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Ukrainian National Home Association fonds
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- Multiple media
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7.20 m of textual records, 840 photographs 34 large photographs
2 outsize photo collages (framed and behind glass)
217 posters and flyers (on 53 sheets in 1 bound volume)
7 display boards
4 original art works (sketches, prints, paintings)
4 commemorative ribbons
11 commemorative pins
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The need to establish a “people's” or “national” home (narodnyi dim) had been a pressing issue in Winnipeg’s rapidly expanding Ukrainian community since 1905. Patterned on institutions in the old country, the “national home” was to comprise an auditorium, stage, and office space, where the city’s Ukrainian cultural-educational societies could store their books and property; hold meetings, public lectures and rehearsals; offer literacy and Ukrainian heritage classes; undertake various educational programs; stage concerts and plays; and host commemorative and social events. Several unsuccessful attempts to establish an institution of this kind ensued, but the final impetus came in the fall of 1912 when new municipal fire safety bylaws banned the staging of plays in wooden halls and the costs of renting theatrical venues soared. Accordingly, in October 1912, the by-laws of the “Ukrainian National Home Association of Winnipeg, Manitoba” were prepared at a meeting held in the Ss. Vladimir and Olga parish hall on McGregor Street and Stella Avenue. The original by-laws stipulated that all Ukrainians, "regardless of their religious or political views," could become members, and that the property of the UNHA "shall never pass under the jurisdiction of any party or sect." In March 1913, at a general meeting attended by more than 200 people, the by-laws were adopted and Taras D. Ferley, a prominent community activist, educator, businessman, and soon to be Manitoba’s first Ukrainian MLA (Independent Liberal, Gimli, 1915-20) was elected the UNHA’s first president, a position he would hold for 24 of the next 35 years.
From the outset, the UNHA was challenged by the Ukrainian Catholic clergy and the church’s press, who feared that an organization led by laymen and open to Ukrainians of all religious denominations would undermine the faith of their parishioners. Support for the UNHA came from the teachers, students, cultural activists and small businessmen around the staunchly secular, national-populist weekly Ukrainskyi holos (Ukrainian Voice) established in 1910. The three largest Ukrainian educational and drama circles in the city - the resolutely non-denominational Boyan Drama Society (led by Semen Kowbel, Maksim Pasichniak and Wasyl Swystun), as well as the Maria Zankovetska Educational and Drama Society (led by Ivan (John) Tracz and Petro Yundak), and the Ivan Kotliarevsky Drama Society (led by Wasyl Kazanivsky), both embroiled in acrimonious disputes with the St. Nicholas and the Ss. Vladimir and Olga Ukrainian Catholic parishes – also affiliated with the UNHA. During the next 3 years, between 1913 and 1916, all 3 societies made generous donations to the new association. Student groups composed of young men who taught in rural English-Ukrainian bilingual schools in the spring and summer and attended fall and winter classes at the university, also welcomed the UNHA, as did the Ukrainian (Ruthenian) Teachers' Association, which would hold many of its annual provincial meetings in the UNHA building (1916-28).
In the fall of 1915 the UNHA organized its first series of public lectures at Jastremsky's Hall (south-east corner of Stella Avenue and McGregor Street). During the summer of 1916 the association held the first of many annual picnics at Lister Park on the Red River, 8 miles north of the city. It also obtained permission from the Winnipeg School Board to hold Ukrainian Heritage School (ridna shkola) classes, taught by graduates and students of the recentlyabolished Ruthenian Training School, in nearby public schools, on weekday
mornings, during July and August. Subsequently, Ukrainian Heritage School classes would be offered in the UNHA building almost every year until the early 1970s: first during the summer months, when up to 90 children attended, and later on two or three weekday evenings during the school year when 50 to 60attended. The first teacher Yuri (George) Genik, died tragically during the 1918 influenza epidemic. His successors included Mykhailo Kumka and Eustace Wasylyshyn, who taught in 1925 when enrolment peaked at 148; Mrs. Irene
Gayowsky, a veteran public school teacher, who taught the UNHA classes from 1940 through 1958; Dr. Maryna Rudnycka (1958-60), and Mrs. Natalia Bashuk (1960-69) . During the 1920s the UNHA also sponsored children’s orchestras conducted by Wasyl Parasiuk.
Denied support and often criticized by the Ukrainian Catholic church and clergy, the UNHA abandoned its dream of erecting a grand building with a large theatre and auditorium, and in 1916 settled for purchasing a much smaller two-story structure at 582-590 Burrows Avenue and McGregor Street, opposite the Strathcona public school. The brick building, constructed in 1910, cost just under $20,000 and occupied 3 lots. It had 25 small rooms on the top floor, and one small hall, plus accommodation for five organizations or small enterprises, on the ground floor. While the building satisfied the storage and meeting place needs of more than a dozen community organizations, and afforded ample space for lectures, meetings, heritage classes and rehearsals, Winnipeg’s first Ukrainian theatrical venues – the impressive pro-communist Ukrainian Labour Temple building and the more austere pro-Catholic Canadian-Ukrainian Institute Prosvita hall – would be constructed within a few blocks of the building by the UNHA’s competitors in 1919 and 1922.
The UNHA’s grand opening ceremonies were attended by more than 2,000 people who gathered on 24 September 1916. The association’s early years witnessed steady growth and consolidation. By 1919 the UNHA claimed over 300 individual dues-paying members and almost 20 affiliated cultural organizations. The three drama circles, which provided the Association with funds and most of its members, continued to focus, almost exclusively, on their own theatrical agendas until 1922, when they finally amalgamated with the UNHA and reconstituted themselves in one unified Ukrainian National Home Choral and Dramatic Society. Directors/conductors during the interwar years, the “golden age” of Ukrainian-Canadian amateur theatrical and choral activity, included Petro Yundak, Maksim Pasichniak, Eugene Turula, Yuri (George) Tsukornyk, Mykhailo Levak and Dr. Paul Macenko.
The burden of planning and carrying out programs unrelated to the performing arts fell on the shoulders of the association's executive. The fall and winter lecture series, and Ukrainian heritage classes, became the mainstays of cultural-educational activity. Other programs were sporadic. In 1916-17, English-language classes taught by university graduates were offered; a Ukrainian Women's Educational Society (Ukrainske prosvitne zhinoche tovarystvo), which worked with children, offered embroidery classes, and organized social events, including dances, masquerades and picnics, was established in December 1916, but faltered after a few years; and a library open to the general public two evenings and one afternoon each week was launched by the Boyan Society in 1918 but did not become firmly established until the mid-1920s. The Ukrainian Red Cross of Canada, established in 1919 to raise funds on behalf of countrymen in western Ukrainian regions (part of Poland and Romania during the interwar years) that had been devastated by war and natural catastrophes, also had its headquarters at the UNHA.
After a second women's organization, the Women's Assembly (Zhinocha hromada), established in 1922, faltered, it was replaced in 1926 by the Ukrainian Ladies’ Society of Lesia Ukrainka (Zhinoche tovarystvo im. Lesi Ukrainky) which proved to be much more resilient. Mrs. Natalia Ferley was the first president. In 1927 the society sponsored a “Ukrainian Night/Soiree” with dances supervised by newly-arrived dance master Vasile Avramenko. Ultimately, the ladies’ society sponsored an organization for young women, participated in drama and choral circles, sponsored lectures, and did volunteer work on behalf of the Canadian Red Cross during the Second World War and the Community Chest Organization in the post-war era. It remained active until the 1990s.
Another successful early initiative was the Ukrainian Relief Association (Vzaimna Pomich), a fraternal sickness and death benefit society established in November 1921. The association’s by-laws were drawn up by UNHA president Taras D. Ferley and members Ivan (John) Tracz, who would serve as UNHA president from 1948 until 1967, and Paul Popiel. Open to all Ukrainians 16 to 45 years of age, irrespective of religious and political views, the Relief Association obtained a Dominion charter in February 1925 and by 1928 it had 843 members (including 540 in Winnipeg) in 22 branches all across Canada. At its February 1943 national convention in Winnipeg the Association adopted a new charter and by-laws in accordance with the requirements of the Dominion of Canada Insurance Act. Simultaneously the association was renamed the Ukrainian Fraternal Society of Canada (UFS), began to sell life insurance, and was put on a sound actuarial basis. Ivan Tracz, UNHA president at the time, also served as president of the UFS from 1948 to 1958 and held various executive positions until the mid-1960s. The UFS offices were housed in the UNHA building from 1921 until June 1969, when they moved to newly constructed premises one block south at 235 McGregor Street and Magnus Avenue.
In 1929 UNHA leaders founded the Ukrainian People’s Home Association (Stovaryshennia ukrains’kyi narodnyi dim; SUND). An umbrella organization, it was established to provide ideological direction and to enrich local activity.by centralizing and coordinating the work of Ukrainian national homes and community organizations with similar objectives all across Canada. Although several score local organizations joined, the new entity’s activity was relatively sluggish and poorly documented. The first attempt to chronicle UNHA activity, including that of the SUND, culminated in 1949 with the publication of the UNHA’s massive commemorative book – Propamiatna knyha Ukrains’koho narodnoho domu u Vynypegu – edited by a team led by the distinguished Ukrainian émigré historian Dmytro Doroshenko, who resided in Winnipeg for a few years after the Second World War. Featuring articles by UNHA and SUND founders and activists from all across Canada, the book remains an important source for the study of Ukrainian-Canadian history, popular culture and community organizations during the first half of the twentieth century Organizations affiliated with the UNHA during the postwar years included the Ukrainian Male Chorus of Winnipeg conducted by Walter Bohonos, which was headquartered at and sponsored by the association for most of its existence (1944-71); the Ukrainian Free Academy of Arts and Sciences in Canada, which presented many of its public lectures at the UNHA and whose offices, library and archives were housed in the association’s building from about 1949 to the early 1970s; the Kateryna Antonovych School of Art, directed first by the renowned painter and art historian (1884-1975), and after her death by her pupil Marika Onufrijchuk-Sokulski; and the Hoosli Ukrainian Male Chorus, which made the UNHA its home base in 1984, shortly after one of its members, Fred Mykytyshyn, became the UNHA’s last president (1982-2010).
The UNHA continued to play a role in promoting Ukrainian education and scholarship during the post war years. From 1952 it awarded a modest annual scholarship to students who excelled in Ukrainian language and literature at the University of Manitoba; in 1983 the executive established a scholarship fund to assist post-secondary students whose parents were UNHA members; and between 1983 and 1993, the UNHA provided the Centre for Ukrainian Canadian Studies (CUCS) at the University of Manitoba with endowments totaling about $60,000. Dr. Natalia Aponiuk, director of the CUCS, was also a long-time member of the UNHA board of directors. The Centre’s Ukrainian-language course was occasionally taught off-campus at the UNHA building, and some of the endowment funds were also earmarked for scholarships and other programs.
As the UNHA’s membership aged and diminished after 1960 commemorative celebrations highlighting the association’s past accomplishments became frequent. The UNHA’s 50th (1960), 60th (1972), 70th (1983), 75th (1988), 80th (1993) and 90th (2003) anniversaries were celebrated with banquets attended by municipal and provincial dignitaries. The Ladies’ Society of Lesia Ukrainka celebrated its 60th anniversary in 1986. In 1988, the UNHA with assistance from the City of Winnipeg Parks and Recreation Department, unveiled a small monument honouring poet Taras Shevchenko, featuring text in English and Ukrainian, in tiny “Shevchenko Park” at the southwest corner of McGregor Street and Burrows Avenue, directly across the street from the UNHA. During the early 1980s a new banquet hall was also added to the UNHA building and the Selo/Village lounge and beverage room was opened for members and guests. To mark the 80th anniversary a second, smaller, bi-lingual commemorative book – Ukrainian National Home/Ukrains’kyi narodnyi dim – was published in 1993.
In 2010 Fred Mykytyshyn, the UNHA’s long-serving president passed away unexpectedly. As membership numbers were declining, and the UNHA was no longer financially viable, the membership voted to dissolve the Association at a special meeting in the spring of 2011. At this meeting, it was decided to donate the Association’s archives and library holdings to the University of Manitoba Archives, and to the Slavic Collection, Elizabeth Dafoe Library, respectively. In addition, the membership voted to establish an archival fund and a scholarship at the University.
A2011-052 was donated by the Executive Board of the Ukrainian National Home Association in 2011.
A2011-126 was donated by Natalia Aponiuk in 2011.
Scope and content
A2011-052 consists of various legal and financial documents reflecting the Association.
In addition to a variety of documents that supplement some of the series in A2011-052, the accession contains the by-laws, minutes and jubilee book of the Ukrainian Relief Society/Fraternal Association (“Vzaimna Pomich”) (1935-1968); a large number of cultural event programs (1917-1983); the texts of some of the most popular stage plays performed by UNHA drama circles during the interwar years; sheet music; a large scrapbook of posters and flyers advertising various cultural events (1913-1962); exhibit materials; artefacts (primarily plaques and awards presented to the UNHA); several original sketches and prints; and 36 large portrait and group photographs, including 2 framed, outsize collages featuring photos of every member of the Maria Zankovetska Educational and Drama Society (1917) and the Boyan Drama Society (1918).
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A finding aid can be downloaded from this description by clicking on the Download link under "Finding aid" on the right hand side of this page.
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Inventory prepared by Orest Martynowych, with preliminary work completed by Vladimira Zvonik.
Finding aid encoded by Orest Martynowych in 2016.
Entered into AtoM by Natalie Vielfaure on February 15, 2017.
A2011-126 created by Orest Martynowych (February 2020).
Revised by N. Courrier (March 2020).