City of Residence: Toronto
Iroida (nee Lebid) Wynnyckyj has achieved an unprecendented level of excellence in the field of archival research – gathering, organizing, systematizing and disseminating oral history accounts of Ukrainian immigrants to Canada, Canadian survivors of the Holodomor and Canadian witnesses to the events of World War II.
Iroida Lebid was born on February 17, 1933 in Matijiw, Volyn, present-day western Ukraine. She grew up in Vorokhta in the Carpathian Mountains. Later, she experienced the heartache, difficulties and challenges of life as a displaced person in Germany.
Arriving in Canada as a young 15 year old, she completed high-school and university in Montreal, went on to marry John Wynnyckyj (DOB: 1932) and raise 3 children (Oksana, Roman and Mychailo). Following her husband’s career, she lived in Toronto, Ontario; Göttingen, Germany; Melbourne, Australia and Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. In 1978, at the age of 45, Iroida Wynnyckyj began her archival career path.
Iroida Wynnyckyj’s interest in archival research flourished through the collection of oral histories. She became a member, researcher and contributor to the Multicultural History Society of Ontario (MHSO) and the Waterloo Historical Society (WHS), collecting the personal accounts of Ukrainians in Ontario with a special focus on Waterloo County. In 1987, she initiated, compiled and edited a 110 page history of the Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Transfiguration in Kitchener-Waterloo. Between 1976 and 1990, she published articles in journals and presented papers at conferences on the theme of Ukrainians in Ontario in Quebec, Canada; Illinois, USA and Lviv, Ukraine.
In 1982, Iroida Wynnyckyj’s interests began to shift to documenting the experiences and tragedies of Holodomor survivors resident in Canada. Together with other like-minded individuals, she was instrumental in the establishment of the Ukrainian Famine Research Committee, which produced the first documentary film on the Holodomor, Harvest of Despair (1986). Cooperating with researchers in Canada, USA, Australia and eventually, Ukraine, she personally interviewed and annotated much of the oral history collection presently housed at the Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Centre (UCRDC) in Toronto, Ontario.
The independence of Ukraine opened new channels for Iroida Wynnyckyj’s interest in archival research. In 1992, she initiated a series of workshops, mentoring projects and publications on oral history methodology at the newly established Institute of Historical Research, University of Lviv. This led to various cooperative projects with the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS), University of Alberta. She has presented and published analyses of oral history accounts of Ukrainian-Canadian experiences prior, during and after World War II. She is co-editor of an extensive anthology of women’s World War II experiences scheduled for publication release in September, 2013.
Iroida Wynnyckyj is now 80 years old. She continues to answer emails, coordinate the work of volunteers and remains on the Board of Directors of UCRDC as archivist. Her enthusiasm and commitment to preserving the past through the oral history accounts of “ordinary people” has had a broad impact inside and outside the Ukrainian Canadian community. She has been honoured for her contributions with awards from Plast: Ukrainian Youth Association for her work with youth (1992); the Ukrainian World Congress for community development (2003); and the Government of Ukraine for her Holodomor research (2008).