The Ukrainians of Brazil (Ucraniano-brasileiro; Українці Бразилії, Ukrayintsi Brazylii) are an ethnic minority in Brazil. Currently, 400,000 Ukrainians live in Brazil, 80% (or approximately 350,000) of whom live in a compact region approximately 1,930 square miles (5,000 square km) in size, in the hilly south central part of State of Paraná in southern Brazil. Smaller numbers of Ukrainians have settled in São Paulo, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul.
Brazil has the largest Ukrainian community in Latin America, and the third largest Ukrainian population outside of the former Soviet Union; only the United States and Canada have larger Ukrainian populations. In comparison to Ukrainians in North America, the Ukrainian community in Brazil (as well as in neighboring Argentina) tends to be more descended from earlier waves of immigration, is poorer, more rural, has less organizational strength, and is more focused on the Church as the center of cultural identity. Seventy percent of Brazil's Ukrainians live in agricultural communities known as "colonies" where they tend crops such as wheat, rhye, buckwheat, rice, black beans, and erva mate, a local type of tea.
Although the first settler from Ukraine arrived in 1872, large waves of settlers from Austro-Hungarian controlled Galicia began coming to Brazil in 1895. During a period of time known as the "Brazilian fever", between 1895-1897 more than 20,000 small farmers and landless peasants from Galicia, a region now in western Ukraine, came to Brazil after having been lured by promises of cheap land with good black soil. Instead, they found uncleared forest. Subsequently, only several hundred to one thousand Ukrainians came to Brazil from western Ukraine every year until 1907. During this second wave, which lasted from 1907 until 1914, approximately 15,000 to 20,000 Ukrainians were brought to Brazil by the Brazilian government in order to help build a railroad from State of São Paulo to Rio Grande do Sul through Parana.
Between the two world wars, approximately 9,000 more Ukrainians immigrated to Brazil. This group was more diverse, coming not only from the Galicia region in Ukraine but also from Volhynia, Polesia, as well as in smaller numbers from Transcarpathia, Bukovina and from Ukrainian settlements in Yugoslavia.
The last group of Ukrainians came to Brazil between 1947-1951. Those were mostly seeking asylum from the Soviet authorities who prosecuted them for the alleged or real involvement in Nazi crimes during the war. This group, numbering approximately 7,000 was for the most part more educated and highly skilled compared to previous immigrants, and included many intellectuals. Many of them later emigrated to other countries, especially the United States and Canada, in pursuit of better economic opportunities.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has a strong hold on Ukrainian society in Brazil, where it is wealthy and has massive landholdings. Approximately 85% of Brazil's Ukrainians belong to this Church. Lavish onion-domed churches proliferate throughout the villages in the Ukrainian part of Brazil, despite the modest economic means of the farmers. The Church has been accused of blocking measures to improve the plight of the rural population, for fear that modernization will lessen the population's dependence on it. In some respects rural Brazilian-Ukrainian society resembles that of Galicia in the 19th century. In Prudentopolis, the regional center in Parana whose population is 75% Ukrainian, the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of São Josafat overlooks the city center. There is also a seminary, and Ukrainian printing press run by the Church.
The Ukrainians have preserved their culture to a large degree in rural Parana state. Among those who live in the colonies, or agricultural settlements, Ukrainian is widely spoken at home, in church, and in the community, and mixed marriages in these environments generally take on Ukrainian culture. The Ukrainians' neighbors - Caboclos, Poles, Germans, Italians, and some Dutch - at times accuse the Ukrainians and their priests of maintaining an exclusiveness that sometimes borders on racism, although non-Brazilians who visit the local Ukrainians are treated with the utmost civility. Ukrainians living in the cities, in contrast, tend to become assimiliated into Brazilian culture.
The Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate operate 30 Ukrainian elementary schools, 17 kindergartens, and two secondary schools. They also operate a boarding school in Prudentopolis, as well as teach instructions in the Ukrainian language on Saturdays. Only Ukrainian is spoken in the boarding school.
As a result of an amendement to the constitution of the state of Parana initiated by Ukrainian-Brazilian Deputy Vira Vichymyshyn Azhibert, the Ukrainian language is now taught in state schools as well. In March 1991, it was taught in 4 schools with 600 students; the number of schools adopting the Ukrainian language was expected to grow. The Federal University of Paraná in Curitiba has organized a pedagogical course for Ukrainian-language instructors. Ukrainian Saturday schools operate in Curitiba.