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Victor Deneka was born to Ukrainian parents in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on June 25, 1921. In 1934, the family returned to western Ukraine (then part of Poland) and Victor graduated from the Ukrainian gymnasium in Chelm, Poland, in 1944. After the war, he studied architecture for four years at the Carolo-Wilhelmina Technical University in Braunschweig (Brunswick), Germany, on a scholarship awarded by the British Military Government in the British Zone of Germany. He immigrated to Canada with his parents and his brother Eugene in 1949, enrolled at the University of Manitoba, and graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1952.
A member of the Manitoba Association of Architects and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, he was employed for many years as the regional architect for the Canadian National Railways Prairie Region. In his private practice he designed a number of Ukrainian Catholic churches in Manitoba. He began his career as a church architect in 1952 when he helped Fr. Philip Ruh draw up plans for Holy Trinity church in Gonor, Manitoba. He then designed Blessed Virgin Mary (1961-62), St. Basil the Great (1974), and St. Anne's (1984) in Winnipeg, Holy Ghost in Beausejour (1963), the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Russell (1965), Holy Ghost in The Pas (1972), the church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Portage la Prairie (1982), and the Church of the Resurrection in Dauphin (1990). He also designed the chancery building for the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy (Archdiocese) of Winnipeg, the St. Andrew’s parish Ukrainian Youth Centre in Point Douglas, a building for “Plast” Ukrainian Youth Association, and an office building for the Ukrainian Fraternal Society of Canada. He had a lifelong interest in Ukrainian church architecture, delivered many public lectures on the subject, and was working on a book project about Ukrainian church art and architecture in Canada at the time of his death.
For almost sixty years, Victor Deneka was also very active in a number of Ukrainian-Canadian community organizations. He was one of the organizers of the first congress of Ukrainian Catholic university students of Canada in Winnipeg in May 1953, which resulted in the creation of the national Ukrainian Catholic student federation “Obnova” with clubs in six provinces. Later that year, he was a member of the preparatory committee that organized the first congress of all Ukrainian student organizations in Canada in Winnipeg in December 1953 and culminated in the creation of the Ukrainian Canadian University Students' Union (S.U.S.K.). In 1955-57 he was one of the founding co-editors of Obnovianyn/Obnovan, an irregular journal published by Obnova’s national executive between March 1955 and August 1963. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he was twice president of the “Obnova” Alumni Society which he also co-founded in 1957. A pillar of the Ukrainian Catholic community, Victor Deneka served once as president of the Winnipeg Archeparchial (Archdiocesan) Executive of the Ukrainian Catholic Brotherhood (1965-67); twice as president of the Ukrainian Catholic Council of the Winnipeg Archeparchy (Archdiocese) (1973-1975 and 1983-1985); and once as national president of the Ukrainian Catholic Council of Canada (1989-1992). In 1957 and 1967 he was a Canadian delegate to the Second and Third World Congresses of the Lay Apostolate in Rome, where he represented Ukrainian Catholics. In addition he served as president of the Ukrainian Catholic Discussion Club in Winnipeg, sat on the Board of Directors of St. Vladimir’s College in Roblin, Manitoba, chaired the Archeparchial Millennium of Christianity in Rus’-Ukraine (988-1988) Committee, co-edited numerous Ukrainian-Catholic publications, including Focus/Fokus (1992-95) the irregular report of the National Executive of the Ukrainian Catholic Council of Canada, and was appointed an honorary director of the Catholic Foundation of Manitoba.
In November 1982, Deneka was named Cavalier of the Order of St. Gregory the Great by Pope John Paul II. The order is conferred on individuals who are distinguished by their exemplary personal character and reputation and by their notable accomplishments on behalf of the Church and community in general. The official investiture was held June 7, 1983 in the Cathedral of Ss. Vladimir and Olga in Winnipeg, presided over by Wladyslaw Cardinal Rubin, prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches, with Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop - Metropolitan Maxim Hermaniuk and Auxiliary Bishop Myron Daciuk participating. Deneka also received the highest honour of the Ukrainian Catholic Brotherhood of Canada, the Order of St. Vladimir the Great. During his second term (1983-1985) as president of the Ukrainian Catholic Council of the Winnipeg Archeparchy (Archdiocese) the local Council was actively involved in preparations for the visit of Pope John Paul II and in celebrations commemorating Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky (Sheptycky) on the 40th anniversary of his death. Victor Deneka was also involved in the Ukrainian-Canadian community as a member of the Ukrainian Professional and Business Club of Winnipeg; as secretary of the Ukrainian Literary and Arts Club of Winnipeg; as a participant in the work of the Ukrainian Canadian Committee (renamed Ukrainian Canadian Congress in 1989); as a member of the Board of Directors of the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko (1972-77); and as a member (1992-2010) and president (2005-08) of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences (U.V.A.N.) in Canada. In 2007 he was nominated for the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’s Shevchenko Medal by U.V.A.N., but the Congress decided not to award the medal to Deneka because of “the great number of nominations and the limited number of awards.”
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Created by Orest Martnynowych, February 2016
Revised by Andrea Martin, February 2016