Our history begins on June 16th, 1960 when eleven charter members founded the Ukrainian Professional and Businessmen’s Club to create friendships and a sense of community among Ukrainian Canadians in our city and give support to various business endeavours. As the name infers, this early club was open to males only! (Women were introduced eighteen years later and we may have been the first affiliate in Canada to have opened the doors.) Among others, the major goals of the Businessmen’s Club were to encourage and promote Ukrainian studies in Canada “in order to acquaint fellow Canadians with Ukrainian history, culture, traditions and achievements” and to encourage its members to “materially support and individually participate in the work of the Christian Church”.
Meet me at the St. Louis!
The club originally met at the St. Louis Hotel, which was then owned by member John Starchuk. There was some debate as to whether the club might function as a benevolent club or a social club; the primary motivation was for Ukrainians in Calgary to meet and exchange their common concerns (over hearty Ukrainian meals, of course). Quickly, the membership jumped to 22 and eventually outgrew the banquet room of the St. Louis Hotel. It then moved to the Westward Inn (owned by a club member), and through several other locations, finally to the Elbow River Lodge (again, owned by a club member). Five years after the club’s inception, there were 85 members.
The purpose of Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Businessmen’s Clubs in Canada was being deeply pondered in the early seventies. As a result, a few major changes occurred in 1978: women were allowed membership in the club and it declared its non-political and non-religious character. The name of the society was changed to the Ukrainian Professional & Business Club of Calgary.
Boom . . .
In 1982, President Joe Gonis placed an ad in the Calgary Herald, inviting fellow Ukrainians to come to a Club dinner-meeting; the membership instantly doubled! Not long after that, at the Tradewinds Hotel, sixty-two Ukrainians met for the monthly dinner meeting – the highest recorded attendance for dinner meetings for the time. It was because of that ad that many of our present longtime members first became aware of the club’s existence.
. . . and Bust!
The late 80’s brought a second identity crisis for the UPBC of Calgary: public interest waned, membership numbers dropped significantly to only about 30 members, and the club considered formally dissolving the organization. In June 1990, the Executive Committee sent out a desperate letter to club members on the subject of folding its activities. UCPC’s registration with Alberta Consumer and Customer Affairs had expired by mid-1988 and renewal was not on the agenda for the next 18 months.
The Declaration of Independence of Ukraine in 1991 drastically changed the popular mood. Ukraine and Ukrainian topics were at the forefront of the world agenda, and the club flourished under increased attention. Membership nearly tripled as a consequence of Ukrainian-Canadians’ renewed awareness of their Ukrainian roots and the Club finally renewed its registration in 1991. Re-establishing business and cultural connections with independent Ukraine became one of the Club’s main priorities in the 1990s. These priorities were reflected in the selection of speakers at dinner meetings, who made presentations on everything from investment in Ukraine to Ukrainian springtime traditions. One popular event featured Olympic figure skater Victor Petrenko.
The Social Whirl
The nineties were a whirlwind of activity and development. The focus was on business, on fun, on heritage. In addition to regular monthly dinner meetings, the Club organized many special events, both for its own members and for the community at large. Particularly popular and successful were the Presidents’ Balls. These were started in the eighties but reached their creative apogee in the nineties as themed balls with creative decorations and entertainment drew inspiration from Ukrainian history and culture. Some memorable themes from the nineties include: Night of Kupalo, 100 years of Ukrainians in Canada, Night of the Kozaks, Golden Kyiv, Enchanted Evening, and Ukrainian Music. Picnics, BBQ’s and potlucks rounded out the social schedule.
Although the Club certainly put on its share of social events, it also took its responsibility for community development seriously. As an example, the Club was a founding member and original sponsor of the Echoes of Ukraine TV program. Ukrainian performing groups such as Tryzub Dance Ensemble received sizeable donations. The issue of World War I Internment (then not as well recognized as it is today) received attention as well. The Club organized a photo exhibit about the internment operations and toured it throughout Alberta.
Culture and the Arts
The nineties also saw a renewed focus on the arts. Yearly Christmas Carol Festivals with participation of all Ukrainian community choirs were begun, a tradition which continues to this day. Special events at the Glenbow Museum showcased Christmas and Easter Ukrainian-style for the general public. A St. Andrew’s Eve fortune-telling event attracted large numbers of participants. UCPBA sponsored art shows in both Calgary and Banff and organized a Ukrainian language class for adults.
The nineties saw the establishment of scholarships and awards to recognize the accomplishments and to support the aspirations of individuals within our community. UCPBA’s ties with sister organizations were also strong at this time, as was the National Federation of Professional and Business Associations. Calgary hosted an extremely successful biennial UCPBA Federation convention in 1995.
A New Century, A New Name
In 2002, the club revised both its bylaws and its name, becoming the Ukrainian Canadian Professional & Business Association of Calgary, the name which it retains today. The bylaws were further updated and extensively revised in 2008. The granting of a casino license to the Association provided additional funding and enabled enhanced programming and community support, as well as the hiring of paid administrative staff.
Support for Ukraine
The new century brought with it new hopes and concerns based on a series of promising and equally tragic developments in Ukraine. Topics addressed at dinner meetings ranged from the temporary foreign worker program and the adoption of children from Ukraine to the Orange Revolution, its unrealized potential and the political events leading up to what is now known as Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity. Annual presentations on the Holodomor famine-genocide reflected an increased awareness of this historical tragedy both in the Ukrainian community and Canadian society in general.
A Broad Spectrum of Topics
At this time, there also emerged a renewed focus on business themes, with an annual presentation on markets and investment strategies by Bohdan Romaniuk being very popular. Other speakers over the past decade have included historians, economists, authors, investment analysts, film-makers, federal and provincial politicians, diplomats, business leaders, immigration experts, medical specialists, scientists, and past and current representatives of major government agencies, among many others.
On the cultural front, UCPBA provided critically needed seed funding for the first three years of operation of the enormously popular Calgary Ukrainian Festival. In 2011, UCPBA Calgary collaborated with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) in staging, Ukrainian Rhapsody: An Evening of Ukrainian Symphonic Music (Calgary’s first-ever CPO event dedicated entirely to Ukrainian symphonic music). In 2013, the CPO again presented a Ukrainian-themed evening, Hopak! A Ukrainian Spectacular!, which UCPBA co-sponsored. Other highlights of UCPBA’s cultural program include several art shows and the annual Ukrainian Carol Festival, co-sponsored with UCC Calgary.
One of our most popular events in the last decade has been our annual Taste of Ukraine – a gourmet extravaganza of traditional and contemporary Ukrainian food prepared by chef Helena Haridzuk. UCPBA continues to organize a growing variety of events, in order to serve our members and to reach new demographics, particularly newcomers to our province and to our country. UCPBA also continues to support a broad array of community organizations, institutions, and to grant numerous scholarships to deserving students each year.