Calgary book publisher reprints classic Ukrainian Canadian children’s book to raise money for Ukraine
Calgary-based independent press, Durvile Publications, reprints The Little Book: Reader of Stories for a Free Ukrainea Ukrainian anthology of poems and stories, to raise funds for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.
When Lorene Shyba, publisher of Durvile Publications, was growing up, she remembers her grandmother reading her a little book of Ukrainian stories and phrases. To this day, she vividly remembers the charming illustrations: pictures of little girls with ducks and geese, and little boys with horses and toy trains.
Decades later, Shyba’s press reprints The little bookwith all proceeds going to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation, a Canadian charity providing humanitarian assistance to Ukrainians who have been displaced from their homes during the current crisis between Russia and Ukraine.
The little book was published in the 1940s as a children’s language reader for the Canadian Ukrainian diaspora in the prairie provinces. The small drive contained letters of the Ukrainian alphabet and finely detailed ink illustrations, as well as parables and poems by legendary Ukrainian writer Taras Shevchenko.
The reissue of Durvile, which will be released on March 31, includes a translation by Magda Stroinska, professor of linguistics and languages at McMaster University.
Shyba, whose family descended from Ukrainian pioneer families who came to Alberta at the turn of the 20th century, had the idea of publishing a translated edition of The little book after spending the last few years working with Dene elder Raymond Yakeleya to develop a series of books in Indigenous languages using the same translation method to preserve languages at risk of being lost.
“It occurred to Raymond and I that this would be a great opportunity to bring hope and pride to the Canadian Ukrainian Diaspora and, most importantly, to find a sincere way to raise funds to make a donation to the Ukrainian humanitarian cause,” Shyba said. Radio-Canada Booksadding that Durvile hopes to raise around $10,000 from the sale of the book.
“It was essential that an English translation be included, otherwise 99.9% of Canadians would have no idea how to read or pronounce Ukrainian Cyrillic characters,” she explained. “In the first pages of the book there is a pronunciation guide for Cyrillic.”
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Durvile worked with a version of The little book which was printed in Winnipeg in 1940, although Shyba believes the initial printing may have dated back to 1932. While she and Stroniska made efforts to find connections to the families of the deceased original author, Mykola Matwijszuk, and from the illustrator, O. Kureles, they came empty – but hopefully those connected to the creators will come forward when they learn of the reprint.
The book, which Durvile called a “special humanitarian edition”, offers insight into Ukrainian culture through lessons, stories and poetry – including verses by 19th-century writer, artist and politician Shevchenko. considered the founder of modernity. Ukrainian literature. One of his poems – which expresses “the sincerity of his love for his country”, said Shyba – closes the last page of The little book.
“The stories are also steeped in cultural values – the values of caring for the homeland, caring for farm animals and loving family,” Shyba said.
She recalled how her cousin, a musician in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, who also helped with the translation, remembered her grandparents telling her some of the stories and poems in the book many years ago – echoing Shyba’s thoughts on their reading with her own grandmother.
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Shyba hopes the language lessons and stories, which she says are suitable for children in kindergarten through grade 9, will resonate with young readers and their parents as the world watches the impact of the invasion. on Ukraine.
“We can’t help but think that the original author and publishers would be proud to be part of our plans to donate our publisher’s profits to help the people of Ukraine,” she said.