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The Showman and the Ukrainian Cause (Vasyl Avramenko)

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The quixotic and volatile Vasyl Avramenko (1895-1981) used folk dance and film in a life-long crusade to promote Ukraine's struggle for independence to North American audiences. Energetic and charismatic, but also manipulative, impractical, and vain, he was a controversial figure for decades. Born in a village near Kyiv, Avramenko established himself as a performer and dance techer among Ukrainian emigres in central Europe. He immigrated to Canada in 1925 and organized a network of Ukrainian folk dance schools by appealing to the new immigrants' patriotism and to their yearning for cultural survival. Determined to conquer Broadway, he moved to New York City in 1929, where he oversaw his expanding web of dance schools. By the mid-1930s, Avramenko's frenetic activities expanded to filmmaking, and he called for the creation of a "Ukrainian Hollywood". Based on extensive original research, The Showman and The Ukrainian Cause provides a vivid portrait of how cultural and politics can intersect in a diaspora community.