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Politics

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Belarusans/Madeline Ziniak

After 1945, two Belarusan governments in exile were established in Europe. The Belarusan National Council – Rada – was composed of the Belarusan Catholic intelligentsia under Mikolai Abramchik, first based in Paris and then in New York. It was perceived as being funded by “the Vatican and the London-based Polish government in exile.” Its rival, the Belarusan Central Council, under its president, Radoslaw Ostrowski, had been allowed to exist during Nazi Germany’s occupation of Belarus. After the war, it functioned in the British zone of Germany and then transferred to New Jersey. Both councils considered themselves legitimate heirs to the Belarusan People’s Republic, which had come to power in March 1918 but was later absorbed by the Soviet Union. Neither council, however, represented the majority of Belarusan immigrants of peasant stock who had accepted Canadian citizenship and permanent residence in Canada.

Two major Belarusan organizations emerged in Canada. In 1948 in Toronto some thirty Belarusan veterans of the Polish Second Corps set up the Byelorussian National Alliance, later renamed the Byelorussian Canadian Alliance (BCA). It was headed by Kastus Akula, Michael Pashkevich, Janka Pitushka, and Timothy Solonovich and published Bielaruski emihrant (Belarusan Emigrant; Oshawa, Toronto, 1948–54). The Belaruski Vydavetski Fond (Byelorussian Publishing Fund in Canada) was established in 1949 in Toronto and managed the printing of the Bielaruski emihrant. Another large group of immigrants arrived in 1949 from the United Nations Refugee Relief Administration camps in Germany and Austria. Among them was a group of writers and journalists, known as the Khmarovtsi, led by Serhei Khmara (pseudonym of M. Ziniak) and including Vasil Verbina and Vasil Vir. In Toronto in 1952 they founded the Belarusan National Association (BNA), which was strongly opposed to the two governments in exile.

The BCA sympathized with Abramchik’s government in exile, while the BNA favoured an independent position, advocating active participation in Canadian life. In 1952 this conflict resulted in exclusion of BCA supporters from the editorial board of the Bielaruski emihrant, which was renamed Bielaruski holas/Byelo-russian Voice (Toronto, 1952–92), with Khmara as editor. Vasil Vir of Toronto was co-editor of the paper and wrote extensively in it. The Khmarovtsi initiated a political journal, Narodnym shlakham (People’s Pathway; Toronto, 1951–58), which examined events at home and in Canada.