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Organised community life – the establishment and development of a range of Ukrainian community associations and other institutions in the United Kingdom.

Before 1945

The community life of the Ukrainians in Manchester before the Second World War was, initially, connected largely with the Ukrainian Catholic Church. On the initiative of the diplomatic mission of the Ukrainian People’s Republic in London, in 1919 the Manchester Ukrainians formed the Samopomich society, aimed at offering moral and material support to Ukraine. In 1929 the Manchester community opened a Ukrainian Social Club which became the hub of the community’s social and cultural life. From January 1943 the Club also became a meeting place for Ukrainians in the Canadian armed forces based in the UK: see Ukrainian Canadian Servicemen’s Association (UCSA).

Individual Ukrainians lived in London in the 1920s and 1930s (see Ukrainians in the United Kingdom), but there was little organised community life in the city. In the 1930s Ukrainian students in London, mainly from Canada, occasionally socialised at the premises of the Ukrainian Bureau. In the second half of 1943 the headquarters of UCSA were transferred from Manchester to London.


Shortly after the end of the Second World War, with the aim of organising assistance for Ukrainian displaced persons and refugees in Western Europe, leading figures in the UCSA initiated the founding of the Manchester-based Ukrainian Relief Committee in Great Britain (July 1945) and the London-based Central Ukrainian Relief Bureau (September 1945). At the same time Ukrainians in the Polish armed forces under British command, with the help of UCSA, began to form their own organisation which, in January 1946, became the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB).

From 1947, with the arrival in the UK of large numbers of Ukrainian European Voluntary Workers and former soldiers of the Galicia Division, the membership of the AUGB increased significantly, and other organisations were founded. The years 1947-1948 saw the inception, in particular, of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Great Britain (UCC-GB), Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in Great Britain (UAOC-GB), Association of Ukrainian Students, Association of Ukrainian Women (an autonomius affiliate of the AUGB), and two youth organisations, the Ukrainian Youth Association (UYA) and the Plast scouting organisation. A number of émigré Ukrainian political parties and organisations, to which many of the post-war immigrants belonged, also began to function in the UK.

At the AUGB annual general meeting on 12-13 March 1949 a split occurred against a background of party political differences. A proportion of the delegates left the meeting for another location and formed the Ukrainian Bureau, on the basis of which, in October of the same year, the Federation of Ukrainians in Great Britain (FUGB) was founded. Several former leading members of the AUGB joined the FUGB, but the organisation remained significantly smaller than the AUGB. The FUGB initially served as a centre of community support for the Ukrainian National Council, but in 1957 a proportion of its members joined a newly-formed Society of Supporters of the Ukrainian National Council (renamed Ukrainian Society in Great Britain in 1974).

From the second half of the 1940s to the end of the 1980s, particularly in the early part of this period, the post-war Ukrainian immigrants to the UK established about 60 other organisations, including associations of ex-servicemen, young people, students and graduates, etc, as well as various cultural, educational, religious, lobbying and campaigning, and other bodies (see Organisations). Some organisations established branches in various towns and cities with Ukrainian communities, while others operated only at a country-wide level with a single centre, often in London. The numbers belonging to individual organisations ranged from several thousand to a few dozen, and some of the organisations became virtually inactive or ceased to exist after a relatively short time.

From the 1950s, descendants of the post-war immigrants became involved in youth organisations, particularly the UYA and Plast, and from the 1960s, on reaching adulthood, they began to join some of the other organisations. This generation also established about 15 new organisations. By the end of the 1980s, of the associations and other institutions founded by the post-war immigrants or their descendants, about 40 remained active to a greater or lesser degree.

Since 1991

A large number of Ukrainians who began to arrive in the UK after, or on the eve of, the establishment of Ukraine’s independence became active in the UCC-GB and the UAOC-GB, and soon formed a clear majority of worshippers at both churches, particularly in London. A significant number of immigrants from independent Ukraine have enrolled their children in Ukrainian Saturday schools and the youth organisations UYA and Plast, and some of them have become teachers and youth leaders themselves. Some of the post-1991 immigrants in London also participate in the activities of the Ukrainian Institute. In other respects, the Ukrainians from independent Ukraine have only to a minor degree become involved in the activities of organisations founded by the post-war immigrants and their descendants. The continued existence of some organisations, such as the AUGB and OUZ, has been ensured by descendants of the post-war immigrants, but other organisations have gradually ceased to exist. In 2018 about 15 of the organisations founded before 1991 remained active.

Since the early 2000s, Ukrainians from independent Ukraine have founded (or have been involved in the formation of) several new organisations, for example: the Ukrainian-British City Club (2005; promoting commercial links between Ukraine and the UK), the British Ukrainian Society (2007; strengthening ties between Ukraine and the United Kingdom at all levels), Ukrainian Events in London (2014; promoting Ukrainian cultural and other events in London and elsewhere in the UK). Ukrainian student societies have also been formed at several British universities. However, in contrast to the post-war immigrants, who developed the life of their community around various formal organisations, the post-1991 Ukrainian immigrants to the UK maintain relationships mainly through informal networks based on new social media.

Roman Krawec