Thursday, June 2, 2011

A small gift to one man

Some time ago, a friend of mine asked me to do her a favour, and when she told me what she wanted from me naturally I said, “Sure!” But this wasn't a simple “sure” it was an extremely committed sure, and with good reason. She had asked me to write a piece on the Ukrainian community's participation on Montreal's St. Patrick's Day Parade. Naturally, being someone of who can trace his family through both communities I could hardly refuse. So she provided me with the names and contacts of some of the people who were involved, but primarily of one particular individual.

So naturally, before contacting any of the people she had given me I did a bit of my own research first. I put together a general idea of the the questions I would ask these people to illicit some interesting responses and then sat down made my phone calls. After over an hour and a half speaking to these people, making copious notes, reviewing those and then doing some additional research, I reviewed everything. There was no great rush, but at the same time I said I would let all this information ferment somewhere in the grey matter located in my cranium.

Then I sat down. Nothing would come out. I went for a walk, took care of tasks that were mundane and non-creative, made lunch and had a siesta. I re-read my notes a second time and decided that nothing was going to be written that day. I slept on the information I had gathered.

When I awoke the next morning I went for a walk before I had planned to have breakfast. When I got home somehow everything started coming into focus. I trundled down the stairs to my basement work area and I begin to spin my yarn. The following is what I finally put together.

Ukraine on Parade on St. Patrick's Day – An integral part of Quebec society
by Vasyl Pawlowsky

Montreal – On March 20, for the one-hundred and eighty-seventh consecutive year the St. Partick's Day Parade was held in Montreal, and for the tenth consecutive year Montreal's Ukrainian community participate under the name Ukraine on Parade. The entry was awarded Best Cultural Community Unit, one of twenty different categories judged as parade entries, and this was not the first time.

While this is Montreal's Ukrainian community's tenth consecutive year of involvement in the the St. Patrick's Day Parade, Ukrainians “first participated when Prosvita from Pointe St. Charles participated in the parade back in 1942,” said Edward Dorozowsky, better known as Ed Doro, who has been the driving force behind ensuring that the Ukrainian community has its place in such a venerable institution as the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Montreal.

The son of a blacksmith, Doro, grew up in the Pointe St. Charles district of Montreal, a working-class district which had both high concentrations of Ukrainians and Irish. There are a number of parallels in the histories of these two peoples, and it would come as no surprise if Doro had many Irish friends as he was growing, and clearly a mutual respect has formed between the communities over their history in the province.

Ukraine on Parade has its own executive committee and is separate entity from other Ukrainian organizations in Montreal. For some years I approached different organizations in Montreal with the idea of participating in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Their respective leaders said they had to discuss it with their committees. I simply got tired of waiting and formed my own executive committee, and called it Ukraine on Parade as it works well in English, French and Ukrainian,” said Doro.

He recalled how his biggest supporters in the beginning where his eldest children Alexandra, confined to a wheelchair all of her life with Spina bifida and who passed away in 2006 and his son Eddy, a professional wrestler. “They all said, 'Dad, go for it,” reminisced Doro.

Even before Ukraine on Parade was created Doro always tried to find a way in which to install elements of Ukrainian culture through other organizations into the mainstream. He recalled how as a member of the Lions Club, a community service organization, he installed long-time community leader carrying the Ukrainian flag in the St. Patrick's Day Parade, “This was against organization policy, as there was still no Lion's Club in Ukraine, but I had contributed a great deal, providing eye glasses to the less fortunate through a number of projects, and the top people simply told others, 'don't interfere with Ed',” stated Doro emphatically. That leader was Dr. Walter Kowal, who was very involved in the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Association of Montreal and who had served as it's President.

Since the reintroduction of the Ukrainian community's participation in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in 2002, after a fourteen year hiatus, it has become a welcome event for Ukrainians in Montreal.

“The last time that Ukrainians were involved in the St. Patrick's Day Parade was in 1988, the millennium of Ukrainian Christianity,” said Bohdan Klymchuk, founder of the Troyanda Dance Ensemble of Montreal, which has contributed to the Ukraine On Parade float since it's inception.

“We are extremely happy to be part of this presentation to the community at large. But for the most part, we never realize that the we have participated in the event until it is over. Our dancers want to finish their program,” stated Klymchuk.

In addition to organizing all the sponsors, and the logistics of the event Doro, has also included the nomination of a Ukrainian of the Year who will ride in the parade. Those who have been selected to hold this honourable title have included both Montrealer's as well as others from outside of Montreal and Quebec. Those from Montreal have included Bill Hladky in 2002, Yarema Kelebay in 2007, Peter Zhytynsky in 2009 and Yourko Kulycky in 2010.

“After being being selected as 'Ukrainian of the Year' for 'Ukraine on Parade' in 2004, Member of Parliament Borys Wrzesnewskyj enjoyed participating in the St. Patrick's Day Parade so much that he invited himself back the following year,” said Ed Doro.

The man honoured with the aforementioned title this year was also not from Montreal, but from Royun-Noranda, in northern Quebec. He is James Slobodian, President of Camp Spirit Lake Corporation. He has tirelessly been working for more than a decade to ensure that the interpretive center regarding the Internment of Ukrainians as enemy aliens during the First World War at Spirit Lake, becomes a reality.

The Spirit Lake internment site was the second largest site in Canada, in which 1,200 men, women, and children were unjustly interned as enemy aliens, the majority being Ukrainian. From Montreal’s St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, 60 families were taken.

Slobodian had good models to guide him and this became clear when asked about the man behind Ukraine on Parade.

"Having spent a few hours with Ed Doro, I observed how he is well known, respected and a real Ukrainian right from his roots. As the annual organizer of "Ukraine On Parade" every March, he integrates into the entire Montreal community and the province the presence of Ukrainian Culture in Quebec. He reminds me of my late uncle Bill Senkus, who was also very proud and every day reminded others of his Ukrainian origins. Yes, congratulation Ed Doro,” said Slobodian.

Senkus, was a well respected Ukrainian community leader who arrived in Canada in 1929 and served on the executive of the Ukrainian Canadian Committee from 1945 through to his passing in 1965. In 1992 as a way of honouring all Ukrainians in Quebec, the municipal council of what was then the City of LaSalle renamed one it's streets after Senkus.

Such an honour clearly reflects that Ukrainians are an integral part of Quebec society, and Ed Doro has ensured, for over the last decade that all the people who line the streets of Montreal for the St. Patrick's Day Parade know that Ukrainians are present in Montreal.

“In fact very often those watching the parade are in awe when they see the entire presentation including our dancers on the back of a flat bed truck. It's hard for them not to notice that Ukrainians are part of the community here,” concluded Klymchuk.

Quite some time after I had passed this on to my friend, she informed me that it had been published in America. Which is both a geographical location, and the name of a newspaper of The Providence Association. A few days later I received the hard copy of my article in the mail. I took the time to contact the editor, Mr. Leo Iwaskiw to ask him if he could forward me an electronic copy that I could share with friends. Though particularly with one who had arrived in Philadelphia as a nine-years old boy in 1949. I had heard so many stories from Roman Romanovych about his beloved Franklin Street in Philly, that I just had to share this piece and others in the PDF I had received from Mr. Iwaskiw.

Nearly six weeks has gone by since I did so, yesterday I decided to make a courtesy phone call to the story's hero Ed Doro. I wanted to ask him if he had received a copy of the article I had written about his role of ensuring the Ukrainian community's participation in Montreal's St. Patrick's Day Parade, and to pick his brain about a few things. While, he wasn't home when I called, it wasn't long before he returned my phone call. After being certain who he was speaking to, the first thing he asked me was if I wanted to buy advertising or sponsor a car for “Ukraine on Parade”. While I replied negatively, he then answered positively to my intended query, and it wasn't a simple answer.

“You just about gave me a heart attack with that piece you wrote,” said Doro. I was a little taken aback and wasn't quite sure what he was leading to. “Vasyl, it took me about an hour and a half to read your piece. When I got to opening of the third paragraph and the words, 'The son of a blacksmith', I broke down',” said Doro trying to hold back his emotion.”Did you know that the last time I heard that phrase, was when I was about six years old,” continued Doro.

It seemed to have stirred some pride in the man I have yet to meet. He went on to tell me how it made his son's proud to read something like that about their father and then took me on a journey back to Western Ukraine to a time before he wasn't even a twinkle in his own father's eye.

“You know Vasyl, my father only had one hour of formal schooling in his entire life,” said Doro. “You see my father had two older brothers, so when he was growing up and they were already going to school, he somehow learnt a lot from them even before he went to school. Back in those days the school year didn't start until November, as they had to get the harvest in, and until that was done there was no school,” he continued, and I attentively listened.

“On my father's first day of school, the teacher had asked him a few questions, and having answered them all well the teacher said to him, 'Very good Petro! Do you know how to chop wood?' My father answered affirmatively. His teacher then told him to go outside and chop up some wood, as it was starting to get cold and they needed to put some more on the stove. My father did as he was asked,” recalled Doro. As it turned out, when he went out the door of the school he never returned. So you are all probably wondering, what happened to Ed's father Petro? I know the thought was going through my mind for a while until he continued.

“As my father was by the school chopping wood, his father came by in a horse drawn waggon. 'Petro, why are you not in class,' asked his father. 'The teacher said, I answered all the questions the teacher asked and was told that I was very bright, then the teach told me to go out side to chop some wood for the stove.' Upon hearing this, my grandfather looked an my father and said, 'So you can chop wood! Good, get in the waggon. You can chop wood at home!' So that is how my father's formal schooling ended,” recalled Doro with a hint of humour audible in his voice.

Though he digressed many times to tell me how long it took him to read the article, with tears gushing from his eyes. He told me of how is father eventually became an apprentice with a blacksmith who was somehow related to him through marriage. With times extremely difficult a plan was hatched for Petro to go abroad to work, make some money and then return to help the family with his earnings. However, with that part of contemporary Ukraine being under Polish rule, Ukrainians were treated like second-class citizens. For the young man to get a passport to travel was practically impossible until someone suggested that he simply change the spelling of his name, and not write in Ukrainian, which uses the Cyrillic script, but to write in Polish which uses the Latin. Hence, his name was transmuted from Dorozowsky to Dorozowski, and by masquerading as an ethnic Pole he was issued a passport and was allowed to travel abroad. As it was, his father never returned to his homeland, but there are many stories of individuals who did. Some made their small fortunes and returned home to buy land and start farming. One of my good friend's grandfathers did just that, but with the outbreak of war and the coming of the Soviets all he had worked for was confiscated by the state.

I spent a bit more time listening to Doro as he recalled his activity in his youth when he danced for Vasyl Avramenko , as a parent at Loyola High School in Montreal, and common friends of ours like Yarema Kelebay, who is no longer with us. We chatted a little more about our personal matters, with regular interjections of “Thank-you” from Doro for documenting part of his own personal history.

As our telephone conversation came to a close, I felt a certain happiness which I had not felt in a long time. I was so happy that had given him this gift, which he had told me, “A million dollars couldn't buy!” I clearly understood from our conversation that it wasn't just a gift to him but to his sons as well.

I haven't personally met Edward Dorozowsky but I hope to make sure I do in the very near future. He is truly an inspirational individual.

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