The Ukrainian Hall’s history dates back to 1928 when it was built as the Ukrainian Labor Temple by immigrants from the prairies and Europe.
“Coming out of war and internment camps, we knew we needed a meeting place for mutual support. There was no welfare or social services – we had to do it for ourselves…. We didn’t know how to build a hall, we just did it – built it with our own hands in 1928, then paid off the mortgage in three years, paid it off in pennies, nickels, dimes.” - Bread & Salt
Immediately upon opening the association sponsored a full slate of cultural, educational and social activities. But within a year of the hall’s opening, Vancouver was hard hit by the Great Depression. The hall became a focal point of labour struggles of the Dirty 30s. It was the organizational headquarters for the occupation of the Carnegie Museum and the On-to-Ottawa Trek in 1935 and a place of refuge for strikers in the great Post Office Sit-in of 1938.
After Germany invaded Poland, Canada entered the war, invoking the War Measures Act. The hall was padlocked under “Defense of Canada Regulations”. Although the Association had lost their hall, they were welcomed by the Croatian Hall (now called the Russian Hall), and the Italian and Finnish Halls, so they continued their dancing and language schools and raised thousands of dollars for the war effort.
“After the Soviet Union allied with Canada in the war against the Nazis, the ban against the Association was lifted. But we had to petition the federal government to get back our halls. There was a 6 ½ block parade when the Ukrainian Hall reopened… We were coming back to our home.” – Bread & Salt
THE STORY OF “WAITING FOR LEFTY”
During the 1935 six month lock-out strike between the Longshoremen’s Union and the Shipping Federation, Labour Defense lawyer Garfield King got together with actor/director Guy Glover to form Vancouver’s Progressive Arts Club.
“We felt an urgency in the air, a need for theatre with a little blood to it, some substance and real life themes.” – Bread & Salt
Putting out a call for workers interested in “plays of social significance with revolutionary implications
” (BC Worker’s News)
, Glover and King organized a workers’ theatre troupe composed of unemployed workers. They found help at the Ukrainian Labor Temple who gave them free rehearsal space and volunteers from its cultural programs. Two thirds of the actors were Ukrainian, including sixteen year old Harry Hoshowsky (who played mandolin in the Vancouver Folk Orchestra up until last Christmas). The cast rehearsed and premiered a new play that had been banned in seven cities: Clifford Odet’s “Waiting for Lefty”, the story of New York taxi drivers meeting to vote on whether or not to go on strike. Playing to packed houses and standing ovations at this very hall Oct. 25, 1935, and then across the Lower Mainland, the play toured Canada to the 1936 Dominion Drama Festival where it won the prize for Best English Language Play.
85th ANNIVERSARY OF THE ASSOCATION OF UNITED UKRAINIAN CANADIANS (AUUC)
The Association of United Ukrainian Canadians has a rich and proud heritage in the Downtown Eastside. Since its founding in 1928, the Hall has been involved in efforts to support social justice and in building cultural programs, providing a continuous program of instruction and performance in dance and choral and instrumental music.
Today the AUUC sponsors Vancouver’s longest running folk orchestra, the Barvinok Folk Choir, the AUUC School of Dancing, the highly trained Dovbush Dancers, and the annual Malanka, a Ukrainian New Year Celebration. The Association produces artistic activity throughout the year and is a host of rehearsals and cultural events produced by visiting cultural groups and arts organizations.
For more information visit: www.auucvancouver.ca