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Dr. Oleh Walter Gerus was born on July 9, 1939 in Bludlow, Volyn, in what was then, part of Eastern Poland (present-day Svitanok, Ukraine), to parents, Reverend Serhij and Anna Gerus (Palianychka). From 1946 to 1950, he received his primary education in the Displaced Persons Camps in Munster Lager and Fallingbostel, in Northern Saxony, Germany. Upon immigrating to Canada with his parents, he completed his public school education in Vita and Winnipeg. He received his BA (1962 History and Slavic Studies) and MA (1964 History) from the University of Manitoba and his PhD from the University of Toronto (1970). He was awarded a doctoral fellowship to Lomonsov State University, Moscow (1966-67). In 1967 Oleh Gerus lectured at the University of Manitoba and the following year he was appointed as an assistant professor at Brandon University. In 1969 he joined the University of Manitoba’s Department of History where he has served for over 40 years. In 1996, he was promoted to full professor. Dr. Gerus is married to Yvonne (Bonnie) neé Kowalchuk, and the couple have 3 children: Helene, Andrew and Roman.
Dr. Gerus‘s fields of specialization and teaching include: Ukrainian history, modern Russian history, Ukrainians in Canada, Ukrainian Orthodox Church history and the late Metropolitan Ilarion (Ivan Ohienko). His publications focus on the Ukrainian experience. The Canadian media has often called upon Dr. Gerus to provide commentary on the Ukrainian community in Canada, as well as on current events taking place in Eastern Europe and Russia, because of his knowledge and expertise of the history and politics of the region. His strong commitment to the university community has been reflected in: participating in the Centre for Ukrainian Canadian Studies, Policy Council; various committees within the Department of History, including the associate headship; and serving on the board of directors of St. Andrew's College and college committees of St. Paul’s College. Dr. Gerus’s contributions to the University of Manitoba have been recognized through various awards and accolades, which include: the University of Manitoba Outreach Award; the University of Manitoba Dr. & Mrs. Campbell Outreach Award; Fr. Cecil Ryan, SJ, Rector’s Award (St. Paul’s College); and the bestowing on him the degree of Doctor of Canon Law (DCL) Honoris Causa (St. Andrew’s College). Always focused on the students, Dr. and Mrs. Gerus endowed a scholarship in European history for St. Paul's College students as well as a memorial bursary in the Faculty of Education.
Throughout his academic career Dr. Gerus has remained very active in the Ukrainian-Canadian community: first as a student leader in the Ukrainian Student’s Union of Canada; later as an executive member of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in Canada; as president of the Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Centre, Oseredok; and as a member of the boards of the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko and the Oseredok Foundation. Dr. Gerus accompanied the Oleksander Koshetz Choir of Winnipeg on its concert visits to Ukraine and to the Ukrainian diaspora in Europe and South America where he lectured on the Ukrainian Canadian experience. In the late 1980s, as Ukraine inched closer to independence, Dr. Gerus was involved in founding the Canadian Friends of Rukh, the popular movement for political and cultural reconstruction in Ukraine. He also assisted Ukraine’s academia, by working with and helping to develop a curriculum for the re-born University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, a historically important institution of learning. Following Ukraine's independence, Dr. Gerus was invited by the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences in 1992 to participate in Ukraine's celebration of Ivan Ohienko's (Metropolitan Ilarion) 110th anniversary of his birth and his remarkable intellectual achievements.