July 6, 2020

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Going silent

Winnipeg's Ukrainian Voice one of the oldest ethnic newspapers in the country

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/8/2018 (693 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

One of the oldest ethnic newspapers in Canada is folding.

The Winnipeg-based Ukrainian Voice, published since 1910, once had 22,000 subscribers. However, decades of dwindling circulation and the struggling temper of the times for newspapers made the decision to close inevitable, Trident Press president Bill Strus said last week.

"They’re open to the 22nd of this month," he said. "Being a numbers guy, it was easy. Getting into it and understanding the historical significance of the paper, it was sad."

The newspaper was conceived by a group of Ukrainian teachers who saw the need for a united voice to bond Ukrainian immigrants together.

Maria Bosak, editor of the Ukrainian Voice for the past 23 years, says subscribers have been calling the newspaper to lament its closure.  (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Maria Bosak, editor of the Ukrainian Voice for the past 23 years, says subscribers have been calling the newspaper to lament its closure. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

"They got together in 1909, and they decided the immigrants were scattered and known by their regions (in Ukraine) rather than by their nation... So they got together and formed the Ukrainian Voice. They took the stance they were going to report factual, honest reporting without a bias or tie to a political party or a religion, totally non-partisan," Strus said.

"They were the fourth Ukrainian paper at the time, but they were the only one to survive. They actually bought two of them out."

Based in Winnipeg, the paper — first published March 16, 1910 — would become the leading advocate for Ukrainians in Canada.

"The paper’s motto was, and I’ll read it: ‘Be proud of your heritage but be passionate about your country,’ meaning Canada," Strus said.

The paper ran as a Ukrainian-language weekly for years, until federal bilingual legislation required it to include some English-language content. The latest edition has yet to be released, and it still uses the Cyrillic alphabet.

The Main Street storefront that houses the newspaper is staying open but will relocate to McGregor Street. Trident Press operates a shipping service for parcels to Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, Moldova, Russia and the Baltic states. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

The Main Street storefront that houses the newspaper is staying open but will relocate to McGregor Street. Trident Press operates a shipping service for parcels to Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, Moldova, Russia and the Baltic states. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

The Main Street storefront that houses the newspaper is staying open but will relocate to McGregor Street. Trident Press operates a shipping service for parcels to Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, Moldova, Russia and the Baltic states.

For decades, the Voice was a force for change. The same group that founded it would go on to spearhead support for a Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church in Canada. The first church opened in Saskatoon, with the second in Winnipeg within a decade of the paper’s first run.

Circulation started dropping off in the 1960s, and financial woes followed. The newspaper reduced publication to twice weekly, and then once every couple of months.

Trident donated the paper’s archives to St. Andrew’s College at the University of Manitoba, with plans to digitize the documents and make them available to the public online within a year.

"I wasn’t going to throw away history," Strus said.

The paper first published in 1910. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

The paper first published in 1910. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Maria Bosak, editor of the Voice for 23 years, was continuing the work of packing at the Main Street office last week. The volume of records left over, even after the university picked up its share, is staggering.

"A hundred and 10 years we’ve been here, and moving is hard work," she said.

Rows of neat, metre-high of stacks of newspapers from one of the Ukrainian-language rivals the Voice absorbed were at the back of the storefront. Wrapped in cellophane, they’re destined for shipment to Toronto.

The reference library, a long narrow room with floor-to-ceiling shelves, was crammed with books and boxes.

The literary treasure trove was in the basement. There, Bosak flipped the switch on a trumpet-style shop light to show off newspapers going back a century, all carefully laid out in wooden crates stacked like bookcases.

Old printing blocks at the Ukrainian Voice.  (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

Old printing blocks at the Ukrainian Voice. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

"All history," she said, adding she doesn’t know what will happen to it all.

"Recycling?" she mused.

The premises must be vacated by Aug. 21, she said. "If people want it, they can take it. Free," she said.

"We had subscribers all over. They’re calling us... they know the paper is closing. They said, ‘We love that newspaper,’" Bosak said. "Sometimes, I don’t know what I can say."

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

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