We can see something similar in other spheres as well, in particular in architecture, where the memory of the Ukrainian folk tradition of construction was combined with the progressiveness of American modernist sacred buildings. Something completely new has emerged at the intersection: the Greek Catholic churches, which interrupt the continuity of the Byzantine cross-building churches, break the symmetry, but they surprisingly resemble the shapes of the Carpathian wooden churches. So is the creative legacy of Canadian architect Radoslav Zuk (according to the official Ukrainian transliteration – Radoslav Zhuk). He was born in 1931 in Lubachev (today the city is part of Poland, but at that time it was home to many ethnic Ukrainians). Already in the 1940’s, Radoslav Zuk's family emigrated to Austria, and later to Canada. He received his architectural education at the McGill University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The latter has the reputation of a leading university in the field of technological development and is one of the best technical universities in the world for the training of architects. From 1956 to 1959, Radoslav Zuk worked for the Rother Bland Trudeau architectural firm. He continued his practice, combining it with teaching at the Universities of Toronto and Manitoba, and is now an honorary professor at McGill University.
It would seem that it is impossible to impress us, spoiled by the number of objects of Ukrainian Soviet modernism, the variety of forms and techniques of architecture of the 20th century. However, the network of modernist Greek Catholic churches by Radoslav Zuk, which are a landmark of the province of Manitoba, amazes not only with the multidimensionality of spatial solutions and even not with the variety of themes or styles, but above all with the richness of ideas and scenarios. Radoslav Zuk exquisitely fits his own intellectual interpretation of the Ukrainian architectural tradition into Canadian regional modernism. Its Ukrainian-Canadian regionalism has different modalities: here one can see pure forms of international modernism – light, like paper, plastic elements of the walls with the transparent glass – Holy Family Ukrainian Catholic Church Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (1964), St. Joseph’s Ukrainian Catholic Church Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (1964), and nuanced work with the proportions of vague dimensions of brick layout, as in St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church Transcona, Manitoba, Canada (1966), or a combination of chiselled stained glass textures and natural stone in St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church Tyndall, Manitoba, Canada (1963). Zuk’s regional modernism was embodied in the 1980s in the postmodernist forms of St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Catholic Church Rochester, N.Y., U.S.A. (1979), St. Stephen’s Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Church Calgary, Canada (1982), reminiscent of the works of Louis Kahn and Mario Botta. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was finally possible to build a church in Ukraine as well. In 1995, the construction of the Nativity of the Theotokos Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in Lviv in Sykhiv area began. This church stands out in the work of Radoslav Zuk, because, unlike all his works, its forms are closest to the Byzantine canon, and the heavy dimensions and symmetrical silhouette refer to the archetypal Orthodox cross-building churches. But on the other hand, this church stands out among all modern sacred architecture of Ukraine: with its modernist language it contrasts sharply with the variety of neo-baroque, pseudo-Russian, pseudo-classical and frankly kitsch forms that have flooded all Ukrainian cities in the last 30 years. At the same time, the expressionist paintings of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin by Lviv artist Sviatoslav Vladyka serve as an example of modern art, rather than a rigid icon-painting canon. It is possible that Radoslav Zuk received the State Prize in the field of architecture in 2011 for such a fundamental difference between this object and the Ukrainian “church mainstream”.
But we are most interested in something else: very familiar, recognizable, native and at the same time amazing, stunning and unattainable even for modern Ukrainian architects – the churches of Radoslav Zuk, which interpret the folk wooden architecture of the Carpathians. These are Holy Eucharist Ukrainian Catholic Church Toronto, Ontario, Canada (1967), Holy Cross Ukrainian Catholic Church Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada (1968), Holy Trinity Ukrainian Catholic Church Kerhonkson, N.Y., U.S.A. (1976). They do not repeat old forms, do not quote folk traditions literally, do not appropriate elements and do not style. They speak to the world in simple modern language about complex issues of national identity not in individual words or fragments or even sentences, but in whole stories. At the same time, these architectural statements are not reduced to the modernization of ethnicity. A recognizable silhouette on the horizon, a play of light and shadow in the dome space, the warmth of the wood is almost immensely transfer us in space and time. This architecture is able to evoke a sense of “recalling”, to convey emotion, nuance and more – the essence and meaning that escaped the attention of Ukrainian Soviet architects. This architectural poetry is a manifesto about heritage and culture, about its drama, tragedy, survival and revival. And all the objects-stories of Zuk are lined up in a kind of epic-reflection on the loss of one thing and the acquisition of something completely different, no less valuable.
Just yesterday, Canadian and mainland Ukraine existed as parallel worlds, but the fall of the Iron Curtain made it possible for them to meet. Canadian relatives can now make a pilgrimage to the homeland of their ancestors and vice versa – to invite their Ukrainian family to visit them. Then the mythological idea of the forgotten homeland meets the everyday grey reality of post-Soviet Ukraine. They still have not lost their nostalgia for the Carpathians and rural landscapes, and we still have not forgotten that they also have roots here. And somewhere there, in the middle of the Sykhiv panel residential district, as a material embodiment of this “return”, erects the (post) modernist Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin by Radoslav Zuk – not radical enough for modern America and still too radical for Ukraine.