Big things tend to start out small, and so it is with a project to commemorate a renowned North End war hero.
The committee working on a project to erect a statue of Victoria Cross recipient Andrew Mynarski was treated to a first look at what the final product will look like when it held a meeting at Andrew Mynarski VC School on Jan. 22.
The committee, which has been working on the project since around 2006, has enlisted the help of famed Winnipeg artist Charlie Johnston to create the bronze sculpture, which will eventually be installed at Vimy Ridge Memorial Park at Portage Avenue and Home Street. The project, between production and installation of the statue, is estimated to cost about $100,000.
During the committee’s meeting, Johnston brought two scale models, or maquettes, of the statue for display.
One of the maquettes was gifted to the school, which will place it among its many Mynarski artifacts, including recreations of his medals and numerous photographs and articles about the heroic North Ender.
Mynarski School principal Doug Taylor said they are constructing a special display case, complete with spotlighting, for the maquette.
"It’s outstanding, it looks gorgeous," Taylor said of the bronze maquette.
"I think that’s better than even we thought it would look."
Mynarski’s legacy has been dedicated elsewhere, including a bust which sits at the Cenotaph War Memorial in Ottawa, and the only flying Lancaster bomber in Canada is painted in the same colours as the one Mynarski flew during the Second World War. There is also a larger-than-life statue of Mynarski erected at RAF Middleton St. George, the English air base where he served.
Noting the absence of a memorial to him in his own hometown, the committee sought to rectify that.
"Under the banner ‘Bring Andrew Home’ the project committee undertook to seek out public donations in a fundraising campaign," committee chair Bill Zuk wrote in an email to The Times.
The Polish-Canadian airman was honoured with the VC for an act of bravery aboard the Lancaster bomber on which he served. When the plane was damaged in flight over France, Mynarski disobeyed orders to abandon the vessel, so that he could try to rescue a tailgunner trapped inside his compartment. When the effort turned out to be futile Mynarski, now in flames, abandoned the aircraft, but didn’t survive.
Miraculously, the tailgunner did live to tell the tale and his account led to Mynarski receiving the Victoria Cross.
For the Winnipeg statue, the committee worked on a more dramatic pose than the "saluting" look Mynarski sports in the RAF Middleton sculpture. Zuk said the local group had originally wanted a copy of that statue, but eventually decided on a smaller design than the nine-foot-tall English version.
For their life-sized bronze statue, which will stand about four feet on top of a four-foot
Manitoba granite base, Mynarski is seen crouching down, an axe in one hand, an outstretched hand in the other, working to free his comrade during that fateful crash.
"The pose is based on his story, he’s reaching down as if to help his friend get out of the turret he was stuck in," Johnston said.
"The message of the piece is, never do we stand so tall as when we kneel do help another. To me, that’s the essence of his story."
Johnston said he plans to get the full-size design off to the Colorado foundry at which the statue will be cast by April. After it’s forged, the committee hopes to have the statue installed this summer.