Tracz, Orysia

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Tracz, Orysia

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  • Tracz, Orysia (Paszczak)

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Orysia (Paszczak) Tracz (1945-2016) was born in a displaced persons camp in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, to Ukrainian parents who had been transported to Germany as forced labourers during World War II. In 1949 the family moved to the United States taking up residence in Jersey City, Newark and Irvington, New Jersey. Active in various Ukrainian organizations during her childhood and youth, Orysia majored in Political Science at the George Washington University in Washington D.C. (1963-67) and spent her summers working at Soyuzivka, a Ukrainian resort in upstate New York, where she met many prominent Ukrainian émigré artists, including Jacques Hnizdovsky and Edward Kozak (Eko). In 1967 she married Myroslav Tracz, whom she had met at Soyuzivka, and accompanied him on his VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) assignment to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. A year later the young couple moved to Winnipeg, which became their home, and where they raised their three sons.

Orysia was employed by the University of Manitoba Libraries as a library assistant in the Slavic Collection, in Archives & Special Collections, and in Collections Management (1968-78, 1988-2010). In her spare time she was active in the local Ukrainian community: she volunteered, served on the Board of Directors, and was briefly the acting executive director of the Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Centre (Oseredok); she served on the executive of the Alpha Omega Women’s Alumnae; she taught Ukrainian heritage school classes at the “Prosvita” Ukrainian Reading Association on Saturday mornings; she wrote and broadcast weekly commentaries for the Ukrainian program on Winnipeg’s CKJS Radio; she was a columnist for the popular, widely circulated “Ukrainian Weekly” newspaper, published in New Jersey; and she produced a stream of letters-to-the-editor, some of them published in the mainstream press and periodicals, on issues of concern to Ukrainians in North America.

Above all, she pursued her lifelong interest in Ukrainian folk traditions, arts and ethnography with relentless enthusiasm. During the early 1970s she was involved in the Mamaj Gallery and fine arts boutique, established by her husband Myroslav, where works by some of the artists they had met at Soyuzivka were displayed and sold. Between 1971 and 2006 she organized and curated a number of Ukrainian folk and fine arts displays and exhibits at the University of Manitoba Libraries, including several displays of pysanky (Ukrainian Easter eggs) and an exhibit of the works of the Ukrainian-born American painter, printmaker, graphic designer, and illustrator Jacques Hnizdovsky (1915-1985). In 1975-76 she served as a researcher on the production of Slavko Nowytski’s award-winning film “Pysanka: The Ukrainian Easter Egg” and she published her first article on the subject in “The Canadian Collector.” In subsequent years she delivered countless popular lectures on Ukrainian folk arts and traditions in Winnipeg and in Ukrainian communities all across North America. She served as a consultant on costumes, songs and dances for many Ukrainian-Canadian performing arts groups and she advised several Canadian authors on the Ukrainian content of their novels. From the mid-1980s she was frequently asked to translate Ukrainian-language books on the folk arts into English, working on texts prepared and published by the émigré World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations, and after 1991 on books produced by Rodovid Publishers and the Ivan Honchar Museum in Kyiv, Ukraine. In 1993, and then almost annually after 1997 she organized and led summer folk art and culture tours of Ukraine, with travelers from across North America, Australia and even Japan. In the fall of 2015 Orysia published “The First Star I See Tonight: Ukrainian Christmas Traditions”, an illustrated collection of her popular articles, several of them first published on the pages of the “Winnipeg Free Press.”

During her career Orysia Tracz received the Alpha Omega Alumnae Ukrainian Woman of the Year Award (1990), the Canada 125 Medal (1992), the University of Manitoba Outreach Award (1996), the Bulava Award of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (2016), and she was an honouree of the Osvita Foundation/Manitoba Parents for Ukrainian Education (2013).


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Created by Orest Martynowych (March 2019). Revised by N. Courrier (April 2019).




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