The Establishment of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain and its influence on the Ukrainian Diaspora in Scotland

Review by Devin Grier

Peter Kormylo, from the University of Glasgow, joined us on 14 October 2017. Recently retired from a career in public education, Peter now dedicates his time to researching the history of the Ukrainian community in Scotland.  His aim is to fill a wide gap in knowledge, as the literature on the Ukrainian diaspora in the United Kingdom is lacking. Since Scotland’s Ukrainian community has a relatively low profile, it tends to be forgotten.

During the workshop, Peter identified  four distinct waves of Ukrainian migration to Scotland:

Wave 1. Late nineteenth, early twentieth century: migrant laborers who intended to find

Ukrainian Bear

Travelling Ukrainian with his dancing bear outside the Hole in the Wall Pub, Dumfries, 1907

work in the Americas. Many from Ukraine who were destined to cross the Atlantic  stopped off in Scottish ports including  Leith. At this point in their travels, some migrants had already run out of money and decided to disembark in Scotland. Referred as the ‘Little Russians’ by British natives, this small stream of Ukrainians  disappeared into Scottish society.

Wave 2. 1905-1917: political refugees of the Russian Revolution. During this period, the UK government implemented the 1905 Aliens Act which controlled the level of immigration from eastern Europe. The main requirement for entry was that an individual had show  a means of support. As a result, the elite classes made up the majority of this second migratory stream.

Wave 3.  1939-1947: WWII and post-war immigrantsThis period contained four main  elements:

  • 1939: Royal Canadian Airforce: second generation Ukrainians from Canada.
  • 1942: Polish Armed Forces.
  • 1946: Ukrainian displaced persons who refused Soviet Union repatriation, and Ukrainian European voluntary workers.
  • 1947: Surrendered army personnel of the Ukrainian Galicia Division. This wave consisted of Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered on the Eastern Front following Germany’s defeat. The division was removed from its internment in Italy in order to prevent the nearby Soviet Union from repatriating the Ukranian POWs. During peace arrangements, thousands of Ukrainian POWs were transported to workers’ camps in Britain, many of which were in Scotland. Peter’s research is now focused on identifying the Scottish camps that contained sizable Ukrainian communities.

Wave 4. Mid-1980s onwards. After Mikhail Gorbachev became head of state in 1985, the political system of the Soviet Union underwent extreme liberalization. As a result, the number of Ukrainian immigrants to the UK increased. Furthermore, the subsequent fall of the USSR in 1991 ignited an even greater wave of migration to the UK.

14 November Ukrainian play in Edinburgh early 1950sPeter also presented a handful of extraordinary historic photographs of the Ukrainian community in Scotland. Much of Peter’s research has been coloured by the response to his ongoing photo exchange project. His photo exchange holds a wealth of material for those interested in the Ukrainian community.  Anyone  wishing to add to the collection, or inquire about specific images, can email Peter at nasharchiv@btinternet.com