Rediscovering Ukraine: UATV Reporter Reconnects with Homeland
The story of a passionate photographer, who came to Ukraine to make it better
Armed with an array of cameras, Michael Lahoda has crisscrossed the world – seeking to capture great shots. In 2016, the Canadian photographer and videographer arrived in Ukraine.
“Ukraine is really going through a period of change right now. And there’s really a big push for the youth in the creative industry, and movie industry, and photography, and arts. After working as a freelancer for the company, I decided to move to Ukraine, because my family is, actually, from Ukraine,” Michael said.
Michael’s grandparents left the country’s Poltava Region in the grips of World War II. Back then, his grandfather, Viktor Lahoda, who had to serve in the Red Army, was taken to a German-run prison camp in Ukraine.
“In the camp, when my father was there, he already knew that approximately 15,000 people were executed. And the reason that they were executed was that the camp was overpopulated,” Viktor said.
To reduce the number of captives, German soldiers executed every 5th person in prisoner lineups, he said. To avoid the same fate, Michael’s grandfather escaped. But the Lahoda family was forced into hiding again; this time from Soviet forces. Viktor’s mother was the last one to cross the bridge from Chernivtsi to Romania.
“It was blown up. And the Soviet tanks rolled up to the river and they started bombarding over the river. So, they escaped that place. They got away from the Soviet Army,” Viktor said.
After escaping Ukraine, they moved to Austria, Germany, and Venezuela. Only in 1953, they arrived in Canada by pure accident.
Though Michael’s ancestors never returned to Ukraine, the Lahoda family always followed its national traditions. Michael himself started dancing Hopak at the age of nine.
“I didn’t really want to do Ukrainian dancing and so, my dad gave me this little envelope of money and he said: “I want you to take this envelope and give it to that lady”. I said: “OK”. I took the envelope, gave it to the lady. And, basically, I just registered myself for Ukrainian dance lessons,” Michael said.
“I have lived in Ukraine all my life, but only having met Mishko and the diaspora, I heard so many Ukrainian songs, and I saw a real Ukrainian hopak!” Michael’s girlfriend Yana Lukianchuk said.
Two years ago, Michael met Yana, who comes from Ukraine’s Mykolayiv Region.
When Michael texted me in Ukrainian, I thought: “Oh, perhaps, he is from the West.” I asked: “Are you from the West?” He replied: “Yes, from the West.” ” From Western Ukraine?” He wrote:” A little further to the West. That is, Canada,” she said.
Having left North America, Michael Lahoda joined UA|TV. Now, he works at the channel as an editor and journalist.