Valerie Hladky delivering the 2018 Thank You

Good evening everyone. Bonsoir! Добрий вечір, всечеснiший отче, шановні члени комітету о. Йосафата Жана, дорогі родичі, гості та студенти. Дуже дякую за можливість говорити перед вам сьогодні вечір. Мені надзвичайно приємно бути тут разом з вами.

 

Спершу хочу щиро подякувати всім членам комітету та організаторам бенкету за їхню роботу, та донорам і спонсорам. Ми вдячні Вам за реальну підтримку яку ви нам студентам надаєте. Дякую батькам за їхню терплячість, для те що вони завжди поруч і завжди готові прийти на допомогу і нас зрозуміти. Без них, ми би тут не сиділи. І дякую Вам студентам, за те що ви напевно теж стомлені роботою і безсонними ночами, але ви все ж таки знайшли час брати участь у вашій громаді між різними проектами та волонтерською роботою. Я горда тут бути серед таких цікавих людей із різною освітою та відмінним життєвим досвідом.

 

Le Père Josaphat Jean était dévoué à l’Église catholique ukrainienne et à la cause ukrainienne, malgré le fait qu’il était un Canadien francophone de souche. Après avoir déménagé de son pays d’origine, avoir appris une nouvelle langue et avoir changé de rites, il a joué un rôle déterminant dans les affaires politiques ukrainiennes. En parlant couramment le français, l’anglais et l’ukrainien, il a pu combler le fossé entre plusieurs pays européens et l’Ukraine. Il était un acteur influant en Ukraine et au niveau européen en tant que représentant diplomatique de la République nationale de l’Ukraine auprès de la Ligue des Nations à Genève. Le Père Josaphat Jean était un vrai patriote. Même quand il s’adressait aux membres de sa famille au Québec, il s’identifiait comme étant un Ukrainien. Il s’est engagé à maintenir l’unité de l’Ukraine, un pays menacé non seulement par la propagation d’un déluge d’informations contradictoires, mais aussi par ses propres voisins.

 

Le Père Josaphat Jean était un promoteur du dialogue entre l’Ukraine et le reste de l’Europe et défendait les frontières du pays. Tout en gardant la mission du Père Josaphat Jean en tête, il est important que nous continuions ce dialogue surtout pour épauler la liberté et la démocratie de l’Ukraine. Malgré les nombreux défis auxquels l’Ukraine a été confrontée au cours de l’histoire, l’esprit ukrainien a une certaine invincibilité. Cependant, au moment présent, l’Ukraine a besoin de soutien à bien des égards : un soutien financier, un soutien humanitaire, un soutien politique international. C’est à nous de prendre la relève du Père Josaphat Jean et de continuer la lutte pour une Ukraine libre et indépendante en nous opposant à ses oppresseurs.

 

I have always identified myself as being a Canadian of Ukrainian descent. Ukraine is built into the fabric of who I am – I am sure my friends can attest that car rides with me are enhanced by my playlist of 1500 Ukrainian songs. But I only truly understood what it is to be Ukrainian after having traveled to Ukraine. Life in Ukraine for someone that was born and raised there contrasted with my idealized, Canadian-ized version of it. My work with Help us Help the Children, a charity that I have been volunteering with for the past 5 years, has allowed me to concretize what life is truly like there. Help Us Help the Children is a charity dedicated to improving the quality of life of children living in orphanages in Ukraine, through anti-trafficking initiatives, a scholarship program and winter and summer camps. My experiences as a summer and winter camp counsellor in Vorokhta, a село of about 4000 Ukrainians, has been hugely enriching. I have worked with orphaned children from all corners of Ukraine: some were Muslim Tatars from Crimea that fled the now Russian-annexed territory out of fear of being discriminated against and oppressed. Some were from Lviv and lost one of their parents due to the ongoing war. Some were from the Donetsk oblast in eastern Ukraine. It wasn’t unusual for these kids to say that they would routinely hear the sounds of shooting and shelling outside their orphanage. Yet despite this burden of experiences, they were so happy and appreciative to have been given the opportunity to go to camp. Many had never even travelled beyond their orphanages, and for some, it was the first time that their needs were attended to and that they were cared for.

 

The time that I have spent in Ukraine has given me a deep insight into social inequalities, and how they impact emotional and psychological wellbeing and the accessibility of employment and opportunities. I find it difficult to return home to my comfortable Canadian life, while children at camp return to their orphanages. My family eagerly awaits me at the airport. The orphaned children have no one to greet them. Once they turn 18, they have no choice but to leave their orphanages, with little hope for the future. No guidance or support is given for their reintegration back into society. They are alone. Life in Ukraine is very different. There is no evidence of an American Dream. It is very unlikely that one is able to climb up the social ladder due to talent and hard work, much less so if one grew up in an orphanage or lost one of their parents in the war. Of the 100 000 orphans currently living in orphanages and in institutions, in their lifetime, 20% of them will be incarcerated, 10% of them will attempt to commit suicide and ONLY 1% of them go to university. In Ukraine, success cannot be obtained through persistence and determination. There is no social mobility. 

 

We are very fortunate. We have a moral duty and responsibility to acquire wisdom and understanding. No one chooses where they are born, and I know for certain that my life would have been drastically different if I weren’t Canadian. It is crucial to use the skills that we have gained through education to stand up for those who can’t and to be a guiding light for those in need. It's important to be mindful of who we are and what we do. Be an ambassador for the type of world that YOU want to live in. Failure, of course, is inevitable every so often, but it can also lead to the greatest successes: failure helps in acquiring humility and, most importantly, learning. We have to learn to think critically. We choose how we construct meaning from our experiences, and this will determine the lenses by which we perceive the world.

 

To my fellow recipients, I wish each and every one of you success in all your endeavors. We, as a generation, have so much to offer the world. Let’s make it a better place.

 

If I could leave you with one thought, I would urge you to try to do one thing for Ukraine every day, whether that be joining your CEGEP or university’s Ukrainian club, enrolling in a Ukrainian language class online, exploring volunteering opportunities in Ukraine, using social media platforms to speak out about disinformation on Ukraine, or simply discussing the current political climate with other students. Try to give back to your heritage – to Ukraine. We as youth have the potential to be heard. We are the next generation of Canadian-Ukrainians and can truly make a difference.

 

Congratulations to all of the scholarship recipients! Thank you very much.

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Postal Address:

Father Josaphat Jean Scholarship Foundation

The Assumption Of Blessed Virgin Mary

6185 10e Avenue, Montréal, QC H1Y 2H5

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