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Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex celebrates 50 years

Nov 23, 2023 | Community, Featured

Participants of the Concert gather for the finale. Photos: Marco Levytsky

Marco Levytsky, Western Bureau Chief.

Members of the Ukrainian community in Edmonton celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex (UYUC) at the centre itself, November 3-5.

Completed in November 1973 by members of the League for the Liberation of Ukraine (now the League of Ukrainian Canadians) and its affiliated organizations, the building houses a 24,000 square foot publicly accessible banquet facility with a main auditorium and stage, a smaller banquet room, industrial kitchen facility, small and medium meeting rooms, a youth wing which includes a full-sized gymnasium, library, youth gathering area and six classrooms.

Through ongoing volunteer fundraising, including bingos, catered weddings and banquets, and personal donations that are acknowledged on the donor wall in the lobby, the facility was mortgage free within four years.

“That reflects the outstanding volunteerism, organizing and dedication from that generation, to whom we are grateful,” said Larissa Podilsky, President of the Ukrainian Youth Unity Council, the governing Board of the UYUC during the Champagne Reception which opened the three-day festivities, November 3.

50th Anniversary Committee Chair Irene Kolomijchuk (left) presents the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Book to Larissa Podilsky, President of the Ukrainian Youth Unity Council

“The history of this wonderful community building actually starts back over 50 years ago in the early 1960’s when a group of likeminded post World War II Ukrainian immigrants set out to build a ‘Dim’ or ‘home’ for their community life to be shared and to prosper. Fundraising efforts started with hosting raffles, bingos, selling pyrohy annually at Edmonton’s Klondike Days, which allowed for the purchase of this land in 1964… In 1967, the first formal Board of Directors was elected. From the beginning, and until this day, the membership of the Board of Directors is comprised of our four founding organizations: the Ukrainian Youth Association (CYM), the League of Ukrainian Canadians, often referred to as LIGA, League of Ukrainian Canadian Women and the CYM Parents’ Association,” she added.

Greetings at the opening reception were delivered by Edmonton Griesbach MP Blake Desjarlais on behalf of the Parliament of Canada, Edmonton Decore MLA Sharif Haji on behalf of the Alberta Legislature, Ward Tastawiyiniwak Councillor Karen Principe on behalf of the City of Edmonton and Consul General Oleksandr Danyleiko on behalf of the Government of Ukraine.

Desjarlais noted that the complex keeps the language, culture, and community spirit alive and addressed the current conflict in Ukraine.“I would like to acknowledge all those persons whose lives are affected by this terrible and egregious invasion. It is my deepest hope that we can in fact do what is right again. Rebuild, resecure and recommit ourselves to an independent Ukraine once again,” he said.

“The story of Ukraine is still ahead of us. The path that is laid before us is one that will unite Ukraine and Canada even further,” added Desjarlais.

Haji also praised the sense of community that is at the heart of the complex.

“A thriving community is what builds … a stronger city a stronger province and a stronger country,” he said and commended the community for all the work they are doing in welcoming newcomers displaced by the war in Ukraine.
Principe said members of the Ukrainian community “have played a vital part in creating a peaceful, harmonious and welcoming city — a city that’s rich in diverse cultures and traditions.”

“This gala is a true tribute to the many volunteers who have and continue to work tirelessly to enhance Alberta’s Ukrainian Canadian community.

“And as we continue to welcome Ukrainian people into our city, facilities such as this remain vital to providing a sense of belonging within the community.

“May Ukrainian pride, unity and strength continue to give us hope for a brighter, more peaceful future in Ukraine,” she added.

Speaking in Ukrainian, Danyleiko said the complex is not just a place where weddings are held, but where the culture is celebrated. “Ukrainian language, Ukrainian culture, and traditions are being nurtured and preserved and most important it is a home for Ukrainian youth because youth is our future – a future for Ukraine and for our diaspora here in Canada, in Edmonton.”

Consul-General Oleksandr Danyleiko

The program opened with the singing of O Canada and the National Anthem of Ukraine by the Verkhovyna Ukrainian Choir of the Ukrainian Youth Association, Namisha Hlus-Greening, Conductor.

Greetings and a Blessing were delivered by Bishop David, of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton and a Traditional Welcome Dance was performed by Dunai Dancers of the Ukrainian Youth Association.

Dunai Dancers perform the Pryvit

Masters of Ceremonies were Sonia Brytan-Iszcenko and Taras Podilsky.

One of the founding members of the Complex Irene Loszuk, (left) with MC Taras Podilsky. Photo: Larysa Luciw

The evening closed with a presentation of the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Book by 50th Anniversary Committee Chair Irene Kolomijchuk to Larissa Podilsky.

“A building is only a structure, but it becomes remarkable with the family unit of people who have been impacted by its existence. This structure has become a home to organizations and individuals who recognize and value the impact of community and have made it their place to gather, to grow.” She stated.

“We have witnessed the development of a family unit that is strong, supportive, and encouraging. It draws out the strengths of individuals and recognizes the talents and skills in our community. It expresses and reflects the love of Canada and our ancestral home, Ukraine. It welcomes and embraces diversity; from our growing membership in the various organizations, to welcoming waves of Ukrainian settlement over the past years, most notably our recent newcomers, and also to the various multicultural communities that have been welcomed,” added Kolomijchuk.

The second day of festivities featured children’s activities plus a Zabava with the band “Zabava u koli” providing the music.

The celebration closed on November 5 with a High Tea and Concert. Both the Verkhovyna Choir and Dunai Dancers returned, the choir performing a “Medley of Transcarpathian Folk Melodies” and the dancers under the guidance of Artistic Director Caitlin Loree and Assistant Loren Winnick with choreography by Shawn Ostafie and Camille Ostapowich-Allen, presenting “The Volyn Circle”.

The Bandurysty of the Ukrainian Youth Association, Calgary Branch directed by Іryna Кalinovich performed the Ukrainian folk song “О, Zelene Zhyto – We Come together” and “Dear Ukraine”. They were followed by the Ukrainian Youth Association Edmonton and Calgary Branches Choir, also conducted by Kalinovich, who performed “Honourably Raise Our Flag” and the OUN anthem “We Were Born at a Great Hour”.

The Bandurysty of the Ukrainian Youth Association Calgary with the Ukrainian Youth Association Edmonton and Calgary Branches Choir

Solomia Myc recited the poem “Let Our Song Soar” by Tetiana Fedoriw.

Solomia Myc

The Verkhovyna School of Ukrainian Dance under the direction of Natalia Iwaszko-Soto performed the “Vasylyno” dance of the Poltava region.

This was followed by an “Artistic Improvisation” by pianist Іvan Kharlamov, who was joined after that number by Mezzo-Soprano Stephania Romaniuk, who sang the poignant “Rushnychok – My Dearest Mother” and Volodymyr Ivasiuk’s immortal “Red Ruta Flower”.

Bandurist Olia Kharabara performed “Oh, My Mother Warned Me” from the opera “Zaporozhets Beyond the Danube” and “A Classical Melody”.

Bandurist Olia Kharabara

To close, the Verkhovyna choir performed the Sich Riflemen anthem ”Red Kalyna in the Meadow” and “Let Us Unite, Ukrainian Brothers”.

Master of Ceremonies was Liliya Pantelyuk-Sokha who stated that the complex “is iconic and timeless and continues to not only be a staple for our organization, culture and community, but for all of us as individuals. It has truly played a huge part in our lives, and everyone within the building has helped shape who we are.”

In her closing remarks, Larissa Podilsky stated:

“Today, the generous planning and actions from over 50 years ago, of our original volunteer membership, allows our current community to prosper. I think our founding members would be satisfied to know that 50 years later, their vision is a reality. Their vision and, our reality, is a thriving facility, our Domivka, that is alive with activity, and much like a second home to many.”

Historic Milestones for UYUC

Patriarch Josyp Slipyj, welcomed by UYUC President Peter Boykiw, signs the UYUC Blueprint Rendering, October 26, 1976. (Photo Alpha Studio).

1948-1949 Ukrainian women began joining the Edmonton branches of the Canadian League for the Liberation of Ukraine.
1954 Women’s group of the Ukrainian Canadian League for the Liberation of Ukraine was established at a gathering at the Ukrainskyi Narodnyi Dim (Ukrainian National Hall).
1955 At the 6th National Conference of the Canadian League for the Liberation of Ukraine, the women’s group transitioned into an independent organization known as the Women’s Association of the Canadian League for the Liberation of Ukraine. Then in 1993 at the XIII National Conference the organization was renamed the League of Ukrainian Canadian Women.
1959 Fundraising begins to acquire a “home” for our organizations.
By 1964 $45,000 had be raised and land was purchased in North Edmonton.
1967 The Ukrainian Youth Unity Corporation was formed and plans to build started to develop.
1967-1972 Aggressive fundraising undertaken. Revenue from bingos, operating food kiosks at the Exposition, raffles and the annual Karnaval.
1971 Large community meeting organized by Liga Vyzvolennia Ukrainy (LVU) and CYM. Community organizations invited including Tsentralia Katolykiv, St. George and St. Josaphat parishes, UNO, and Plast to discuss collaboration on bring the UYU Complex to reality. This did not succeed. LVU and CYM resolved to move forward alone.
1972 Groundbreaking for Domivka construction.
1973 The first phase of the Domivka was completed. Grand opening November 1973.
1975 Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed visit the Domivka.
1977 In only four years the mortgage on the Domivka paid off. Community celebrates burning of the mortgage.
1988 The UYUC is a sponsor of Festival ’88.
2011 the UYUC acquires a URL Web address and its website is launched.
2013 Eight representatives of the UYUC introduced in the Legislature by MLA Janice Sarich.
2014 One of a 100 plaques memorializing the 100 Anniversary of the Internment of Ukrainians under the War Measures Act was placed at DYM.
2014 Board of Directors (Дирекція) renamed the Ukrainian Youth Unity Council.
2016 The UYUC is a sponsor of Sviato 25 marking a quarter century of Ukraine’s Independence.
2002–2023 Over $1.45 million invested in renovations.
2020-2022 The UYUC successfully navigates the extreme challenges-both business and social- presented by pandemic shutdowns and restrictions.
2022 Mentorship program to assist newcomers from Ukraine. The UYUC hosts Open Houses, community dinners and social events for new arrivals.
Complied by Lidia M. Wasylyn

Visitors of UYUC

1973 – Bishop Greschuk and Bishop Savaryn, Peter Lougheed; 1975 – Pierre Elliot Trudeau; 1976 – Patriarch Josyf Slipyj; 1980 – Valentyn Moroz; 1984 – Mychailo Osachyi; 1989 – Ne Zhurys; 1990 – Vyacheslav Chornovil, Slava Stetsko ( also 1997); 1991 – Yuri Shukhevych, Stepan Khmara, Ivan Drach; 1992 – Levko Lukianenk; 2001 – Marsha Skrypuch, Yuri Shcherbak; 2005 – Anne McLellan, former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada; 2009 – Luba Goy; 2012 – Patriarch Sviatoslav, Dr. Lubomyr Luciuk; 2015- Pikkardiuska Tertsia; 2018 – Oles Yanchuk, Chumatsky Shliakh cycling group; 2019- Dr. Serhiy Kvit Kyivo- Mohylianska Akademia

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