On Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC-SB) – Saskatoon Branch, in cooperation with the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation (UCCLF), hosted a commemorative event titled Heroes of their Day in Saskatoon honouring the thousands of Ukrainian Canadians who served Canada during the Second World War.
Dr. Nadya Foty-Oneschuk of the Prairies Centre for the Study of Ukrainian Heritage led the event, and spoke of the importance of commemorating the sacrifice and service of Saskatchewan’s Ukrainian Canadian community during WWII.
“Our organization’s Heroes of Their Day project represents the best characteristics of the Ukrainian community: faith, honour and sacrifice,” said UCCLF Chairman Borys Sydoruk. “It commemorates the valour of Ukrainian Canadian servicemen and servicewomen, as well as their subsequent efforts to help displaced persons and refugees after the Second World War.”
Sydoruk commended the Saskatoon UCC on hosting the event, held at the city’s St. George’s Senior Citizens Centre, and attended by some 100 people from Saskatoon and surrounding communities.
Rt. Rev. Mitred Archpriest Taras Makowsky of the Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity and Very Rev. Ivan Nahachewsky of the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of St. George conducted a Panakhyda, praying for the Ukrainian Canadians who served in the Second World War as well as for the Ukrainians fighting in Russia’s war in Ukraine. Sydoruk presented the Heroes of Their Day Pokrova icon to both Reverend Fathers for installation in their respective cathedrals.
Participants of the commemoration honoured family members who served in the war by placing candles in their memories during the Panakhyda while their names were read out.
A screening of director John Paskevich’s film Canadian War Story followed. Combining archival photographs and film with firsthand oral accounts, the film paid 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 afternoon’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 reached some 3,500 surviving veterans and their descendants on May 8, 2020 – Victory in Europe Day – and 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.
The commissioned icons have been and continue to 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, Toronto, Saskatoon and Ottawa.