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Walter (Volodymyr) Klymkiw was born in the village of Saranchuky, Ternopil’ province in what was then eastern Poland (now Ukraine) in 1926. Emigrating to Canada in 1928, he and his parents settled in Winnipeg. In 1950, he earned a B.A. in English and History at the University of British Columbia. He returned a year later to Winnipeg and received a teaching certificate from the University of Manitoba. In 1951, he began conducting the Ukrainian National Federation Choir (renamed the Olexander Koshetz Choir in 1967) of Winnipeg, under the guidance of Tetiana Koshetz and Pavlo Macenko. His love of Ukrainian music was fostered back in the mid-1940s, when he attended the Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Centre's Summer Music Courses conducted by the legendary Ukrainian Musicologist, Olexander Koshetz (Oleksander Koshyts'). In 1952, Klymkiw married Mary (Marusia) Kopychansky and had two sons: Myroslaw (Slawko) and Paul. Upon receiving his teaching certificate, Klymkiw began his career as a history teacher, in 1953, at Glenwood Junior High School in the St. Vital school division in Winnipeg. In 1961, he was appointed principal of Hastings Elementary and Junior High School, a position which he held until 1979. In 1979, he returned to Glenwood Junior High School where he served as its principal until 1983. In 1983, he was appointed music supervisor and served in this capacity until retiring later that year.
Retirement allowed Klymkiw to devote more time to being the choral director of the Olexander Koshetz Choir. During his nearly fifty years with the choir, Klymkiw and his choir toured throughout Canada, Ukraine, Poland, the Czech Republic, Western Europe, and South America. The choir went on to record two CDs, nine cassettes, and six records. For nearly half a century, he maintained and developed contacts with Ukraine's composers and artists. He fostered a special relationship with Anatoli Avdievsky (Anatolii Adiievs'kii), director of the world renowned Ver'ovka (Veriovka) Ukrainian State Folk Choir, a relationship which led to Ver'ovka's first Canadian tour in 1981. Besides his choir, Klymkiw and his wife devoted much of their time to various community activities including the Ukrainian National Federation (national and St. Boniface branch) and the Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Centre, Oseredok. They were involved in various commercial ventures including the Ukrainian House of Gifts, DK Attractions Ltd., and Canimplex Ltd. The latter two ventures involved bringing in various musical artists and groups from Ukraine to perform concerts for Canadian audiences. In recognition of his cultural achievements and contributions, Klymkiw received the Shevchenko Medal from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the Osvita Foundation Award, a Certificate of Merit from the federal Minister of Multiculturalism and Citizenship, and an honourary Doctor of Canon Law Degree from St. Andrew's College of the University of Manitoba. In 1992, Klymkiw and the Olexander Koshetz Choir were awarded the Taras Shevchenko Medal from the government of Ukraine, the first such honour given to an individual or group outside of the country. In 1999, the Olexander Koshetz Choir paid tribute to Klymkiw with an evening gala for his lifetime devotion to Ukrainian culture and music in Canada. They honoured him by establishing the Walter Klymkiw Endowment Fund at the University of Manitoba School of Music and Music Education. In December 2000, after a lengthy battle with cancer, Walter Klymkiw died at the age of seventy-four in Winnipeg.
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Created by James Kominowski (2001). Revised by N. Courrier (April 2020).