Association of Ukrainian Women in Great Britain (OUZ) [Організація Українських Жінок у Великій Британії] – a community organisation bringing together Ukrainian women and other women with Ukrainian connections.
The Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB) began to promote the idea of forming a Ukrainian women’s organisation, as an autonomous section of the AUGB, in the first half of 1948, by which time about 4,000 Ukrainian women had arrived in Great Britain, predominantly as European Voluntary Workers. An organising committee of seven women was formed to carry out initial preparatory work. At its meeting on 21-22 August 1948 the AUGB executive committee approved the Rules of OUZ (as the organisation is now known – from the Ukrainian Orhanizatsiia Ukrainskykh Zhinok) and appointed a temporary OUZ executive comprising members of the organising committee. At the inaugural OUZ general meeting held on 5-6 March 1949 a set of resolutions was adopted on the further development of the organisation, including the establishment of local branches where there were branches of the AUGB, and a new executive committee was elected.
The number of OUZ branches gradually increased to a peak of 35 in the first half of the 1980s, and then began to decrease. In mid-2017 there were 14 active branches (in Ashton-under-Lyne, Bradford, Coventry, Derby, Gloucester, Keighley, Leicester, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Rochdale, Stockport, Waltham Cross, Wolverhampton). Initially only members of the AUGB could join OUZ, but in 1954 its Rules were amended to allow any Ukrainian woman residing in Great Britain to join. Some non-Ukrainian women who were married to Ukrainians also became members. In time, OUZ’s membership came to consist predominantly of women of Ukrainian descent born in Great Britain. A small number of women who came to Great Britain from Ukraine after it became independent also joined the organisation. In 1956 membership fees were introduced to raise funds for OUZ (previously the activities of the organisation were financed mainly by the AUGB). In connection with this OUZ began to maintain a register of its members, of whom, at the end of 1957, there were 468. There were 1,800 active members in 1974, and about 450 in mid-2017. In 2018 OUZ ceased to be an AUGB section, and in 2019 it became a corporate member of the Association.
In the period up to the end of the 1980s OUZ engaged in various cultural activities, lobbying and campaigning, and charitable work. Courses and competitions in embroidery, Easter egg making and other skills were organised, as were exhibitions of Ukrainian folk arts, both within the Ukrainian community and for the wider British public. Some OUZ branches created permanent exhibitions at AUGB local centres. In 1964 the OUZ national executive opened a Ukrainian folk arts museum in Leicester, which was transferred to Manchester in 1971 and named the Alla Horska Museum.
The main aim of OUZ’s lobbying and campaigning activities was to draw the attention of the British public to the situation of Ukrainian women in Soviet Ukraine, especially political prisoners and their families. These activities became particularly prominent from 1974 when OUZ began to organise annual events in connection with International Women’s Day (8 March), involving protests outside the Soviet embassy in London, petitions to the British Government, days of prayer attended by British Members of Parliament and other prominent figures, etc.
Since 1990 a major part of OUZ’s activities has been concerned with the provision of medical and other material aid to various categories of people in Ukraine and other countries of Eastern Europe. For this purpose the Organisation set up the Ukrainian Children’s Appeal Fund, through which it has helped, among others, victims of the 1986 Chornobyl disaster and the 1998 floods in Transcarpathia, less well-off Ukrainians in Romania and Bosnia, gifted Ukrainian students, victims of the violence in Kyiv in February 2014 during the Euromaidan protests, and members of Ukraine’s armed forces taking part (since 2014) in the conflict in the Donbas region. By the first half of 2017 the Organisation had raised and distributed aid to the value of approximately £500,000. In addition to this, individual branches directly sponsor their own projects in Ukraine, in particular, providing support to orphanages.
Other OUZ branch activities include the commemoration of the lives of prominent Ukrainian women and events in Ukrainian history, providing support for older members of the Ukrainian community and those in ill health, organising catering at community events, etc. In the past some local branches had women’s choirs which performed at community events.
OUZ is a member of the World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organisations (since the establishment of the latter in November 1948), as well as of the Ukrainian World Congress, the European Congress of Ukrainians and the National Council of Women of Great Britain. In the past some OUZ branches were members of local branches of the Standing Conference of Women's Organisations. From 1956 to 2005 the Ukrainska Dumka newspaper included a ‘Women’s page’ which was prepared, usually once a month, by the OUZ national executive, and after 2005 occasional articles on the activities of the organisation appeared in the newspaper. In 1967 and 1991 the organisation published compendiums of information about its work to mark its 15th and 40th anniversaries, respectively.
OUZ has been chaired by: Olena Karpynec-Jenkala (1948-1949, 1961-1962), Myroslava Dublanyсia (1949), Natalia Hortynska (1950-1951), Yoanna Witoszynska (1951-1952), Anna Myroshnychenko (1952-1953), Hanna Ses (1954-1955), Helena Moncibowycz (1955-1957), Irene Kaluzhny (1957-1958, 1959-1960), Olga Rosnecka (1958-1959), Anastasia Ostapiuk (1960-1961, 1962-1973, 1977-1985), Aleksandra Markiw (1973-1977), Bohdana Krushelnycky (1985-1991), Lessia Djakowska (1991-2005), Maria Finiw (2005-2021), Iryna Terlecky (2021- ).
‘Obiednannia Ukrainskykh Zhinok Velykoi Brytanii’, in Ukrainka u vilnomy sviti (New York, 1959), pp. 33-36
‘Association of Ukrainian Women (A.U.W.) in Great Britain’, in Ukrainian Woman in the Modern Age, ed. by L. Povroznyk (London, 1963), pp. 13-21
Vidrodzhennia na chuzhyni: 15-littia dialnosty OUZh u Velykii Brytanii (1948-1963), ed. by H. Ses and N. Martschenko (London, 1967)
Vidrodzhennia na chuzhyni: 25-littia dialnosty Orhanizatsii Ukrainskykh Zhinok u Velykii Brytanii (1963-1988), ed. by N. Martschenko (London, 1991)
Djakowska, L., ‘50 rokiv pratsi Orhanizatsii Ukrainskykh Zhinok u Velykii Brytanii’, in 50-littia SFUZhO: Yuvileina knyha Svitovoi Federatsii Ukrainskykh Zhinochykh Orhanizatsii 1948-1998, ed. by M. Shpir (Toronto, 2002), pp. 183-192
Holovna Uprava OUZh, ‘…Bo tysiacha dorih, milion vuzkykh stezhynok Mene na nyvu batkivsku vede’, Ukrainska Dumka (London), 21-28 April 2007, p. 5
‘Orhanizatsiia Ukrainskykh Zhinok u Velykii Brytanii: zvit dialnosti zhovten 2014 – veresen 2015’, Ukrainska Dumka (London), 28 November 2015, pp. 9-10
Revival in Exile III: Association of Ukrainian Women in Great Britain, ed. by L. Djakowska (London, 2021)