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UCCLF honours Ukrainian Canadians who served in WWII at Edmonton commemoration

For Immediate Release - March 20, 2023 (Edmonton)

The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation (UCCLF) hosted a commemorative event titled Heroes of their Day in Edmonton March 15, honouring the thousands of Ukrainian Canadians who served Canada during the Second World War.

UCCLF’s Andriy Harasymiw explained the Heroes of Their Day project, while keynote speaker Lt.-Gen. (Ret’d) Paul Wynnyk spoke of his family’s history in Canada. He told of how some family were required to register as “enemy aliens” during the 1914-1920 national internment operations, while others, like his father and uncle, served with the Canadian Armed Forces in WWII. His uncle Bill Wynnyk served in the Royal Canadian Air Force and was killed in battle.

“I was very pleased to attend and speak at this event,” said Wynnyk. “Projects like Heroes of Their Day represent the best elements of our community: faith, honour, sacrifice and beauty. I commend the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation for its initiative to commemorate the valour of Ukrainian Canadian servicemen and servicewomen, as well as their subsequent efforts to repatriate displaced persons and refugees after the Second World War ended.”

Taking place at the Royal Canadian Legion (Norwood Branch), Rev. Fr. Don Bodnar of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and Rev. Fr. Cornell Zubritsky of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada conducted a Panachyda, praying for the Ukrainian Canadians who served in WWII as well as for the Ukrainians fighting in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

A screening of director John Paskevich’s film Canadian War Story followed. Combining archival photographs and film with firsthand oral accounts, it paid dramatic tribute to the Ukrainian Canadian military personnel who contributed to the Allies’ victory. Ukrainian Canadians enlisted in great numbers to fight for Canada – their enlistment percentage the highest of any ethnic group outside other British Canadians.

The evening’s event was part of UCCLF’s multiphase Heroes of Their Day project.

The first phase was the unveiling of a memorial stained-glass window at St. James’s Parish in London, England, in the church used by the Ukrainian Canadian Servicemen’s Association (UCSA) during the Second World War. A postcard campaign reaching some 3,500 surviving veterans and their descendants on May 8, 2020 – Victory in Europe Day – called attention to the importance of this date and the contributions of Ukrainian Canadians in uniform.

The project’s second phase commemorated veterans in a more unique and evocative way, taking the form of an icon of the Mother of God watching over servicemen and servicewomen.

Kyiv iconographers Oleksandr Klymenko and Sofia Atlantova were selected to create the icons intended for hanging in participating churches across Canada to honour the generations of Ukrainian Canadian and Ukrainian servicemen and servicewomen. As has become their style, Klymenko and Atlantova wrote the icon unveiled Wednesday on ammunition boxes sourced from the battlefields in Ukraine. The icon’s Покрова image is especially appropriate since The Protection of Our Most Holy Lady, the Theotokos, has historically been venerated by those praying for the safety of those serving in the defence of country.

The commissioned icon will be installed in the cathedrals of both the Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox churches in Canada. To date, the Heroes of Their Day Pokrova icon has been received by the cathedrals in Winnipeg, Edmonton and Toronto. The project is funded in part by Veterans Affairs Canada’s Commemorative Partnership Program.

Distinguished Guest Speaker, Lieutenant General ( Ret’d ) Paul Wynnyk


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