A brief history of the Norwood Legion.

 

It all began in London, England 1942. Flying officer Bohdan Panchuk of Saskatoon was instrumental in forming a club for Canadian personal of Ukrainian origin. It was named “Ukrainian Canadian Servicemen’s Association” or the “U.C.S.A”.

He rented a personage near paddington station, London, Where hundreds of Canadian Ukrainian service men and women gathered for fellowship. It was at this club that the idea was concepted of forming a Ukrainian Veterans’ Association in Canada – once the war was over. There was literally hundreds of serving personnel from Edmonton who frequented the Ukrainian Canadian Servicemen’s Association in London.

At the official opening  of the club in London, Helen Kozicky of Calgary  assisted Bohdan Panchuk and Dr. Bohdan Michalyshyn of Edmonton at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

On January 5th, 6th, and 7th of 1945, the members celebrated their second anniversary and the traditional Ukrainian Christmas festival.

 

The official program of this memorial event lists many familiar names:

  • President  –  FL/Lt Bohdan Panchuk
  • Secretary  –  Sgt. Helen Kozicky
  • Committee member  –  Major michal Syrotuck
  • Committee member  –  Capt. Bohdan Michalyshyn
  • Committee member  –  Lt. V.H. Kupchenko
  • Committee in Italy  –  FL/Lt William Kereliuk
  • Committee in Canada  –  F/O Don Zuck
  • Chaplain  –  Capt. S.W. Sawchuk, Ukrainian Greek Orthodox

 

In London, the seed was sown. In canada, the returning service men and women started to organize. In edmonton, groups were meeting informally: such as William Holychuk, Don Zuck, Orest Zarsky, Ed Tomick, William Orobko, and Nestor Holychuk – to name a few.

An invention signed by Nick Bodnar, William Kereliuk and Don Zuck of the vicemen ro a meeting on November 1st, 1945. The result was action to organize a club. On december 17th a letter written by William Kereliuk to the Provincial Command of the Canadian Legion, Calgary, Asks … “How do we form a Legion branch for Canadian veterans of  Ukrainian origin?” The reply came from Provincial command on December 27th, stating … “No problems. Enclosed are the necessary forms and information. Submit at least ten names, but not more than fifteen, as charter members, together with the necessary fee.”

Following a month of planning and work, on January 30th 1946, a letter was sent to the Provincial command saying “we’re meeting to organize…” The very next day a reply from Calgary requesting the charter members and payment fee.

 

Records dated February 12th, 1946, show the following names submitted as charter members:

  • Nick Bodar
  • Walter Karachowsky
  • Willian Kereliuk
  • John March
  • Dr. Bohdan Michalychyn
  • Dr. William Orobko
  • Ed Tomick
  • John Yusep
  • Orest Zarsky
  • Don Zuck
  • Isidore Goresky
  • Nestor Holychuk

 

At the payment of $3.00 – charter, plus $1.60 per capita tax. The legion was formed on the 23rd of February, 1946. A charter was issued  in the name of ‘Canadian Legion Norwood Branch #178’.

 

On Wednesday, July 3rd, 1946, the first executive was duly installed.

  • President  – Col. Michael Syrotuck
  • Vice-Pres.  – Donald Zuck
  • Secretary  – Dr. William Orobko
  • Treasurer  – Dr. Bohdan Michalyshyn
  • Stg.-at-Arms  – Michael Checknita
  • Member of the Executive  – Ed Tomick
  • Member of the Executive  – Nestor Holychuk
  • Member of the Executive  – Nick Bodnar
  • Member of the Executive  – John Yusep
  • Member of the Executive  – William Kereliuk
  • Member of the Executive  – Dr. Stan Warshawski

 

So officially formed was the Norwood Legion was on  February 23rd, 1946. Among various activities, there came some very special events. At the first meeting 1949, the installation of officers was highlighted by an impressive presentation of Canadian citizenship papers.

 

The following members recived recived their canadian citizenship certificates:

  • Bill Oronko
  • Michal Syrotuck
  • Alex Bayrak
  • John Stetsko
  • Nestor Marchyshyn
  • Demitro Melnyk
  • Martin Bodnar
  • Tom Preston

 

Since the Norwood Branch’s formation in 1946, Col. Mike Syrotuck and ex-servicewoman Lena Ewanchuk took steps to form a Ladies Auxiliary to Branch #178. On March 14, 1949, their plans came to fruition when Provincial Command Installed the ladies into their respective offices, and thereupon presented the official charter.

 

The 15 charter members are inscribed as follows:

  • Emily Svarich
  • Winnifred Lesick
  • Stella Stetsko
  • Jennie Stetsko
  • Helen Orobko
  • Adelle Kereliuk
  • Helen Tomick
  • Stephanie Andrews
  • Sophie Rybak
  • Irene Preston
  • Nellie Trischuk
  • Pearl Warshawski
  • Mary Holychuk
  • Ann Melnyk

 

In 1953, Mr. Justice Peter Greschuk, Q.C., after many years of devoted service as branch legal advisor, was named Honorary President. He served in this position until 1956. In 1959, he was re-appointed as Honorary President. Judge Russell Dzenick, Q.C., served as honorary Vice-President. Subsequently, the honorable William Daichuk, M.L.A. took over the position of honorary Vice-President.

In 1955, Ambitiously the legion sought a building for its members. The original efforts to acquire a location on 95th Street and 117th Avenue did not come to fruition. SO the legion purchased Beulah Tabernacle on 98th street & 177th avenue for the sum of $33’000.00. It did not meet the legions need and was subsequently put up for sale. To raise additional funds, a finance committee was established, know as the ‘norwood legion building fund appeal committee’. A drive for funds was planned, and the entire membership took part in a house to house canvass for donations, throughout the Norwood district.

About this time, we were fortunate to have Mayor William Hawrelak Accept our invitation to become Honorary President of our branch. On sunday, September 1st, 1956, His Worship Mayor Hawrelak performed the sod-turning ceremony for the present Norwood Legion building, on the site he helped to obtain. This historic event was witnessed by a host of dignitaries and legions members such as: Branch President Nestor Marchyshyn: Mr. Justice Peter Greschuck; Past President of Provincial command Ted Brown; Col. Michael Syrotuck; and solicitor, Ed Sully.

With the Planning of a new home, came the task of raising over $100’000.00. The 1956 executive came up with the Giant 10-Car bingos in Old Edmonton Gardens. Martin Bodnar was the chairman of the first Giant 10-car bingo. In 1956 Peter Lupul took over as chairman, and held that position for 18 years. At first the bingos were held monthly. But as more organizations got into the act, the Legion reduced to only three bingos a year.

As it took over a hundred people to run the bingo, and another hundred to prepare the thousands of lap cards and extra bingo cards, almost every branch member and Ladies Auxiliary member was involved. Through this and other activities, our membership grew by more than a thousand members, and enough money was raised to pay off the original mortgage.

In 1959, the Ladies’ Auxiliary  colours were dedicated by Rev. M. Fyk and Father Dobko. Ruth Lupul, Ann Bayrack and Rose Prystupa were the colour party. Branch President Walter Bilinki and Auxiliary President Olga Walusko were Legion dignitaires.

The Norwood Legion Ladies’ Auxiliary is very proud of it Honorary President Mrs. Zonia Greschuk, and the Honorary Vice-President Mrs. Pearl Hawrelak-Porter who succeeded the late Kay Miskew.

In 1972, Dr. John Paran negotiated with the Ukrainian Archives & Museum of Alberta for space for a display in the museum. In October 1972, we provided the colour party for the display opening of the Archives & Museum. In 1980, we improved our display with a glass cabinet, and in 1983 we agreed to full participation in the development of a new Archives & Museum, with at least two seat on the board of directors. The Legion was now fully dedicated to a new modern Archives & Museum building to be built by 1990 – the centennial Anniversary of the first Ukrainians in Canada.

With increased membership the Legion was faced new problems. We had our grown our facilities. In 1973 and 1975, our auditorium and lounge facilities were extended at the cost of over $200’00.00.

In 1975, President John Sorochan started the Norwood Toastmasters’ Club to help members improve their public speaking, and to learn how to conduct meeting properly.

In 1976, President John Sorochan started the tradition of an annual President’s Ball to honor outstanding members, as well as to recognize the high school and university Scholarship winners. In the early 1960’s, Norwood LEgion has set up three grade 9 scholarships and three grade 12 scholarships for children of the Norwood Legion Members. The Legion also set up four $500.00 scholarships at the university of Alberta in Ukrainian language studies.

In 1977, When the Canadian Airborne Regiment was moved from Edmonton to Petawawa, Ontario, Norwood Legion took over the sponsorship of the Airborne Cadet Corps.

In 1978, Norwood Legion turned its buildings over to the Commonwealth Games. It was used for two weeks as the photographic and news center by all the reporters covering the 1978 games.

Also in 1978, Norwood Legion was active in assisting Alderman William Chmiliar, who at the time was branch president, In relocating the cenotaph to a location in front of City Hall. Together with other Legion branches they raised $170’00.00 to cover the full cost of the relocation of the Cenotaph.

In 1979, the Alex Bayrak Memorial Trophy was set up to honor Alex Bayrak who had served in every position in the branch, As well as District and Zone Commander. Alex Bayrak was first vice-president of the Alberta/N.W.T annually to the top Cadet of the Airborne Cadet Corps #2551.

In 1980, branch President, George Melenka, concepted the idea of a Senior Citizens’ Lodge.

 

A society for the Senior Citizens’ Lodge was formed by the following:

  • President  – George Melenka
  • Vice-President  – George Lupul
  • Secretary  – Eugene Lemiski
  • Treasurer – Anne Bayrak
  • Board member  – William Chmiliar
  • Board member  – Dan Kobasiuk
  • Board member  – Alex Korol
  • Board member  – Peter Kule (auditor)
  • Board member  – Joseph Trofimuk, Q.C. (legal)

 

Negotiations with the Alberta Government were completed, and a 242-unit complex was approved in 1983 at a cost of $11.5 million dollars. Norwood Legion undertook to contribute #150’00.00 towards the special amenities in the complex. The Norwood Legion Manor is located at 113th Avenue and 83rd Street, and was tentatively planned for 1987 or 1988. In 1985, Eugene Plawiuk replaced Dan Kobasiuk as a board member. The society for the Manor started conducting casinos, and sufficient funds were raised to cover the Legions portion of the cost.

In 1981, Norwood Legion celebrated its thirty-fifth  anniversary with a banquet. Special guests for the occasion were: Lt. Gov. Hon. Frank Lynch Staunton,, Bill Yurko, M.P., Hon. Bill Diachuk, M.A.L., Deputy Mayor Alderman Ed Leger, Hon. Treasurer Provincial Command, R.C.L. Jim Buffam, Ladies Auxiliary President, Joanne Kutney, And President George Melenka. Joe Stepa was master of ceremonies.

Tributes were paid to three of our most decorated veterans: Bill Poohkay, Steve Kashton, And Walter Chrony. A special slide presentation by Joe Stepa depicted the 35-year history of Norwoods’ Legion.

In April 1986, A similar banquet was heled, and half-hour video on the history of Norwood Legion was produced by Joe Stepa. William Chmiliar was the organizing chairman of the occasion.

In the first 40 years, Norwood Branch was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal to five members for their long outstanding service, well above and beyond ordinary service.

 

The recipients of this honor:

  • Col. Michael Syrotuck
  • Alex Mayrak
  • Peter Lupul
  • George Lupul
  • William Chmiliar

 

An Abridged speech by Dr. W. Hyrak on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of Edmonton.

 

The name “Edmonton”, From an ancient city in england in the environs of London, ad it beginning around 793 A.D. At that time it was called Edelmetuna and since 1537 it has borne the modernized name of Edmonton. The Hudson’s Bay Company gave this name to a fort built on the spot where the provincial legislature now stands. This name was retained when Edmonton when Edmonton was incorporated into a city.

The first Ukrainian pioneer-settlers settled in the Beaver Creek Valley where Lamont, Mundare, And Vegerville are low located. The pioneers came to Edmonton to make their purchases where mercantile and insurance enterprises were already established and where they settled there legal formalities with the two levels of Government – Civic and Provincial.

In Edmonton immigrants “parked” their wagons on uncultivated lots near the river bank, lit fires, and frequently spent their nights there. Edmontonians called this square “Galician Hotel”. Th this square today, built in 1915, Stands the McDonald Hotel.

Over the course of time, as it grew and prospered, Edmonton became a center of commercial and cultural life, attracting many people, among whom were Ukrainians who found employment as common workers and tradesman, or set up their own businesses.

As the ukrainian population grew, Edmonton gradually became the center of Ukrainian life in Alberta. The first Ukrainian bookstore was established in 1901 in the home of Kiliar. Then in 1906 the “Prosvita” bookstore was set up in the church of St. Josephat. In 1905 the Sisters of Service opened the first Ridna Shkola in their residence. It is worth noting that the Ukrainian National Home, from 1907 on, became the center of cultural life in Edmonton and its district.

Somewhat later, in 1918 in fact, the M. Hrushewsky Institute was established, taking onto itself the important role of “preserver of national enlightenment”. In following years, among similar institutions and organizations, the leading role in this field was taken over by our churches. The priests of the Basilian Order, Who came to Alberta in 1902, were largely instrumental in organizing Catholic parishes in Alberta, building and locating their monistart in the village of Mundare, and the first church in Edmonton in 1904. The official founding of the Ukrainian Orthodox church took place in 1918.

At this time, there are nine catholic and four Orthodox Churches and  parishes In Edmonton. Both Churches carry on good work not only in religious but also in the educational-cultural fields. Lau organizations like the brotherhood of Ukrainian Catholics, The League of Ukrainian Catholic Women Of Canada.

 

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