The origins of CFU in Ottawa

The "Canadian Friends of Ukraine" (CFU) organization was originally founded in 1989 in support of a popular political movement in Ukraine then known as "Narodnyj Rukh za Perestroiku" ("Peoples' Movement for Perestroika"). Rukh ostensibly supported the reconstruction or "perestroika" in the USSR advocated by Michail Gorbachev, but in reality Rukh was preparing to push further, towards the development of civil society in Ukraine and ultimately an independent non-communist existence for the country. These were goals for Ukraine shared by most Ukrainian Canadians.

A modest meeting at the home of Mr. Erast Huculak in Toronto on 31 October 1989 launched CFU under the short-lived name "Kanads'ke Tovarystvo Prykhylnykiv Rukhu za Perestroku" ("Canadian Society of Adherents of Rukh for Perestoika") as an organization designed to assist Rukh. Affiliates to the Toronto group soon spang up in other Canadian cities. What became CFU - Ottawa held its inaugural meeting on February 5, 1990, and elected Dr. Yulia Woychyshyn as its president.

The early 1990's were a time of tumultuous change in the USSR, and understandably the "Narodnyj Rukh" evolved. It's Canadian support group had to change also in order to keep up with changing circumstances. Upon Ukraine's gaining independence in 1991, part of Rukh became a political party, but supporters in Canada were not comfortable with becoming partisans of one party in Ukraine's now pluralistic political landscape, so CFU went through a name change and distanced itself from Rukh while still working towards the goal of helping Ukraine become a modern and prosperous democracy.

Since those early days, CFU-O has undertaken many projects providing humanitarian aid and building civil society in Ukraine. This would not have been possible without CFU-O's people in Ottawa. It is a small but dedicated team consisting 100% of volunteers. No one is on a CFU-O payroll. Our volunteers are all dedicating their own time and resources, which ensures that all contributions from other sources are used very efficiently. Naturally CFU-O is always open to new volunteers joining our ranks. Two decades after the CFU was founded, the need is still there as political developments in Ukraine attest. Democracy and civil society in Ukraine are developing more successfully than in many former Soviet countries, but they cannot yet be taken for granted.