- Melnyk Family
Stefan Sytnyk, 1897 – 1989 . Stefan Sytnyk was born in Ternopil, Crownland of Galicia, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Ukraine) in 1897, one of five children. He worked as a skilled tradesman in his early years, and drove trains during the First World War. In 1926, he immigrated to Canada, followed by his wife Eugenia one year later; together they settled in Winnipeg where they would live for the rest of their lives. At first, Stefan worked for the railroad, but he had an entrepreneurial bent so after a few years, he and his wife, assisted by their only child Irene, opened a grocery store in Winnipeg’s North End which they operated until the early 1940’s. Supported by this business, Stefan began acquiring what became an extensive collection of rental properties throughout Winnipeg which he determinedly maintained himself even well into his eighties! Through his lifetime of hard work and frugal living, Stefan supported his wife’s extensive activities in the Ukrainian community and built a foundation for the future financial security and success of his family.
Eugenia Sytnyk, 1900 ? – 1975 . Eugenia Sytnyk was born in Ternopil, Crownland of Galicia, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Ukraine). She became interested in community work very early in life, organizing women’s groups, cooperatives and schools, and serving with the Red Cross during the First World War She followed her husband Stefan to Canada in 1927, settling with him in Winnipeg where they had their only child Irene one year later. Eugenia continued her involvement in community work, teaching school, editing women’s and children’s pages of Ukrainian newspapers and helping Ukrainian immigrants adapt to life in Canada. She became a founding member of the Ukrainian Women’s League as well as of the Ukrainian Women’s Organization of Canada (UWOC) and also took on executive positions with a wide variety of local and national Ukrainian organizations, including the Ukrainian Canadian Women’s Committee and the World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations. Eugenia was recognized for her many years of service to the Ukrainian community with the Shevchenko Medal for Meritorious Service at the ninth Congress of Ukrainians in Canada, and the City of Winnipeg Community Service Award medal.
John Melnyk Sr., 1916 – 2009. John Melnyk was the elder son of Mykola and Palagia who immigrated to Canada from Ukraine and met and married in Winnipeg. From an early age, John was drawn to the piano, studying it enthusiastically from 1924 to 1938, first with Maria Kekishiwna (a pupil of Anton Rubinstein), Leda Omansky, and finally Beryl Ferguson under whose tutelage he earned his Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music, London in 1935. He became a well-known performer in Winnipeg, participating in the Saturday Night concert series sponsored by the Men's Music Club of Winnipeg, performing live-to-air broadcasts for CBC, touring Western Canada with up-and-coming Canadian musicians, and accompanying touring international artists on their Canadian appearances. He also composed three preludes, a sonata, a concerto, and two sets of variations, all for piano and all unpublished. In later life he settled into teaching which he continued well into his eighties. Twenty-four of his students won the Aikins Memorial Trophy as top instrumentalist in the Manitoba Music Festival, with which he was associated for over 70 years. That festival now annually awards the John Melnyk trophy and bursary for the best performance of a piano concerto.
Irene Melnyk, 1928 – 2012 . Irene was the only child of Ukrainian immigrants Stefan and Eugenia Sytnyk. She grew up helping her parents in their store, accompanying her mother to community meetings, participating in Ukrainian groups and taking piano lessons from John Melnyk whom she married in 1948. Irene was then attending the University of Manitoba from which she received a Bachelor of Science in 1950. Shortly thereafter her two sons were born, and she devoted herself wholeheartedly to raising them, yet still found time to teach Ukrainian and Sunday school, publish two Ukrainian primers with her friend Nadia Pip, as well as teach piano in her husband’s burgeoning studio and publish a scale book for beginners with him. As her sons grew older, Irene turned her energies and love of learning to holistic health. She opened a health food store under the Shaklee organization, studied extensively at the Moreau Institute of Natural Healing, and also earned credentials in Physical Health, Natural Nutritional Sciences and Natural Therapeutics among others. She became a respected reflexologist and teacher, serving on the Reflexology Association of Canada (RAC) board of directors for several years; RAC awarded her a lifetime membership in 1997 and recognized her as Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 2006.