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Tiny Point Douglas park steeped in history

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Many of us pass by monuments in this city without knowing anything about them or why they are there. Sometimes they simply become more or less forgotten.

One such monument sits in a tiny Point Douglas park that, like the area itself, is actually a rich treasure trove of Winnipeg history.

Erected in 1944 by local Ukrainians under the leadership of Fr. Panteleimon Bozyk, a striking bronze bust of Ukrainian poet, Markian Shashkevych, dominates one corner of the park that is named for him.

Shashkevych lived a short and unhappy life. But this young poet and priest was nevertheless celebrated for many years as the ‘herald of Western Ukraine’s revival.’

Born in 1811 in Pidlyssia, he soon eagerly began to collect Ukrainian folklore, stories, songs and histories. He then created and published the Rusalka Dnistrova, the first collection of works written in the Ukrainian language.

It was considered revolutionary. In doing this Shashkevych showed the world the true literary value of the Ukrainian language. The poet encountered many difficulties in attempting to publish the work and after doing so found himself increasingly persecuted and his works banned and censored.

He continued to write but lived in such poverty, despair and ill health that, it is said, he soon became blind and deaf. He died at the age of 32.

His fame as a leader of both a literary and a national revival in 19th century Western Ukraine began only after his death.

"In 1943 a wide commemoration of the centenary of Markian Shashkevych’s death was staged in the Ukrainian Diaspora," says Jaroslav Rozumnyj, professor and former head of the department of Slavic studies at the University of Manitoba.

"A monument in his memory was erected and unveiled in 1944. In 1961 the Markian Shashkevych Institute was established in Winnipeg," he adds.

In 1942 the Ukrainian community honoured Canadian Ukrainian soldiers by erecting a tall monument topped by an angel in this park. And in 1943 Ukrainians celebrated the 50th anniversary of the settlement of Ukrainians in Canada by dedicating another monument honouring the pioneers.

Cheryl Girard is a community correspondent for West Kildonan. You can contact her at girard.cheryl@gmail.com.

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