On Tuesday, April 21, 2015, in his 29th year of life, Yurij Petlura fell asleep in the Lord in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Yurij was born on April 23, 1986 in Hamilton, the first child of Volodymyr and Luba Petlura. He was the grandson of Oleksander Petlura, who was was a colonel in the Ukrainian Peoples Republic and a younger brother of Otaman Symon Petlura, and also descended from the aristocratic lineage of the Vitkovytsky family (on his paternal grandmother’s side), as well as from the Ukrainian patriotic families of Maksym and Iwaneczko.
Yurij was christened in St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Hamilton, where he later became an alter boy, sang in the church choir, and attended Ukrainian School. He completed his Ukrainian High School Matriculation at the Ukrainian Youth Association (CYM) in Hamilton. He attended Holy Spirit Elementary School, then Orchard Park Secondary School, then McMaster University where he obtained two Honour Degrees, one in Physics and one in Music. After that, Yurij obtained a Teaching Certificate from OISE (Ontario Institute of Secondary Education).
From his early years Yurij was active in both church and Ukrainian community cultural activities. As a young boy he was a member of the Hryhory Kytasty Youth Bandura Chorus, Toronto, under the direction of Victor Mishalow. With the establishment in 2001 of the Canadian Bandurist Capella (CBC), Yurij became its concertmaster. When, in 2013, Andrij Dmytrovych became the new artistic director/conductor, he proposed Yurij for the role of assistant conductor. This collaboration proved to be very fruitful for the capella. During the last two years of his short life Yurij joined the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus (UBC), in the United States, where he played the bandura and also held the position of assistant conductor. A great honour, in his memory, was bestowed upon Yurij when the UBC accepted him, posthumously, into their brotherhood. In every area of his life Yurij conducted himself with the utmost integrity and respect for all. Being a perfectionist Yurij set high standards for himself and was dedicated to the advancement of Ukrainian culture and history through the bandura.
In 1999 during a month-long family trip to Ukraine, Yurij spent time in Lviv with extended family, visited other family in the village of Vovche near the Carpathian mountains, and spent a few days in Kyiv. This experience enriched and strengthened his understanding of Ukraine’s history and culture as well as his family roots. In 2012 he again traveled to Ukraine as an election observer with CANADEM, sent to the Donetsk area, for the parliamentary elections.
In the year 2000 Yurij began recording solo instrumental bandura pieces in a make-shift studio in the family basement. With the help of his brother Oleksander, also a member of the Canadian Bandurist Capella and now a sound engineer, the CD came to fruition in 2005. The CD consists of eight unique interpretations of both Ukrainian and classical pieces played on the Lviv and Chernihiv banduras. Two pieces – “Breath of the Ukrainian Steppes” and “Carpathian Rhapsody” are original arrangements by Yurij.
From 2004 to 2011 Yurij was an instructor at the “Kobzarska Sich” bandura camp in Emlenton, Pennsylvannia, USA. The three years from 2012 to 2014 Yurij, along with Oleh Sozansky from Lviv, Ukraine, became co-directors of the camp. From 2010 to 2014 Yurij also organized and ran the bandura and song summer camps at ODUM “Ukraina” Country Club in London, Ontario. Yurij, besides being a talented musician, was also a very gifted pedagogue. Patience, respect for the student and individualized approach to instruction earned Yurij the respect and love of his students. The camp grew in numbers yearly and, at the 2015 camp, was renamed in Yurij’s honour.
Due to the ongoing difficulties of obtaining teaching employment in Canada, Yurij continued providing private lessons in piano, bandura and physics tutoring. After a couple of years he accepted a temporary position teaching Physics in London, England at Harris Westminster Sixth Form, a newly opened school for high-academic low-income students. Although it was a very stressful situation Yurij, nevertheless, successfully completed two terms, from September 2014 to end of March 2015.
Yurij was deeply religious and an outstanding human being, a role model of kindness, humility, generosity, compassion and honesty. He loved the tranquility of nature. He enjoyed the peace, love and warmth of family life, particularly spending fun times with his siblings. He was a loving, caring son and grandson, and especially looked forward to visiting his God-children Maksym Dmytrovych and Ksenia Yuzkiw on their birthdays and holidays. Yurij made a difference in his short time on this earth. He left a lasting legacy among all with whom he came into contact, evidenced by the hundreds of tributes from around the world, along with memorials and awards in his name.
The Funeral Rite on Monday, April 27, 2015 was held at St. Vladimir Cathedral with overflowing capacity. It was co-celebrated by Rt. Rev. Mitred Archpriest Wasyl Makarenko, Rt. Rev. Mitred Archpriest Dr. Jaroslaw Buciora, and Rt. Rev.Protopresbyter Bohdan Sencio. The choir, conducted by Oksana Sushko, consisted of church choir members along with members of both bandura capellas. One panakhyda was held on Saturday, April 25 at Markey-Dermody Funeral Home, while the second panakhyda was held on Sunday in the church, where Yurij’s body then lay overnight with a vigil held by family and close friends until the funeral on Monday. Panakhydas were also held in Ukraine organized by family and friends. Internment took place at St.Volodymyr Cemetery in Oakville, ON. Yurij is resting next to his grandmother Irene Petlura. On Saturday, May 30, 2015 at St. Volodymyr Cathedral in Toronto a 40th-day panakhyda was held, co-celebrated by His Grace Bishop Andrij, Acting-Bishop of the Eastern Eparchy and Rt. Rev. Protopresbyter Bohdan Sencio.
The family of blessed memory Yurij extends their sincere gratitude to all clergy for their attendance and prayers, as well as to family, friends, colleagues, and students for their expressions of sympathy, prayers, flowers and generous donations to the Canadian Bandurist Capella (CBC), Ukrainian Social Services Hamilton, and St. Vladimir Cathedral in Hamilton. A special thank you is extended to Volodymyr Chewchuk, president of the CBC, who was the master of ceremonies at the luncheon following the funeral, as well as to all who shared memories and kind words about Yurij. A sincere thank you also goes out to Oleh Mahlay, conductor of the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus for his tribute at Sunday’s panakhyda where he spoke of Yurij’s amazing personality, his positive influence, his potential, and expressed profound sadness at the loss of such an exceptional musician and wonderful person.
Left to mourn and to pray for Yurij’s eternal memory are his parents Luba and Volodymyr, brother Oleksander, sister Christina, grandmother Pelagia Maksym, Uncle Orest Maksym with family, extended family in Canada, America and Ukraine, as well as countless friends. Yurij was a pure and gentle soul with a heart of gold. Sleep peacefully dear, beloved son.