Ukrainians in the United Kingdom
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Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB) [Союз Українців у Великій Британії] – the largest Ukrainian community organisation in the United Kingdom, whose members include ethnic Ukrainians and friends of Ukraine living in the UK.

AUGB logo

Organisation

The AUGB was established at an inaugural general meeting held on 19-20 January 1946 in Edinburgh, following several months of preparation from mid-1945. The first members of the organisation were mainly Ukrainians in the Polish Armed Forces under British command based in the UK, and the organisation was initially envisaged as an Association of Ukrainian Soldiers in the Polish Armed Forces. In 1947-48 the number of members increased considerably following the arrival in the country of Ukrainian European Voluntary Workers and former soldiers of the Galicia Division, and the transfer of the latter to civilian status.

Between 1946 and 1949 about 23,600 individuals joined the AUGB. By the end of this period, however, about 4,000 had already emigrated to other countries, resigned from the Association, or otherwise become inactive. Over 750 members resigned in connection with differences which emerged at the March 1949 AUGB annual general meeting, which resulted in the formation of the Federation of Ukrainians in Great Britain in October 1949. Although new members continued to join the Association, in the first half of the 1950s the total number of active members decreased significantly. At that time about 2,000 members emigrated to other countries. Many members lost touch with the AUGB after the mass dispersal of Ukrainians from post-war camps and hostels to private accommodation in towns and cities around the country. Some who left the Association felt it had come under the excessive influence of the OUN(B), the largest of the post-war émigré Ukrainian political organisations. At the end of 1955 there were about 8,500 active members. Thereafter the membership continued to decline, mainly owing to a gradual increase in deaths among the post-war immigrants.

In the mid-1960s, descendants of the post-war immigrants began to join the AUGB, and by 1968 they formed the majority of new members. In 1990 there were approximately 4,700 active members. After 1991, immigrants from independent Ukraine began to join the Association, albeit in small numbers. In 2011 the AUGB’s articles of association were amended to allow non-Ukrainians to join the Association as associate members without voting rights. At the end of 2018 the Association had approximately 1500 full members and about 350 associate members. The overall number of full members registered with the Association between its formation and the end of 2018 was 29,475.

The AUGB organisational structure at the local level comprises branches, which have at least 12 members and are led by elected branch committees, and unconstituted local groups, which generally have fewer members and liaise with the Head Office through nominated representatives. The organisation of members at a local level began informally in the camps and hostels in which most Ukrainians in the UK lived in the early post-war years. The first AUGB branch was formed on 24 August 1947 in the village of Caunton, Nottinghamshire, and in the same year the first urban branch was established in Manchester. By the end of 1949 there were 242 branches and 116 unconstituted local groups. In the 1950s these numbers declined significantly, as Ukrainians migrated from rural areas to towns and cities and many hostel-based branches were closed down or amalgamated to form larger ones. At the end of 1959 there were 72 branches and 23 unconstituted groups. In subsequent years the numbers continued to decline gradually, to 52 branches and 12 unconstituted groups at the end of 1990, and 24 branches and 2 unconstituted groups at the end of 2018.

In the early 1950s some larger branches began to purchase buildings in which their members could meet and conduct activities. The earliest such AUGB branch centres were acquired in Bradford (1950), Manchester, Bury, Rochdale (1951), and Oldham, Halifax and Bolton (1952), and the number of branches with their own centres subsequently rose to 46 in the 1980s. Social clubs were established at most of them with the aim of generating income to help fund branch activities. Most AUGB branch centres also served as premises for the activities of local branches of other Ukrainian community organisations.

The Association was initially governed by a President and an Executive, elected at annual general meetings (AGM). From 1948 to 2016 the AGMs elected a President and a Governing Council, and the latter appointed an Executive Committee to conduct business between Governing Council meetings. The Governing Council and Executive Committee were supported by a team of staff at the Head Office. Since 2016 the AUGB has been governed by a Board of Directors (elected at AGMs) led by a Chair, with an Executive Committee appointed by the Board (with Head Office staff continuing to support the Board and Executive Committee). At times in the past an Honorary President was elected as advisor to the Governing Council. From the mid-1970s, leadership of the AUGB gradually passed from members of the post-war immigrant generation to their mainly UK-born descendants. The first Governing Council member and first President from the second generation were elected in 1974 and 1988 respectively.

The AUGB Head Office was initially located at the premises of the Central Ukrainian Relief Bureau (CURB), 218 Sussex Gardens, London W2. In March 1947 the Association acquired its present building at 49 Linden Gardens, London W2, and in the same year the first full-time Head Office staff member was employed. During 1948, when almost 16,000 new members joined the Association, the number of Head Office staff increased to 41, but by 1955 it had been reduced to 11. It remained at approximately this level until the early 1990s, since when it has again gradually declined. The work of the Head Office has generally been led by the AUGB General Secretary, or Chief Executive since the mid-2010s, though at times a separate Executive Director has undertaken this function.

In the early years of the AUGB’s existence the following organisations were established as autonomous sections of the Association: in 1948 – the Relief Board for Ukrainian Students in Great Britain (wound up in 2003) and the Association of Ukrainian Women in Great Britain (OUZ); in 1955 – the Association of Ukrainian Teachers and Educators in Great Britain (now the Association of Ukrainian Teachers in Great Britain) and the Union of Ukrainian Traders and Businessmen (active until about 1960); and in 1963 – the Curatorial Board of the Taras Shevchenko Library and Museum (became inactive towards the end of the 1980s).

In 1980 the AUGB’s articles of association were amended to allow other Ukrainian organisations to become corporate members of the Association, and the following organisations became such members: the Association of Ukrainian Former Combatants in Great Britain, the Ukrainian Youth Association in Great Britain (UYA), the British section of the émigré Ukrainian monarchist organisation Soiuz Hetmantsiv-Derzhavnykiv (ceased to exist in 1997), the Ukrainian Information Service (UIS), Ukrainian Publishers Limited (merged with the UIS in 1993), and the Nova Fortuna Co-operative Society (ceased to exist in 2016). Corporate membership was removed from the AUGB structure in 2016 and reintroduced in 2018 in a revised form. In 2018 the OUZ ceased to be an AUGB section, and in 2019 it became a corporate member.

The AUGB co-operates with Ukrainian organisations in other countries in its capacity as a member of the Ukrainian World Congress and the Ukrainian World Coordinating Council. It was also a member of the European Congress of Ukrainians until this organisation became inactive in the mid-2010s.

Activities

In the early years of the AUGB’s existence its work focused largely on providing the post-war Ukrainian immigrants with material assistance and moral support in relation to various aspects of life in the UK. After initially cooperating in this area with CURB, from January 1948 the AUGB assumed sole responsibility for the work. From 1948 to the early 1960s the Association also co-operated with organisations representing immigrants to the UK from other East European сountries, within the framework of the Central Co-ordinating Committee of Refugee Welfare Organisations established to act in the joint interests of the national groups in question.

The AUGB Head Office provided advice, translation and interpreting services and other practical assistance in connection with matters such as finding employment, applications for official documents, resolution of issues at hostels or places of work, bringing family members to the UK from overseas, and emigration to other countries. In later years, help with matters such as arranging pensions and the writing and execution of wills became more of a priority. Much attention was also focused, by both the Head Office and local branches, on providing material assistance and other support to the sick, disabled and others in need. At the end of 1948 the AUGB led a protest action against the planned deportation of approximately 300 disabled former Galicia Division personnel, many of whom were subsequently housed in the Sydenhurst residential home in Surrey, purchased by the Association in 1949. Sydenhurst later became a home mainly for elderly Ukrainians, although in the final years before its closure in 2013 its residents were mainly non-Ukrainians. From 1971 to 1998 the AUGB also operated the Kobzarivka care home in Derbyshire.

Throughout its existence the AUGB has engaged in various educational activities, initially focusing on meeting the needs of the adult post-war immigrants. English language instruction was provided at some branches, as well as courses in Ukrainian history and current affairs, and practical subjects such as tailoring and dressmaking. In 1948-51 the AUGB promoted specialist vocational distance learning courses run by the Ukrainian Technical and Husbandry Institute in Germany, in which about 150 Ukrainians in the UK participated. Since the early 1950s many AUGB branches have run Ukrainian supplementary schools and nurseries, supported, since 1955, by the above-mentioned Association of Ukrainian Teachers. In the 1950s, and again in the 1970s, the Association examined the feasibility of establishing a Ukrainian secondary boarding school in the UK, but the project was not realised.

Since its inception the AUGB has undertaken various activities aimed at preserving national traditions and identity within the Ukrainian community, and promoting Ukrainian culture within British society at large. In many of the post-war camps and hostels, where the early AUGB branches were established, choral, folk dance, drama and instrumental groups were formed. Many of these remained active after the subsequent large-scale migration to towns and cities. In 1954 there were 17 choirs, 14 folk dance groups, and 15 drama groups at AUGB branches. They performed at concerts and other cultural events organised by local branches or the Head Office (often to commemorate prominent figures or events in Ukrainian history), as well as at events outside the Ukrainian community, including international festivals and competitions in the UK or abroad. In later years most of these groups became inactive, their place being taken by others, consisting of descendants of the post-war immigrants, especially within the framework of the Ukrainian Youth Organisation and the Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organisation. Some groups, however, continued to perform under the auspices of the AUGB for many years, for example the Manchester-based Homin choir and the still existing Orlyk dance group (both designated as AUGB representative ensembles) and the Dibrova choir in Bradford. The AUGB Head Office and branches have organised many exhibitions featuring Ukrainian fine art and folk crafts, as well as collections of photographs and other documentary material on specific themes. The Shevchenko Library and Archive (previously the Taras Shevchenko Library and Museum) has existed at the Head Office since 1947, and smaller libraries have been assembled over the years at several branches. In 2011 a permanent art gallery was opened at the Head Office.

From 1945 to 2017 the AUGB published the Ukrainska Dumka newspaper (originally called Nash Klych), which appeared weekly until September 2004, then fortnightly. At various times the AUGB also published the following periodicals: Kalendarets Ukraintsia u Velykii Brytanii, a pocket-sized annual yearbook (1947-2004); Osa, a satirical magazine (1947-1948); The Ukrainian Review, an English-language quarterly of Ukrainian affairs (1954-2000); and Yuni Druzi, a magazine for children (1955-1984). Since the 1950s the Association has published many books and pamphlets, including Ukrainian-language publications for both the general reader and, in the early years, for children, as well as English-language publications intended mainly for the British public. In November 1947 the AUGB took over the Ukrainian Booksellers and Publishers, a business created by CURB three months earlier, and opened a bookshop at the Head Office building. Over the years this has evolved into a gift shop selling other goods, in addition to books.

Until 1991 the AUGB engaged in various activities aimed at informing the British public about Ukraine and promoting the cause of Ukrainian independence. These included maintaining contacts with British politicians, journalists, academics and other influential figures; distributing English-language material about Ukrainian history and culture among the general public, at concerts, exhibitions and other events; disseminating The Ukrainian Review, submitting letters to the press, donating books about Ukraine to local public libraries, and delivering lectures at universities, Rotary Clubs, etc. The Association lobbied in support of causes such as the introduction of Ukrainian-language broadcasts by the BBC World Service (late 1940s to 1980s), and official recognition of Ukrainians as a national group (late 1940s to early 1960s). In the mid-1950s and, subsequently, in the 1970s and 1980s, it took part in various campaigns to secure the release of Ukrainian and other political prisoners in the Soviet Union. In this field of lobbying and campaigning the Assocation co-operated both with other Ukrainian organisations and with bodies such as the Anglo-Ukrainian Society, the Scottish League for European Freedom, the British League for European Freedom, the European Freedom Council (of which it was a member) and the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations. Since the establishment of Ukraine as an independent state the AUGB has continued to organise campaigns on issues such as raising public awareness of the consequences of the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear accident, and official recognition of the Holodomor famine of 1932-33 in Soviet Ukraine as an act of genocide.

Until the late 1980s the AUGB did not maintain links with Soviet Ukraine. In the years leading up to Ukraine’s declaration of independence the Association began to establish direct contacts with certain organisations and individuals in Ukraine, as well as with Ukrainians in other Central and Eastern European countries. Since 1991, in addition to its other work, the AUGB has engaged in various activities connected with Ukraine. Initially these focused mainly on issues such as establishing relations with the Embassy of Ukraine in the United Kingdom, facilitating visits to the UK by prominent figures from Ukraine and providing material assistance, for instance to victims of the Chornobyl nuclear accident. More recently the Association has co-operated with cultural and academic institutions in Ukraine and with the Ukrainian Embassy on projects such as joint exhibitions and book launches. In its relations with Ukraine the AUGB seeks to promote the furtherance of democratic values and the rule of law in the country. Representatives of the Association have acted as official observers at several Ukrainian elections.

Main office holders

Presidents/Chairs: Nikita Bura (January 1946 – February 1948), Gordon Bohdan Panchuk (February 1948 – March 1949), Osyp Fundak (March 1949 – March 1953), Wolodymyr Lisewycz (March 1953 – March 1954), Dmytro Lewyckyj (March 1954 – June 1959), Jaroslaw Hawryliw (March 1960 – March 1963), Robert Lisowskyj (March 1963 – July 1969), Wolodymyr Wasylenko (July 1969 – December 1978), Illya Dmytriw (July 1979 – August 1988), Lubomyr Mazur (August 1988 – June 2007), Zenko Lastowiecki (June 2007 – July 2016), Petro Rewko (July 2016 – ).

Honorary Presidents: Danylo Skoropadskyj (March 1949 – February 1957†), Illya Dmytriw (June 2001 – January 2003), Lubomyr Mazur (June 2007 – July 2010), Wasyl Oleskiw (July 2010 – July 2011).

General Secretaries/Chief Executives: Michael Oparenko (January 1946 – January 1947), Andrij Pszyk (January – June 1947), Teodor Danyliw (June 1947 – March 1953), Eugen Birczak (March 1953 – March 1954), Bohdan Tarnawskyj (March 1954 – March 1956), Teodor Kudlyk (March 1956 – March 1960), Illya Dmytriw (March 1960 - April 1964), Swiatomyr Fostun (April 1964 – June 1977), Iwan Rawluk (June 1977 – September 1989), Fedir Kurlak (September 1989 – ).

Executive Directors: George Salsky (February 1948 – March 1949), Alexander Moncibowycz (June – September 1953), Swiatomyr Fostun (March 1961 - April 1964), Iwan Rawluk (April 1965 – June 1977), Markian Szeptyckyj (September 1989 – June 1996).

Roman Krawec

Bibliography

'Desiat rokiv SUB-u', in Kalendarets ukraintsia u Velykii Brytanii na 1956 rik (London, 1955), pp. 30-50

Petryshyn, W. R., ‘Britain's Ukrainian community: A study of the political dimension in ethnic community development’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Bristol, 1980)

Mazur, L., 'U 50-richia Soiuzu Ukraintsiv u Velykii Brytanii', in Kalendarets ukraintsia u Velykii Brytanii na 1996 rik (London, 1995), pp. 67-75

Shchyhelska, H. O., Soiuz Ukraintsiv u Velykii Brytanii: etapy stanovlennia, orhanizatsiia ta dialnist (1945-1949 rr.) (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Chernivtsi, 2005)

Soiuz Ukraintsiv u Velykii Brytanii (SUB): Zvit diialnosti 2017, ed. by L. Pekarska and F. Kurlak (London, 2018)