A moving year on the airwaves of Ukrainian radio
The tireless producer of the only Ukrainian radio program in Quebec has never worked as hard as since last February to inform and support his community in these times of war.
“It has been an overwhelming year. It cannot be compared to any other,” says Simon Kouklewsky, who has produced Ukrainian Time (український час) since 1990, before the fall of the USSR.
If the invasion of Russia in Donbass was regularly mentioned on the show since 2014, the war is now part of its regular programming.
A Canadian volunteer who went to fight in Ukraine, an artist from Crimea who presents an exhibition of doors damaged by the explosions and the coach of the Ukrainian team, affected by the conflict, which participated in the Quebec pee-wee tournament have recently taken turns at his microphone.
“We don't just cover the events, but also all the involvement of the community”, explains the Quebecer born in Montreal to parents of Ukrainian origin.< /p> Simon Kouklewsky records much of the content in his colorful little office in Pierrefonds, whose walls are covered with artifacts and books about Ukraine.
To manage to broadcast an hour of programming every week on the multilingual radio station CFMB 1280 AM, he does not count his time.
The handyman devotes 40 hours to the minimum every week recording interviews, editing stories, researching topics, putting the program online and finding funding (Ukrainian Time does not receive a penny of subsidy).< /p>
But in addition, he is a member of the Quebec branch of the Congress of Ukrainian Canadians and is greatly involved in the Ukrainian church he attends.
“We do everything to ensure that the community is dynamic” , he said modestly.
More necessary than ever
It is the interest of his audience that dictates the subjects he will address the following week.
“For example, I met a lot of upset [Ukrainian] women. I'm not a psychologist, but I can report on an emotional support program for them, like last week,” he says.
To mark the first anniversary of the “total invasion” in Ukraine, the director has planned, among other things, an interview with the Premier of Quebec, François Legault.
The program he records in three languages with the help of a few collaborators is aimed at both “old” Ukrainians in Montreal and newcomers.
“It's made for people who are interested,” summarizes the radio man, recalling that some Ukrainians come to us with the desire to integrate Quebec society, more than the Ukrainian community.
If Simon Kouklewsky doesn't know the exact number of listeners who tune in to Ukrainian Time on Saturdays at 6 p.m., he regularly sees how much his content is appreciated and needed more than ever.
“It's a bit of the cement that holds our community together,” he slips, about the show that has been on the air since 1963.
Two memorable interviews
Galyna Legenkovska, the mother of little Mariia
Galyna Legenkovska agreed to do an interview in Ukrainian with Simon Kouklewsky after meeting her at the funeral home. They of course touched on the drama of the death of her daughter Mariia Legenkovska, 7, victim of a hit-and-run on the way to school in Montreal, but also Orthodox Christmas, celebrated on January 6, which was approaching. “In the Ukrainian tradition, a place is always reserved at the table for the deceased. And she told me about the place reserved for Mariia… Without crying. She's a really strong woman,” he recalls, as tears well up in his eyes.
The director also helped the mom organize a press conference and sang at the funeral of the little Mariia.
Ryan Puncture, who fought in Ukraine
“I met him at a demonstration in Montreal, he fought in Ukraine and he came back. Ryan lost non-Ukrainian colleagues while he was there, he was not immediately ready to talk about it… It was a very delicate interview. You ask the questions, and you let the talk”, explains the Ukrainian time producer.
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