About the project
- Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Ukrainian Catholic Church – my father's family church
The Purpose of My Projects
I remember a time when I was with my mother sitting in St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Flin Flon, Manitoba. It must have been in the late 1950s or early 1960s well before I started going to school. I suddenly saw somebody I recognised and I exclaimed, “Look; there’s Uncle Joe!” My mother quickly shushed me.
I have no idea why this memory has stuck in my head but it is among my earliest memories. I remember looking around the church and thinking that it was beautiful. I saw the votive candles gleaming in their coloured glass holders. I felt something, too. This was a place where people were very quiet. They all seemed very serious. Though I was unable to articulate it at the time, I was in a holy place and could readily sense it. Thus, began my relationship with holy places.
My love of holy places and my strong sense of connection to my ethnic roots (even though I am a third generation Canadian) are at the core of my church projects.
When my great-grandparents came to Canada at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, there was nothing here for them but wild bush country. The immigrants of the day cleared the land and turned the wilderness into prosperous farmland. They played a vital role in making Canada one of the greatest agricultural nations in the world. Later, as Canada underwent an incredible process of industrialization, Ukrainians were there to work in the factories, mines, and railways.
What is truly amazing is that these immigrants had such enormous faith that they often built churches before any other social institution. For example, in her book Churches of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon, Anna-Maria Baran writes that Ukrainian immigrants first settled north of Canora, Saskatchewan, coming from the village of Antonivka in 1904. Baran lists my paternal great-grandfather as one of them. In only two years time the immigrants had constructed Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Greek Catholic Church (lovingly called Antonivka Church). This was the type of people who nailed shingles on their church while their own homes were still thatched.
Thus Ukrainian churches are a symbol of the tenacity and endurance of people who played a vital role in the making of Canada. They are a powerful representation of faith and a testament of character. Whether constructed of logs by pioneers or constructed using steal beams by professional architects, each church in its own way speaks of who Ukrainian-Canadians were and who they are today. Each church from every era of Canadian history has its story to tell.
- Holy Transfiguration Ukrainian Orthodox Church - my mother's family church
Surely, such representations of our heritage are worth preserving.
The record of these buildings needs to be documented in every way possible and for me that means I must go and photograph as many of them as possible. I say “must” because I am sure that God is calling me to do so. Sadly, there are now several churches that I photographed that have disappeared since the beginning of my project or most certainly will collapse in the next few years.
This is not always a bad news story. In 2003, Christ the Saviour Orthodox Church in Ottawa began significant renovations that include a massive iconography project. Now, when you walk into this church, you cannot help but think to yourself, “This is beautiful. This parish is doing well.” I am honoured that I was allowed the opportunity to photograph every icon of the old church and their record will be preserved in the National Library and Archives of Canada.
Thus the primary goal of my project is to preserve a record of Ukrainian churches and hopefully play a role in maintaining their heritage.
My secondary role is to make this record as accessible to the public as possible. As long as I run this website there will be no advertisements on it. Everyone is welcome here and I encourage you to use this site for the shear enjoyment of Ukrainian Churches. If you enjoy this site, tell your friends. If you want me to photograph your church contact me to discuss the matter. Just keep in mind that I live in Ottawa and might not get out your way for a while.
I want to take this opportunity to thank everybody who has assisted me in my projects. So many people have generously given their time to open their churches to me, to answer my questions, to give me advice on good subjects for photography, or just to give me directions to find a church. I also give thanks to the archivists for their valuable professional support. Finally, I want to give a very special thank you to Nataliya Burchevska my Webmaster. Without her extremely generous assistance this site would not be possible.