Ukrainian Folk Healing & International Women’s Day | We had so much we wanted to share with our community this month for women’s history month. As many of us in the herbal community and college are women (or identify as women), we well know that historically much of the health care in families and communities was in the hands of women, even if in the era where the “learned” academic medical circles dominated, women and their contributions were not welcomed.
So at this time of great turmoil, we decided to pivot this month to highlight the role of women and women healers within the Ukrainian Culture and Ukrainian community with an introduction to Ukrainian Folk Healing.
A Bit Of History: Ukrainian Women Past and Present
When Ukrainians first started coming to Canada in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s in the first wave of Ukrainian Immigration, the women were actively engaged in much of the labour of creating the government defined homesteads in their new homeland.
They cleared the land by hand to make it suitable for agriculture (a government requirement), birthed and raised children, planted, maintained and harvested large gardens, preserved food, and made remedies and medicine for their families.
It was an all hands on deck kind of a survival situation–with many mouths to feed under the roofs of earthen houses until larger and more permanent shelters could be built. Men often needed to go find work elsewhere–railroads, mines, etc to supplement the family income and invest in animals and equipment and support the family in other ways, and the women managed the farms on their own with whichever children that were old enough to pitch in.
And today Ukrainian women are showing their strength once again, this time for the world to see. They are engaged in anti-corruption work, joining the Ukrainian military and the civillian Territorial Defences, and actively working to coordinate food, medical aid and supplies to the many that are still in Ukraine.
And there are many many determined women volunteering to send medical supplies and provide as much aid as possible from a distance–whether that be across the border or overseas.
Ukrainian and Indigenous Healing
Now on to plants, herbs, and healing practices.
All cultures had reciprocal and important relationships with plants–plants were the original medicines, after all.
We feel it’s important to take a moment to honour the original relationships and value the original teachings and medicinal and healing knowledge of all Indigenous peoples, to the land you are Indigenous to. We also acknowledge that our Indigenous brothers and sisters here have been and continue to battle for their sovereignty and their culture and this land–their homeland– for decades.
There have been many Indigenous allies who have been highlighting the relationship between these early Ukrainian immigrants and the Indigenous community–we thank you for this. As has been shared and highlighted recently, the traditional Ukrainian floral scarf was incorporated into many Indigenous people’s regalia as a symbol of the good relationship and exchanges between our ancestors.
The Indigenous community supported many newcomers in various ways. The winters here were longer, colder and harsher. Many who came were not fully prepared. They brought with them many supplies such as seeds, tools, and healing and medical knowledge: some knew how to set bones, women knew how to birth babies and support many illnesses and acute situations, but they had no shelter waiting for them here and no medical care outside of what was held in the community–located far away from urban centers.
They did have their hands, their will, and their determination. And they didn’t have any other options.
Luckily much of the plant life here was very similar to that back home, so many herbs were known and familiar, allowing a continuation of practice and knowledge, and the crafting of family healing recipes & remedies. But there was without question some exchange of knowledge among cultures and sharing between Indigenous and Ukrainian communities.
Connecting with Ukrainian Healing Traditions
We know we have many of you in our community who are of Ukrainian descent. After all, Canada (also known as part of Turtle Island) has the largest Ukrainian diaspora–that is the largest Ukrainian population– outside of Ukraine (& Russia). And many of us over the past few years have had a longing and a calling to re-connect with and learn our original folk healing traditions, that prefaced and continue to work alongside the medical model (especially so in Ukraine).
So in light of our support of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, and with a special nod towards our women as healers in Women’s History Month, we offer you Ukrainian Folk Healing: Connecting With Ancestral Slavic Medicine Traditions with Wild Rose Communications Manager, Dionne Jennings.
Originally offered and broadcast by The Canadian Herb Conference to registrants in 2020, the conference organizers, along with Wild Rose College, have decided to offer it publicly as a show of solidarity and as a way to support the people of Ukraine.
This was one of the 20 minute mini webinars of the 2020 conference. This introduction outlines healing approaches historically used in Ukrainian folk healing–that which was originally practiced in Ukraine (and still is in some areas–in fact, use of herbs is still very widespread in Ukraine), as well as how those who emigrated from Ukraine to Canada brought these practices and traditions to their new homes.
Filmed in Treaty 1 Territory, join Dionne as she shares a glimpse into Ukrainian folk healing traditions from the past as well as the present (accompanied by some photos of her travels in Ukraine).
How to Support Ukraine
It is my hope that this helps in a small way make Ukraine a relatable place with a topic that we are all passionate about—herbs and healing traditions.
A request: If you took 20 minutes to watch this introduction to Ukrainian folk healing, and feel called to help the people in Ukraine, I humbly request that if you can, to make a donation, however small, to an organization helping to support the Ukrainian people in a meaningful way. The Canadian dollar stretches very far in Ukraine (assuming it can be spent there–depending on the situation on the ground), so all donations matter, no matter the size.
We’ve compiled a list of reputable places to donate to:
–The Ukrainian Canadian Congress has started a Humanitarian Appeal Fund. They are working directly with Ukrainian Government Ministries who advise about the needs on the ground in order to ensure that the donations meet the needs of the Ukrainian people. They also have an extensive and vetted list of other organizations (both Canadian and Ukrainian) to donate to here.
–The Ukrainian Canadian Congress Manitoba Provincial Council also has a list of 2 more legitimate registered charities to make donations to here, as well as providing trusted media and independent news sources for updates on Ukraine.
–Oseredok Ukrainian Cultural & Heritage Centre in Winnipeg has also created a list of places to donate, while also providing trusted media and independent news sources for updates on Ukraine.
–The Canadian Red Cross. The Canadian government has pledged to match donations dollar for dollar up to 10 million CAD–and they’ve reached that threshold. Donations however, are still being accepted and appreciated.
In Person Donations/Supply Drives
There are drives to donate supplies that are being sent directly to Ukraine in many cities across North America. Many vital supplies–particularly medical and first aid supplies (as well as formula and diapers)– are running low in Ukraine (and even in Eastern Poland). There are many volunteers are working to ship what they need most to Ukraine (or to Poland or Romania, to then cross the border into Ukraine).
Here are some organizations we know of currently collecting physical supplies:
Edmonton, AB: “Fill a Plane for Ukraine” campaign. The Alberta Chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Council is accepting supplies and drop offs in person. Address: 11260 184 St NW, Edmonton, AB, Canada, T5S 2S6 Ph: +17808875387. Hours: 9am-9pm.
You can see what’s needed on the Medical Supply List here.
Winnipeg, MB: Winnipeg is accepting donations of medical supplies of all kinds, formula, diapers and baby food for citizens and for the Territorial Defense–aka the civilians who are staying in their country to support and defend Ukraine. The full list of needed supplies can be found here.
Drop off times: Monday, March 7 (between 4pm-8 pm). Address: 935 Main Street, Winnipeg, MB (likely they will be accepting weekly donations–stay tuned to FB for updates).
Saskatoon, SK: Streams of Hopes Aid for Ukraine. You can find drop off times for March 3rd, 4th, 5th & 6th as well as the list of supplies needed here. Address: 3403 Faithfull Avenue, Saskatoon, SK.
Vaughan, ON: 111 Staffern Dr., Vaughan, ON, Canada, L4K 2R2. Delivery deadline: Thursday, March 4.
If you physically want to support with donating supplies and don’t have a drop off point in your town or city, you can fill a box and ship it to various addresses in the States (Illinois & New Jersey) and in Vaughan Ontario, & Edmonton, Alberta in Canada.
You can find the addresses of those accepting boxes filled with supplies to be forwarded to Ukraine here, with more warehouses being organized and added shortly, so stay tuned.
Local Volunteer Opportunities & Other Ways to Support
If you have the desire and ability to offer your hands and your time instead of a monetary donation, all of the above groups need person power to ship, pack, sort and load all donations–visit the links above to sign up.
You can also find a local Ukrainian organization in your city or on Facebook (there are many groups such as I am Ukrainian) or We are Ukrainian 2.0) where community members will share opportunities and fundraisers–via cookie sales, concerts (in person and online) and other events that will be donating proceeds to Ukraine.
A heartfelt thank you for your care and support. I also call for everyone to offer care and support and continue to hold our Indigenous brothers and sisters in our prayers as the work continues with ground penetrating radar to locate graves at former residential school sites.
Bonus: A Ukrainian Language Lesson
I sign off today honouring the strength and resilience of the Ukrainian people–and to the ancestors whom we have inherited this same strength from. You may have (and will continue to) hear this Ukrainian greeting refrain from many Ukrainians of late, in case you were wondering the meaning:
Slava Ukraini слава Україні (Glory to Ukraine). Heroem Slava слава героям (Glory to the Heroes).
I also offer a fervent wish and a prayer that I hope resonates across the globe:
Peace and Freedom for all, (мир і свобода для всіх),