of Ukrainian cultural and awareness initiatives.
Mychailo Wynnyckyj is Associate Professor at the National University “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy” (Sociology Dep’t and Business School). Until recently he served as Head of the Secretariat of Ukraine’s National Agency for Higher Education Quality Assurance, and prior to that as Advisor to three of Ukraine’s Ministers of Education (2015-2019). Originally from Canada, Mychailo has lived permanently in Kyiv for almost two decades. He was awarded a PhD in 2004 from the University of Cambridge (U.K.), and gained Ukrainian citizenship in 2019. Mychailo is a regular commentator for English-language media outlets (CNN, FoxNews, AlJazeera, BBC, CBC, CTV, KyivPost, and others), and provides analysis on current events in his Thoughts from Kyiv blog. His book Ukraine’s Maidan, Russia’s War: A Chronicle and Analysis of the Revolution of Dignity was published in English in 2019, and in Ukrainian translation in 2021.