As a child, Stacey Zembrzycki listened to her baba’s stories about Sudbury’s small but polarized Ukrainian community and about what it was like growing up ethnic during the Depression. According to Baba discloses with honesty and respect what happened when Stacey tried to capture the community's experiences through oral history research. Baba looms large in the narrative, wrestling authority in the interview process away from her granddaughter and then eventually coming to share it. Together, the two women lay the groundwork not only for an insightful and deeply personal social history of Sudbury’s Ukrainian community but also for truly collaborative oral history research and writing.
About the author
- Short-listed, Kobzar Literary Award, Shevchenko Foundation
Stacey Zembrzycki is an oral and public historian of immigrant, ethnic, and refugee experiences. She is the co-editor of Oral History Off the Record: Toward an Ethnography of Practice (2013).
“Who has not struggled to understand the older people in their lives,” asks Zembrzycki by way of her conclusion to this tremendously interesting and thoughtful book. This study provides a good, honest reckoning with an unusual research process. In this sense, it does all historians a service because it makes obvious those parents, grandparents, and other older people who almost invariably inspire – but almost never receive more than a passing mention – in the work of academic historians.
Canadian Historical Review
Community studies inform us about social organization and general conditions, and this study does indeed show us how the community as a whole functioned. But Zembrzycki brilliantly organizes her book so that oral histories show us individual lives: the women who refused to talk about domestic violence but could not leave out all signs of it; women who gleaned a feeling of belonging by working with other women, often to raise money for the Catholic Church; octogenarians who fondly remembered themselves as teenagers going to dances and eating fried chicken sandwiches early in the morning; men who described the excessive heat in the mines that caused many to pass out.
This study is grounded in careful research in both written records and oral histories. It is also deeply personal and unforgettable.
Ontario History Review