IT'S a culture that stretches back almost 120 years and has given Winnipeg NHL hockey players, Leo Mol sculptures, folklore, and an abundance of comfort food.

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IT'S a culture that stretches back almost 120 years and has given Winnipeg NHL hockey players, Leo Mol sculptures, folklore, and an abundance of comfort food.

The University of Manitoba Centre for Ukrainian Canadian Studies documents and teaches not only Ukrainian culture, but also how it's intertwined with Canada and Manitoba.

"The focus is to make people aware of the Ukrainian dimension of Manitoba and of Canada," said former head of the centre Denis Hlynka. "There's of course an interest in what's going on in Ukraine, but the real interest is what's going on here."

The centre started up in 1981, studying and creating awareness about Ukrainian-Canadian culture through classes, lectures, research, and involvement with other Ukrainian organizations.

Nowadays, the centre offers courses from Ukrainian Canadian folklore to the economy of Ukraine. "(Ukrainian culture) is so infused we don't even notice it. Common words such as perogy and kubasa everyone knows and one doesn't even think of this having a cultural context. These are now Canadian foods," Hlynka said.

Orest Martynowych is the scholar-in-residence at the centre, working on what he said is the first real history of Ukrainians in Winnipeg.

"It's a world that has basically disappeared, that highly concentrated community that existed until about the early '60s," said Martynowych. "Ukrainian life is a mere shadow of what it used to be. I wanted to write it so there's a record of what existed and so we remember the people who sustained this community."

Martynowych has been working on the illustrative history for two years, delving into Winnipeg-Ukrainians turned NHL hockey players, such as Nick Wasnie and Pete Langelle (an altered version of his Ukrainian name Landiak), the community's contribution to music internationally, and those who went off to fight in the First World War.

"I'm trying to get away from the type of history that's usually written, which is focused on institutions and churches in the Ukrainian Canadian community, and trying to focus on ordinary people," said Martynowych.

He's has also compiled a tour of historic Ukrainian places in Winnipeg for the centre, setting out the important sites some of which are still around, such as Saints Vladimir and Olga Ukrainian Catholic Church in the North End, and many institutions now long gone.

"A lot of things we take for granted in Manitoba stem from our Ukrainian background," said Hlynka. "We've been here a very long time."

jennifer.ford@freepress.mb.ca