July 14, 2016

One of the various displays exhibited at this year’s Gardenton Ukrainian Festival – 9 July 2016 - was that of an ongoing project that intends to preserve the legacy of south-eastern Manitoba’s places of worship. We know that throughout the province peoples from Eastern Europe constructed hundreds of churches and chapels – many of them amazing examples of church architecture and sacred art. Besides, regardless of their artistic value, all of these places are inspiring beyond words because they ultimately were places where God and His people encountered each other like nowhere else. In south-eastern Manitoba, as elsewhere, some of these churches are abandoned and are falling into ruin and even disappearing altogether.

Three young researchers, under the direction of University of Manitoba professors, Dr. Stella Hryniuk and Dr. Roman Yereniuk are dedicating themselves this summer to bringing to the public the situation of these churches and why they are of profound historic value to Canada – especially as we celebrate 125 years of Ukrainian Immigration to Canada this year. The three young men are a student from the University of Winnipeg Joseph Radawetz, and two students from the University of Manitoba Nicholas Skromeda and John Kiesman.  Angela Smook, who is very active with the Ukrainian community in that part of the province is also directly involved with the project.

The researchers, who have an office at St. Andrew’s College on the UofM campus, actually visit the churches (or the sites of the churches if they are no longer standing). They take photos, interview local people and even draw up floor plans. All this is entered into data sheets and eventually submitted to the University of Manitoba to be archived and made available for further processing.

The exhibit at Gardenton was a selection of their research cleverly displayed on blocks … since the local churches were the “building blocks” of the Ukrainian colonies in the whole region (and across Canada for that matter). As a description on the display noted, “The Church as the Building Block of the South-eastern Manitoba Ukrainian Settlement”. It went on to explain, “The church was the first institution Ukrainian immigrants established upon arriving on the Canadian prairies. Churches provided a place for people to meet,” and as well as being places of worship and faith-building, they, “functioned as a needed cultural and social hub.” The block method was a wonderful way for people to see the results of the research. They could pick them up and study the church and the information from various angles. The plan is eventually to provide the information using more hi-tech 3D or even holographic imaging.

The sponsoring organization of the project is the Manitoba Eastern European Heritage Society. They have already published the results of earlier research in a volume aptly entitled “Monuments to Faith: Ukrainian Churches in Manitoba”. One can learn more about the society and access their materials by visiting the UofM website.

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