Halyna Beznaczuk, Special to NP-UN.
On 18 May 2022, the Ukrainian community in Ottawa was honoured with the visit of Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall on the occasion of the royal tour to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
When Their Royal Highnesses arrived at the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Ottawa they were first greeted by Halyna Beznaczuk, parishioner of the Cathedral and member of the Royal Visit Organizing Committee, and Ihor Michalchyshyn, CEO & Executive Director of National Ukrainian Canadian Congress, who were the Masters of Ceremonies for the visit. The royal couple were then officially welcomed by Reverend Taras Kinash, Dean of the Cathedral, who had just arrived from Tetiiv, Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine on 22 April 2022 to begin in his position as Dean, Elizabeth Malarek, Parish President of the Cathedral, Yuliya Kovaliv, Ambassador of Ukraine to Canada, Oksana Kyzyma, First Secretary of the Embassy of Ukraine in Canada, Alexandra Chyczij, President of National Ukrainian Canadian Congress, and Yvan Baker, Member of Parliament – Etobicoke Centre.
Following the official welcome, Their Royal Highnesses entered the Cathedral where they were greeted by Right Reverend Mitred Archpriest Dr. Ihor G. Kutash, Dean of St. Mary the Protectress Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Montreal, Québec, Very Reverend Volodymyr Kouchnir, Dean of St. Sophie Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral, Montreal, Québec, and Very Reverend Protopresbyter Maxym Lysack, Dean of Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church, Ottawa, Ontario. Their Royal Highnesses entered the Cathedral to attend a special 10-minute Prayer for Peace Service to pray for peace in Ukraine where about 100 parishioners were in attendance. During the service, the Cathedral choir, led by its conductor Larissa Mason, sang the Paschal troparion Christ is Risen! (“Khrystos Voskres!” – Христос Воскрес), composed by Petro Turchaninov, the Lord’s Prayer (“Otche Nash” – Отче Наш), music composed by Dmitro Bortnianskyy, Mnohaya Leeta (Многая Літа) to wish Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II many many more years, and concluded with the Prayer for Ukraine (Боже Великий Єдиний), the spiritual hymn of Ukraine, written by Oleksandr Koniskiy, music composed by Mykola Lysenko.
Following the prayer service, Their Royal Highnesses entered the Cathedral’s hall for their 30-minute walk-about where they met with a variety of representatives of Ottawa’s Ukrainian organizations. Upon entering the hall, they were greeted in Ukrainian and English with the traditional Ukrainian greeting of bread and salt by Myron Oleskiw and Angie Reshitnyk, parishioners of the Cathedral and members of the Royal Visit Organizing Committee, and three members of Ottawa’s Svitanok Ukrainian Dance Society – Kristina Slodki, Elena Whittam and Erin Ewing. The ceremonial greeting bread was hand made by parishioner Dr. Jennie Dutchak.
The presentations in the Cathedral hall showcased Ukrainian culture and its traditions as well as Ottawa’s Ukrainian ‘beehive’ working to support Ukraine. Similar to Ukrainians in Canada and world wide, Ukrainians in Ottawa have been busy doing traditional activities that have significant meaning and provide personal and collective healing and hope. Similar to bees, Ukrainians seem to be genetically programmed to forego their own personal needs and organize and work to get done what needs to be done.
Their Royal Highnesses started their walk-about by first meeting with the Olia Rudenko and her three children who had recently arrived from Ukraine. Their Royal Highnesses were very interested in learning of the Rudenko’s experiences in Ukraine and making their way to Ottawa. His Royal Highness then met with Cassian Soltykevych, Olenka Bastian and Nataliia Stepchuk, representatives from the Ottawa branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, and Orest Sklierenko of the Canada-Ukraine Foundation, where he learned of the many initiatives these organizations have undertaken to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine and to assist and support displaced Ukrainians arriving in Ottawa and Canada.
At the same time, Her Royal Highness visited with the Pysanka display and demonstration presented by the Ottawa branch of the Ukrainian Women’s Association of Canada at the Cathedral (UWAC-Ottawa). This demonstration was led by Tamara Rudenko-Charalambij who had organized and co-ordinated over 30 pysanka workshops over a four-week period which raised over $30,000 for Ukrainian humanitarian aid. Her Royal Highness was visibly delighted when she tried to write a pysanka using a kistka and beeswax.
Next, Their Royal Highnesses proceeded to the demonstration of making varenyky led by Angie Reshitnyk, president of UWAC-Ottawa. They learned that this humble combination of flour, eggs, oil, water, potatoes and onions has raised money to build churches, schools, and community centres for Ukrainians throughout Canada. Over a three-week period in March 2022, Ms. Reshitnyk had organized and managed teams of volunteers to make over 17,000 varenyky which raised over $15,000 for humanitarian aid in Ukraine. Her Royal Highness very much enjoyed hand pinching her first varenyk.
His Royal Highness then proceeded to speak with Akord, the Ukrainian Men’s Choir of Ottawa, under the musical direction of Larissa Mason. From the start of the walk-about the choir had been quietly singing several well-known Ukrainian patriotic and traditional songs, notably Ой у лузі червона калина and Заповіт.
While His Royal Highness was speaking with Akord, Her Royal Highness met Tamara Pastuch, the director, Viktoriia Babich, a teacher, and several students from the Lesia Ukrainka Ukrainian School of Ottawa and admired some of their work on display. Their Royal Highnesses also spoke with several members of PLAST Ottawa.
Their Royal Highnesses then moved on to admire a presentation of the Cathedral’s many liturgical embroideries, and were fascinated to see and learn about the intricately decorated Ukrainian wedding bread korovai and the Ukrainian wedding ceremony crowns from Dr. Jennie Dutchak. This presentation was followed by a display of the components of the traditional Ukrainian Easter basket by Khrystia Humeniuk, Sally Tchorewski and Eileen Maychruk from the Ottawa division of the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Shrine in Ottawa.
The royal visit concluded with Their Royal Highnesses signing a guest book and Alexandra Chyczij presenting them with a gift of hand-written pysanka and an embroidered cloth on behalf of all Canadians of Ukrainian heritage. When Their Royal Highnesses left the Cathedral hall they surprised several of the many people waiting outside in the spring sunshine by walking up to them for a brief chat.
The royal visit was a historic event and an incredible honour for Ottawa’s Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral and its Ukrainian community to represent all Canadians of Ukrainian heritage.