Yorkshire Film Archives

Capturing Ukrainian culture in Yorkshire

The Ukrainian Video Archives Society (UVAS) collection is being catalogued with support from BFI’s Heritage 2022 preservation project and the National Archives’ Archives Revealed programme. The Society began filming in 1983, with the express mission to record the life of the Ukrainian community in Bradford. As the collections grew, the small group of videographers recognised the significance of the material, and they expanded their work to capture important events, both in the UK and abroad. Their films were shown throughout the Ukrainian community, and carefully stored away for future reference.

The collection reflects important celebrations and traditions within the community including religious festivals, performances from dance ensembles and choirs as well as events held by the various community organisations in Bradford. It also includes documentary footage of the wider Ukrainian community, including the Yorkshire towns of Huddersfield, Halifax and Keighley, as well as those in the north west and midland regions.

The videographers also made films of Ukrainian performing artists who visited the UK, including classical musicians, folk dancers, choirs and pop musicians, as well as politically significant events such as Ukrainian presidential visits to the British Prime Minister. This is a unique collection of footage from over 700 videotapes created by first-and second-generation immigrants of their community and transition to life in the UK, to be passed to next generations as a record of the part the Ukrainian community has played in contributing to the rich diversity of Bradford.

Bradford’s Ukrainian Community

The Ukrainian community in Bradford was established after the end of the Second World War, when thousands of Ukrainians, having been displaced by the conflict, came to the UK as part of the European Volunteer Worker (EVW) scheme. The Ukrainians who went to Bradford found work in the city’s mill industries, and quickly organised themselves to create community organisations. They purchased churches and community centres which became hubs for cultural activity including dancing, singing and music, a Ukrainian Saturday School, as well as providing spaces for community organisations to do social and welfare work.

Two people standing by TV screens and video-playing equipment

Bohdan Lanvoy and Michael Fedyszyn (Image credit: Ukrainian Video Archives Society)

This work and community life was done against a backdrop of the Soviet regime, which meant that the diaspora was key in terms of keeping Ukrainian identity and culture alive. The Ukrainian diaspora, both pre-independence in 1991 and now, is a global diaspora. As well as the established communities in Canada, the USA and other European countries, there are communities in South America, Africa and South Asia. Since 1991, the community has been refreshed by a new wave of Ukrainians settling in the UK, and by easy and affordable opportunities to travel back to Ukraine. This has had a huge benefit on the older members of the community, many of whom feared they would never revisit their homeland, and on second and third generations who have been able to reconnect with friends and family, and visit those places which they had heard so much about.

Why this project is important

The Yorkshire Film Archive is strongly committed to increasing access to diverse collections made in or about our regions, especially from communities that are currently under-represented. The Ukrainian Video Archives Society collection was recognised as an extraordinary opportunity to further the depth and breadth of our knowledge, our collections, and our good practice of working ethically, collaboratively and in partnership with our depositors.

For more information, contact info@yfanefa.com, or visit the Yorkshire Film Archives website:

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