Ukrainian Canadian Congress of Saskatchewan celebrates local leaders

Award recipients pose for a photo with the UCC Saskatchewan Executive following their Nov. 4 award ceremony in Prince Albert. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

They come from a variety of fields, but their culture unites them.

From science to government to the arts to local community groups, the 10 winners at the 2018 Ukrainian Canadian Congress of Saskatchewan Nation Builder and Community Recognition Awards have contributed to almost every area of society imaginable. By the end of the night they were united by two things: their love for Ukrainian culture, and their humility at being chosen for such an award.

“I thought maybe they’d made a mistake,” said Community Recognition Award winner Wasyl Rybalka, one of four winners with ties to Prince Albert. “It’s very nice to be recognized. There are so many people who do so much in the community. The people who nominated me saw something in me that they thought was worthy. I’m really appreciative of that.”

“I don’t know if I really deserved it because there are so many others who were involved too, but I guess they chose me,” added Nellie Bachek, another award winner from Prince Albert. “It’s really a humbling feeling. I just didn’t think things like that would happen.”

UCC Saskatchewan recognized seven community award winners on the evening, four of whom come from Prince Albert.

Rybalka and Bachek received their awards for Leadership and Cultural Preservation and Development. For Rybalka, that includes roles as diverse as board member for the Prince Albert Malanka committee to director of the Veselka Choir, while for Backek, it meant countless hours helping found and run the Barveenok Ukrainian Dancers and helping found the Veselka Cultural and Heritage Club.

Other Prince Albert honourees included Victoria Stefanyshyn, who received a Community Recognition Award for Youth Achievement, and Iris Smisko, who was recognized with the Community Recognition Award for Volunteerism.

Despite not even being 20 years old, Stefanyshyn has dedicated 14 years to dancing with the Prince Albert Barveenok Ukrainian Dance Club. She is also a talented artist, whose designs were recently chosen for the inaugural Heart of Youth Powwow logo.

Smisko was also heavily involved in the Barveenok Dance Club where she served in a number of executive positions, including chair of their annual four-day festival. She is also an active member of the Veselka Ukrainian Culture and Heritage Club.

Sunday’s award ceremony was particularly special for Smisko, whose late sister was also a Community Recognition Award winner.

“She was a 25-year cancer survivor and she did everything in her life to help people who were suffering from this disease,” Smisko said afterwards. “Then she wrote a book about her cancer journey, so it was really humbling to be in the same category as her, with all the great things that she did. For me to follow in her footsteps was really an honour.”

John Chrusch of Saskatoon, Linda Rudachyk of Rosthern and Aubree Worobetz of Saskatoon rounded out the Community Recognition Award winners list.

There were three Nation Builder Award winners: world renowned plant geneticist George Fedak, Saskatchewan’s former lieutenant-governor, the Hon. Vaughn Solomon-Schofield, and Saskatoon’s Marlene Bodnar, whose involvement in Ukrainian cultural activities includes co-chairing the 125th National Gala Showcase Banquet, to serving as part of the Eparchial Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League of Canada Outreach Ukraine Project.

“These are all our Saskatchewan people who have helped to build, not only our province, but our country, and they have made inroads, be it science, be it the arts, be it literature and the education field,” said UCC Saskatchewan president Mary Ann Trischuk. “They come from all walks of life.”

Sunday’s ceremonies were held at the Ches Leach Lounge in Prince Albert.