THEY arrived in Bradford as displaced people after the war, beginning a new life in a smoky industrial city far from home.

Ukrainian people settling in Bradford went on to set up an association which became the heart of their community, offering cultural, educational, social and sporting activities for generations. This summer they celebrate its 70th anniversary.

Last month around 500 people turned out for a day of celebrations at Bradford’s Ukrainian Club on Legrams Lane.

Guests including the Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Zafar Ali, watched traditional dancing and music. A gala concert is planned for September 29.

The Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain was founded in 1945 by Ukrainians already living in the UK. Significant numbers of Ukrainians from Displaced Persons camps in Western Germany, Austria and Italy arrived after the war.

Andrij Kalyta, who came with his wife to work in the textile industry in 1947, was among those who set up a Bradford branch of the Association, under the leadership of Ivan Smereka.

Peter Chymera’s grandparents were among other founding members of the club, established in 1948. “During the war they worked in labour camps in Germany. They came here in 1947 as refugees, arriving with nothing, and worked in mills,” he said. “There were about 2,000 active members of Bradford’s Ukrainian Association initially.”

Major roles in community life were attributed to two priests - Fr Michael Ratushynskyj, the Ukrainian Catholic priest, and Fr Yov Skakalskyj the Ukrainian Orthodox priest. Father Ratushynskyj led services at St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Westgate, a focal point for Catholic Ukrainians until 1957 when they bought a church on Fairfield Road, Manningham, which they named The Holy Trinity. In the 1960s a new Ukrainian Catholic church was purchased on Wilmer Road, Heaton. The Ukrainian Orthodox community was based at St Mary Magdalene Church until 1964, when they purchased St Mary The Protectress church in Eccleshill.

The first meeting of the Association in Bradford took place on December 26, 1948, and the first committee was selected, with Walter Korduba as chairman. There were 160 registered members of the Association.

"During the war, many Ukrainian people had been unable to complete their education so encouraged their children to make the most of the educational system in Bradford," said Peter. "Although the dominant religion in Ukraine is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, western regions of Ukraine are the strongholds of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. "Children of Ukrainians in Bradford attended Catholic schools such as St Bede’s, St Joseph’s and Yorkshire Martyrs."

The Association set about organising cultural activities, establishing a choir, drama group and dance ensemble. Concerts were performed for the growing community and by 1949 membership was 439. In 1950 the branch bought premises on Claremont for a cultural centre. The community flourished, and a sports club was formed, consisting of a Ukrainian football team, Dnipro, and a chess team.

The local branch of the Youth Association was also active, and youth choir Dibrova became one of the best Ukrainian choirs in the UK. Dance group Krylati toured Western Europe and appeared on TV’s Opportunity Knocks. The community is also active in sport, particularly football, chess and table tennis.

In 1953 Bradford’s Ukrainian School, named after Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, opened with more than 100 pupils, teaching Ukrainian grammar, literature, history, geography and religion.

Several family-owned Ukrainian delicatessens opened in Bradford, and a Ukrainian co-operative store on Victor Road. Some businesses remain, including Kolos bakery.

In 1964, marking the 20th anniversary of  the Anti-Bolshevik Block of Nations, local organisation the Captive Nations Committee was formed, with members from Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Hungary, Byelorussia and Poland, demonstrating against Russian occupation. Plaques in Bradford Cathedral and Jacob’s Well commemorate the committee.

Bradford and Keighley have an eternal flame commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor in Ukraine, and a memorial plaque stands in Bradford's Memorial Gardens.

A highlight for many Ukrainians was a visit by the Patriarch of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Blessed Josef  Slipyj in May, 1970. The T&A reported that over 1,000 Ukrainians turned out at Leeds Bradford Airport to greet him. 

The Ukrainian community moved into its current premises on Legrams Lane, in 1979, and a new school opened there in 1983, and later a sports pitch.

Today there are a few hundred Ukrainians in Bradford. Said Peter: "Although well integrated in the local community, both the older and younger generation of Ukrainians have not forgotten their culture and continue to ensure it is passed on."