Institute celebrates its 95th anniversary
The Government of Canada officially recognized St. Petro Mohyla Institute of Saskatoon, SK as a National Historic Event at an impressive public ceremony held at the Institute on September 24, 2011.
About 150 people gathered to witness the program and the unveiling of the
tri-lingual bronze plaque that is now mounted outdoors near the Institute’s entrance. The proceedings coincided with the celebration of the Institute’s 95th anniversary of its founding in 1916.
At exactly 1:30 pm, the program began with a procession of the dignitaries to the stage. Live music was provided by the Ukrainian Connection, a band lead by Walter Kyliuk, an Institute alumnus. Leading the platform guests was an RCMP policewoman in formal red serge dress, who stood overseeing the entire program from her position at the side of the stage. Included in the procession were a pair of costumed dancers who greeted all assembled with the traditional bread and salt on a beautifully embroidered ceremonial towel.
Master of Ceremonies for the program was Allan Duddridge, Saskatchewan member of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. He introduced the Lastiwka Ukrainian Orthodox Choir who opened the program with their trilingual rendition of O Canada.
Mr. Duddridge then brought greetings on behalf of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board. He pointed out that there are 2,000 commemorative plaques placed throughout Canada by the Board.
Steve Senyk, President of the Board of Directors, prefaced his greetings by stating that “This is truly an exciting day”! In the Ukrainian language, he welcomed all present. He paid tribute to the visionaries who founded the Institute. He especially thanked Dr. Frances Swyripa, historian of the University of Alberta, for her work in preparing the application for Mohyla Institute to receive this award – a process that began six years ago.
Don Atchison, Mayor of Saskstoon, gave greetings and fondly remembered the excellent meals served at Mohyla Institute when he stayed there in the 1970’s as a member of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team during their training camp. Historically, he referred to how Ukrainians were once marginalized in the community. Yet today things have changed markedly and Ukrainians have entered all facets of community life. On behalf of the citizens of Saskatoon, he congratulated the Mohyla Institute on the occasion of this designation. He concluded by suggesting, “By working together, we shine together!”, in reference to the City of Saskatoon’s motto, “Saskatoon Shines”.
Ken Krawetz, Deputy Premier of the Province of Saskatchewan and Mohyla Institute alumnus, commended the early Board members for providing such a place for students of Ukrainian descent and helping them to go on to achieve success in their careers.
Concluding his remarks the stated, “Memories made here are often the topic of discussion when alumni get together. May Mohyla continue for many, many more years.”
Dr. Francis Swyripa, recalled the first time that she visited Mohyla Institute was in the 1970’s to evaluate the newspapers/periodicals collection for the purpose of microfilming rare items for the collection of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies. She realized then that “everything I touched was Ukrainian Canadian history.” She mentioned how the Institute, in its early years, was part of the “bursa” movement created by the Ukrainian intelligentsia in cities and towns. She also mentioned how the Institute provided an interesting and stimulating environment in which Ukrainian women could develop their skills. She also stated that individuals surrounding Mohyla Institute provided the impetus for the formation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada.
Brad Trost, Member of Parliament for Saskatoon-Humboldt, addressed the assembly on behalf of Heritage Minister Kent and the Government of Canada. He stated that the Institute was a source of support for its students and instilled a sense of pride in their Ukrainian cultural roots. He quoted Albert Einstein, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile”. Mr. Trost concluded by saying that the Institute’s accomplishments are significant and its legacy inspiring.
The platform party gathered around the covered plaque and unveiled it. The tri-lingual plaque was then read to the assembled guests. Mr. Duddridge read the English and French, while Nadya Foty read the Ukrainian.
The inscription on the plaque reads as follows: “In 1916, the activities of a dynamic group of Ukrainian immigrants culminated in the founding of the Mohyla Institute at the first Ukrainian national convention in Saskatoon. The Institute, operated as a student residence, supported higher education for Ukrainian youth while also serving as a center for cultural and religious events. In 1918, following a fractious debate, it spearheaded the formation of the Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox Church of Canada. In the ensuing decades, the Institute instilled a sense of community leadership in young men and women who would go on to found a range of Ukrainian organizations.”
The plaque was then blessed, in a short ceremony, by the Rt. Rev. Protopresbyter Victor Lakusta, Chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada.
The Lastiwka Choir participated in the conclusion of the formal program with its rendering of “Otche Nash”, the Lord’s prayer.
Allan Duddridge closed the program by thanking all who prepared for and attended the program.
A coffee reception, visiting and viewing of displays concluded the afternoon.
The celebration of the 95th anniversary of the Institute continued on the same day with an evening banquet, program and dance at the Ukrainian Orthodox Auditorium in Saskatoon.
Guests were greeted at the door with music by the Ukrainian Connection. The auditorium was beautifully decorated for the occasion.
Tim Michayluk, an alumnus of the Institute, from Calgary, acted as Master of Ceremonies, and allowed tables of guests to “earn” their way to the buffet table, by being first to answer historical trivia questions about the Institute.
As guests enjoyed their dessert, John Stech, jazz pianist from New York, and Mohyla Ukrainian Summer School alumnus, entertained by playing a number of tunes including his well-known “Kolomeyka Fantasy”. In his commentary, he recalled the time he played with the “Dumka” Ukrainian dance band of Edmonton, and that one of their first gigs was in Saskatoon. At the end of his performance, Stech was accorded a standing ovation from the 200 people in attendance.
Steve Senyk, Board President, greeted everyone at this 95th anniversary event and commented on how hundreds of the Institute’s alumni have gone on to become community leaders. He recalled that John Senkiw was President of the Board of Directors when the long process of application for recognition by the Historic Sites Board began. Senyk stated that by virtue of this prestigious designation, the Institute is now publicly welcomed to, and has become a member of Canada’s family of National Historic Sites which includes places, people, and events of national historic significance.
Connie Senkiw, president of the Ukrainian Museum of Canada, commented on the wonderful program that took place in the afternoon at the Institute and stated her congratulations to the Institute on behalf of the Museum. She thanked the Institute for inviting the Museum to celebrate its 75th anniversary the same weekend. She commented how this celebration took place the previous evening and was a great success with a capacity crowd in attendance.
Taras Hryhor, alumnus, shared his poem “Sorok rokiw vzhe mynulo” (Forty years have passed) by reading it aloud. A loud applause greeted his efforts.
Mark Danylchuk, alumnus and son of former Mohyla Board president Dr.Alex Danylchuk, gave greetings on behalf of the alumni. “Mohyla gave so many of us that stable great start”, he said. “We are fortunate that Mohyla still serves the community”.
M.C. Michayluk explained that the organizing committee decided to honour the oldest alumni among us. He called forward those alumni who stayed at the Institute during the 1930’s and 1940’s for a presentation and a group photograph. Each member of the group received a Certificate of Honorary Membership in the Mohyla Institute and an acknowledgement of thanks and appreciation for their respective contributions.
The Lastiwka Ukrainian Orthodox Choir and Orchestra performed several folk songs for everyone’s entertainment. Lastiwka has held its rehearsals at Mohyla Institute since the choir’s inception 28 years ago.
Steve Senyk, in his concluding remarks, announced that Regina TYC/Ukrainian Orthodox Men’s Association, made a donation of $500.00 to mark this event and that Stefan Franko, brought a $1,000.00 donation from the CYC Foundation. He thanked the organizing committee by name and made special reference to David Mysak who, after enthusiastically accepting an invitation to join the committee, was not able to fulfill his role because he unfortunately passed away in February of this year. May his memory be eternal!
Tim Michayluk called Peter & Linda Kindrachuk forward to lead the “Bursatskyi Klych”, the cheer recited by students for over 60 years.
The raffle for “baba’s trunk” containing over $1,000 in prizes was won by Nadine Potts.
Celebrants of Mohyla Institute’s 95th anniversary then danced the night away to the musical renditions of the Ukrainian Connection. Thus the celebrations were concluded.
The Institute is named after Metropolitan Petro Mohyla, a leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox church who lived in the early part of the 17th century in Ukraine. As metropolitan, the Ukrainian Encyclopedia notes, Mohyla improved the Church’s organizational structure, set strict dogmatic guidelines, reformed the monastic orders and enriched the theological canon.
For most of the Mohyla Institute’s history in Saskatoon, it was named the P. Mohyla Ukrainian Institute. When the new building was opened in 1965, the name was stream-lined to simply Mohyla Institute. After Metropolitan Petro Mohyla was canonized in Ukraine in 1996 by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate, the Board of Directors of the Institute renamed it the St. Petro Mohyla Institute.
Over the years, the students of the Institute, always a co-ed residence, benefited from an extra curricular program in Ukrainian culture. Classes and lessons were given in many areas including Ukrainian history, language and literature, dramatic arts, Ukrainian choral singing and dancing. Culinary arts, pysanka writing, bandura (Ukraine’s national instrument) and “tsymbaly” (dulcimer) paying were also offered. All of the students belonged to the student society “Kameniari” while, since 1923, the girls belonged to their own society named “Mohylianky”. Students left the Institute with a strong sense of Ukrainian identity and an enhanced knowledge of the Ukrainian heritage. Those who graduated as school teachers were in strong demand in the Ukrainian settlements of Saskatchewan and indeed western Canada. They were expected to conduct cultural classes and prepare Ukrainian concerts with the children after school hours. Thus the Institute played a huge role in the transmission of Ukrainian culture wherever Ukrainians lived. Many of the leaders, having received training and experience at the Institute, went on the establish Ukrainian church parishes and local branches of Ukrainian organizations.
Currently, the Institute is accepting the challenges provided by changed demographics in the rural areas and the forces of assimilation, and is engaged in preparing innovative programming to perpetuate knowledge of Ukrainian culture in accordance with its mandate.
By Al Kachkowski