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Oksana Zakydalsky (nee Witushynsky) March 13, 1941 – August 10, 2023

Sep 9, 2023 | Featured, In Memoriam

Oksana – a researcher, journalist, editor, educator, dedicated Plast leader and volunteer worker, loving mother and grandmother, a woman of vision and action who raised Ukrainian youth and her own family, inspired the community, and contributed to rebuilding nationhood in her ancestral homeland.

Oksana passed away in Toronto after a brief illness. She was born in Krakow, the eldest daughter of Orysia Witushynsky-Krywyniuk and Ivan Witushynsky. Caught in the clutches of the Second World War, she emigrated with her mother and sister Ivanka to Canada from the Displaced Persons camps of war-ravaged Europe in the late 1940s and grew up in the large and vibrant Ukrainian community in Toronto. Oksana undertook undergraduate studies at McGill University and completed a Masters degree at the London School of Economics.

After a few years working in the United States, Oksana and her husband Taras returned to Toronto in the late 1970s. She worked in management positions with the Ontario government, together with Taras raised her two sons Danylo and Orest, and dedicated countless volunteer hours to the Ukrainian community in Toronto and beyond. Oksana was a long-time regular correspondent for “The Ukrainian Weekly,” as well as other community papers, writing news and interesting articles on educational, cultural, and political topics.

A lifelong member and leader in Plast, Ukrainian Youth Organization, Oksana was passionate about educating youth and sharing her experiences. She was the chief editor of Plast’s “Yunak” magazine (1995-2005), creating numerous handbooks and booklets of materials for programs and badges, and acting as a valuable resource for the organization. As a member of the editorial board of the book “Plast, Ukrainian Scouting, a Unique Story” she researched and wrote the chapter on the history of Plast in Canada.

In 1989, before Ukraine gained independence, Oksana organized and led the first youth exchange between Canadian and Ukrainian youth from “Mala Akademia” in Lviv. Participants were billeted in private homes and had opportunities for many unique encounters. She was also a teacher at a Ukrainian Saturday School in Toronto, where she developed and taught two new courses.

Oksana was a board member and volunteer of the Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Centre (UCRDC) for more than three decades, where she oversaw numerous innovative projects of film, print and displays.

In what little spare time she had, Oksana most enjoyed travelling, almost always with her dear sister, Ivanka (Naka). She was blessed with a large extended family, both hers – the Hromiaks, Paladichuks, Cholkans аnd Tymochkos – and her husband Taras’ – the Kraichyks and the Maksymiws – with whom she spent many evenings around the family table. She liked her humour like she liked her wine: dry but tasteful. Many well-known politicians, Ukrainian patriots, activists, writers, and artists were among her close acquaintances. In her later years, her grandchildren brought her much joy and delight. Oksana will be greatly missed by her family and many friends in Canada, the United States, and Ukraine.

Oksana belonged to the “Lisovi Mavky” Plast sorority, and her Plast sisters in bidding farewell paid tribute to her tireless work on behalf of the Plast and Ukrainian communities in Canada, the USA, Ukraine, and elsewhere. Oksana was ready to help everyone, faithfully, quietly, and sometimes it seemed secretly. Just like a Mavka, Oksana was unique. In her heart, there was something that never dies: love, passion, and kindness for all.

May she be remembered eternally.
Вічная Пам’ять!

Bohdan Kolos

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