Kateryna Bandura, Yuri Bilinsky, New Pathway – Ukrainian News
The evening to honour the 90th anniversary of the Ukrainian War Veterans Association of Canada (UWVA), which was held on November 10 at the Trident Banquet Centre, started with a symbolic Honour Guard for Col. Yevhen Konovalets. Konovalets was President of the Ukrainian Military Organization, Commander of the Army of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, the first leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and catalyst for the establishment of the UWVA in Canada. The evening honoured his memory as he was killed 80 years ago, in 1938, by a Soviet agent. Cpt. (Retired) Andre Sochaniwsky CD, along with Flt. Sgt. Yurij Kunyckyj and Cpl. Adrian Kunyckyj brought in the Ukrainian and the Canadian flags, with a framed photo of Konovalets, which they mounted on the stage in front of the audience.
“We wanted to honour and recognize not just the members that created the organization, but also the current serving and fallen members in Canada and Ukraine,” said Sochaniwsky, UWVA’s president, and a former officer in the RCAF.
UWVA was founded in Winnipeg in January 1928 by 16 Ukrainian army veterans, who were former soldiers of the Army of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, the Ukrainian Galician Army and the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen.
The evening honoured Canadian and Ukrainian soldiers of all generations who fought during the World Wars and during the struggle for Ukrainian independence.
Sochaniwsky noted that, days before Canada joined the Second World War in September, 1939, the UWVA pledged its unwavering support to the country. UWVA’s entire Winnipeg branch enlisted in the Canadian army, as well as members in St. Catharines, Sudbury and elsewhere.
“By the end of the Second World War, over 35,000 Canadians of Ukrainian descent served in the armed forces of Canada – an astonishing contribution to the defence of Canada and the free world,” Sochaniwsky told the crowd.
“When people in many cases volunteer their service and die in the act of defending their country – you can’t give more than that,” Sochaniwsky said. “(It is) something that is very difficult for us to imagine, but something we have to appreciate. And we have to respect and honour and acknowledge that had it been not for those people that made this contribution, the world might be quite a different place.”
Anastasia Baczynskyj, youth programming director at the Toronto branch of the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada, said that the community needs to do more to remember war heroes.
Baczynskyj wrote and orchestrated a production entitled “Вождь” dedicated to the memory of Col. Yevhen Konovalets. She said that the goal of the production was to resurrect awareness of and interest in Konovalets as a Ukrainian hero.
“It is shocking how little Ukrainians know and care about the founding father of the “OYH.” He was the central figure who galvanized people into a united front against foreign occupation, organized military action and had one unshakeable goal – the creation a free Ukraine. He was educated, experienced, respected and led thousands around the Globe to join him, Canadians included. Yet, his museum in his hometown in Zashkiv is crumbling and almost abandoned, there is no monument of note to him, no fanfare and no honours in the country he loved so much. How is it that we, especially as Ukrainian Canadians, have forgotten about the man who founded the modern Ukrainian liberation movement as we know it? He did this, not from Ukraine, but from his bases in the Diaspora around the world. All we remember is the mess that was left after his succession, a mess that Stalin cleverly predicted, and one we continue to perpetuate. We have forgotten about the power we possess together as a united community. Konovalets was the unifying force behind the creation of modern Ukraine. It is high time we remember those who unite us, rather than separate us.”
“Вождь” encompassed several artistic and musical elements including performances by Orion Mens Choir, under the direction of Victor Mishalow, and bandurist Borys Ostapienko. The play was performed by actors from Zahrava Ukrainian Drama Theatre, Stefan Genyk-Berezowsky, Oleksiy Slyepukhov and Vasyl Akhtemiychuk. The audio-visual components were created by Peter Sawka.
The stories of many memorable veterans can now be found only in history books. Maj. Markian Holowatyj, who opened the celebration, said that he learned about many Canadian heroes of Ukrainian descent only through attending their funerals.
“You don’t know what their story is and you should not be learning about them at their funeral,” said Holowatyj, a long-time member of the UWVA.
The evening also remembered the ongoing war with Russia in eastern Ukraine and the Ukrainian soldiers and sailors who gave their lives during this unannounced war. “Little did I know that I would be asked to take the helm of this historic organization during the time of war between Ukraine and Russia, and with Canadian units engaged in operations in Ukraine for the first time in history,” said Sochaniwsky.