Andriy Nahachewsky, faculty member with the Department of Modern Languages & Cultural Studies (MLCS), was recognized for a lifetime of volunteer activity by those closest to him within the Ukrainian Canadian community.
Nahachewsky, who also serves as Associate Chair for Graduate Studies in MLCS, Huculak Chair in Ukrainian Culture & Ethnography and Director of the Peter & Doris Kule Centre for Ukrainian & Canadian Folklore, was recently bestowed a 2012 Hetman Award at a special awards gala.
Established in 1998 by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council to acknowledge significant volunteer achievements of outstanding Ukrainian Albertans, the Hetman Awards celebrate volunteers who help keep the Ukrainian community active and strong.
Nominated by his MLCS colleagues, the award came as a pleasant surprise for Nahachewsky. “I got busy and forgot about the original nomination, so it was a pretty big surprise, a really nice surprise,” he says. “This award is really about volunteerism, it’s about what you do after work, between work, and all around work, so it was a lovely feeling,” he adds.
Not offered to the same person more than once, the Hetman Award recipients are a cumulative group of more than 200 Ukrainian Canadians in Alberta. “It’s a good community to be a part of,” says professor Nahachewsky. “There are a lot of amazing people who won [the Hetman Award] this year and in previous years, so it’s a great honour to be part of this pretty special group.”
In addition to his work at the U of A, Nahachewsky has numerous publications to his credit as well as the recent release of the book Ukrainian Dance: A Cross Cultural Approach, a project he had been working on for over a decade. “I’ve been in Alberta for 30 years and all of that time I have been really active in the Ukrainian dance community as a dancer, instructor and adjudicator,” he says.
Also serving as Alberta Ukrainian Dance Association president for a five year period and writing numerous concert reviews, professor Nahachewsky holds a high profile in the local dance community. “Dance is a big part of things for me, but I also really enjoy creating exhibits and presenting them. Last year was the 120th anniversary of Ukrainians in Canada, so a display was made telling the story of how [our ancestors] travelled, what they felt like leaving and eventually finding a homeland,” he explains. “It was really popular and has probably been seen by close to a million people at this point.”
Having spent a significant amount of time in Ukraine and Brazil, Nahachewsky continues to compile extensive interviews, photographs and videos in what will hopefully be his next book. “I’m really excited in understanding the culture from 100 years ago, how does the environment affect tradition, identity and quality of life on three different continents as some [ancestors] got on a ship and went to Canada, others to Brazil and others stayed where they are,” he says.
According to Nahachewsky, Edmonton’s Ukrainian Canadian community is sizeable, organized and visible. “With 10 or 11 per cent of Edmonton being of Ukrainian heritage, that’s no surprise,” he admits. “The whole world of community building and volunteerism is a really important quality of life everywhere. I feel extremely grateful for all the good things [volunteerism] has done for me. I really feel it’s enriched my life in terms of having friends – it makes my world better,” he explains. “It’s not just a one way street, it’s definitely a two way street and I’ll keep doing it as long as I can.”