Inveterate Voyager: J.B. Rudnyckyj on Ukrainian Culture, Books, and Libraries in the West during the "Long Cold War"

By Prymak, Thomas M. | Canadian Slavonic Papers, March 2009 | Go to article overview

Inveterate Voyager: J.B. Rudnyckyj on Ukrainian Culture, Books, and Libraries in the West during the "Long Cold War"


Prymak, Thomas M., Canadian Slavonic Papers


ABSTRACT:

This paper deals with J.B. Rudnyckyj (1910-1995), a leading Ukrainian émigré scholar of the Cold War period, and his manifold contributions to library science in Canada and the West in general. Although he was a philologist and lexicographer by training and profession, Rudnyckyj took a keen interest in all Ukrainian books and libraries to which he had access during this period. From his very immigration to Canada in 1949, he traveled extensively in this country, in the USA, and in Western Europe. Everywhere he went, he investigated local private Ukrainian, public, and academic libraries, museums, and cultural centres, met with resident scholars, both émigré and Western, and wrote about them in his voluminous publications. These included both travelogues with a strong cultural bent and also more formal library descriptions. For two decades he also compiled extensive yearly bibliographies of Slavic publications in Canada. Rudnyckyj's motivation, it seems, was a desire to document and preserve the Ukrainian cultural heritage which he thought was under threat in his ancestral European homeland. Today, all this material forms a valuable resource for the history of Slavic studies in Canada during the time of the "Long Cold War" (1945-1991). It also says much about Ukrainian culture in North America in general during this period.

Jaroslav B. Rudnyckyj (1910-1995) was a leading Ukrainian émigré scholar during the period of the long Cold War, which began with the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945 and ended in 1991 with the collapse of me Soviet Union. A philologist and linguist by training, he made significant contributions to Ukrainian scholarship in many areas including Ukrainian dialectology, lexicography, etymology, onomastics, folklore studies, and library science and bibliography. Although he is mainly known in scholarship for his important but unfinished two-volume Etymological Dictionary of the Ukrainian Language, his Ukrainian-German dictionary, and his extensive study of the term and name "Ukraine,"1 he also penned several travel books, as well as surveys of Ukrainian libraries and library collections that deserve attention. The works on his academic travels and on bibliography and library science are the subjects of the present paper.2

J.B.Rudnyckyj was in many ways a typical Ukrainian émigré scholar of the so-called DP (Displaced Persons) emigration that fled to the West before the advance of the Soviet Army during the final phase of the Second World War. He was born and spent his early childhood in the town of Przemysl (Peremyshl in Ukrainian) in Habsburg Galicia and received his university education in Slavistics at the University of Lwów (Lviv in Ukrainian) in what was then an Eastern, largely Ukrainian inhabited, province of inter-war Poland. His doctoral thesis supervisor was the Polish scholar, Witold Taszycki, a specialist in the study of Slavic names ("onomastics"), and Rudnyckyj inherited this interest from his supervisor whom he greatly admired. After receiving his doctorate in Lviv in 1937, with the blessing of his Polish supervisor, Rudnyckyj went to Berlin to work on an ambitious Ukrainian-German dictionary at the Ukrainian Scientific Institute in that city. (The conservative Ukrainian "Hetmán" had established the Ukrainian Scientific Institute in Berlin, but Rudnyckyj 's association with it was purely academic.) At the outbreak of war in 1939, Rudnyckyj (still a Polish citizen) was briefly arrested by the Gestapo, but managed to be released and in 1940 completed his "Habilitation" (which was required for university teaching) at the Ukrainian Free University in Prague (Ukrains'kyi vil'nyi universytet u Prozi). He remained in Prague for the rest of the war, married Maryna Antonovych, a girl from a very distinguished Ukrainian émigré family, and was resident there when his big UkrainianGerman dictionary was published. At war's end in 1945, with the Soviet Army approaching the city, he moved to the American zone of occupation in Western Germany. …

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