This write up of Founder’s Night is taken from the Edmonton Club GYROLOG and was written by Fred Schulte.
President Peter Carter welcomed 51 Gyros and ladies from the Edmonton Club, 17 Gyros and ladies from the Sherwood Park Gyro Club and our guest speaker Radomir Bilash and friend Lydia to the Annual Founders Night celebration held at the Royal Mayfair Golf Club on October 18th.
Art Merrick led the group in the singing of Cheerio and John Mann presented the Grace.
Past District Governor Gerry Glassford spoke on the birth of GYRO in 1912 when three college friends, Ed Kagy, Paul Schwan and Gus Handerson believed what they had experienced was worth sharing with a friend. The first seeds of Gyro were planted in Cleveland, Ohio and spread across the United States and Canada. “Age has no terror” when friendship is carried on through life. The last man to join the Cleveland group as a charter member was Jimmie Hubbell. His fascination with the Gyroscope and his persuasive arguments led to the adoption of the name GYRO for the new organization. Hubbell likened the Gyroscope to friendship, because “once set in motion, regardless of outside influences, it would maintain its course regardless-not unlike the benefits of friendship.” This concept then evolved into the three defined words which forever cemented the relationship between friendship and the Gyroscope: Power, Poise and Purpose.
In January 1917, the 279 members of the five loosely aligned Gyro Clubs, Cleveland, Chicago, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Philadelphia got serious and held their first convention. Bylaws were created, a letterhead was designed, dues and the first budget were set, a plan to create more clubs was established and a plan for guest speakers was made. Gyro International was born!
Bruce Swanson introduced our guest speaker, Radomir Bilash, a fifth generation Ukrainian, who was born in Winnipeg. He really discovered his ties with the Ukraine when his father showed him some of the older historical buildings in Dauphin, Manitoba. Radomir said that after receiving his degree in anthropology, he was trying to find a path like all of us, but fate led him in the direction of his cultural, historical and language roots.
He has been an Adjunct Associate Professor and lecturer in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies at the University of Alberta and for the last 20+ years Radomir has presented a course on Early Ukrainian-Canadian Culture. Secondly, he was the organizer and delegation leader of the first Cultural delegation from the Government of Alberta to visit Ukraine on the verge of Ukraine’s independence. For this effort, he received the Order of Merit from the Government of Ukraine.
Radomir gave a power point presentation on the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village – An Open-air Museum. In 1969, William Hawrelak, Frank Lakusta and a few others decided that it was important to preserve some of the Ukrainian history and culture in a pioneer park. The first Ukrainian immigrants settled northeast of Edmonton after 1892. Most came from Galicia and Bukovyna in what is now the western Ukraine and by 1930 about 250,000 people had left Ukraine to settle in Canada. Although other bloc settlements were established in Saskatchewan and Manitoba and elsewhere in Alberta, the settlement near Edmonton was the largest, eventually covering about 8000 km2. A sample of some of the settlement villages follows: Luzan, Kiew, Vilna, Andrew, Musidora, Buchach, Wostok, Radway, Bellis, Hilliard, Myrnam, Lamont, Edna-Star, Shandro and Boian.
In 1971, the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village Society was formed and relied on private funding. By 1975, the Society was running out of money and they approached Horst Schmid, Alberta Minister of Culture, Youth and Recreation 1971-75 and Minister of Government Services and Culture 1975-1979. By 1976, the province agreed to purchase the pioneer village as a Historic Site for $150,000. The Minister responsible for undertaking the purchase was William Yurko, Minister of Housing and Public Works. Yurko was the grandson of Nazar Yurko from Bukovyna who settled in Boian.
A Master Plan was developed for the Ukrainian Cultural Village to show the lives and experiences of Ukrainian Canadian settlers up to 1930. Homestead records were used along with personal interviews of many of the original settlers. The village depicts life in the rural community, on farmsteads and in a railway-centred town site. The site was cleared of trees more than 100 years ago and as a result it
was important to have a landscape plan so that trees, crops and windbreaks could be developed over time to mimic actual conditions.
Significant site preparation was required before any historic buildings could be moved to the village site. Potable water was not available, and sanitary sewer, water and gas lines had to be installed. The province ultimately committed $8 million to undertake the development of the village.
“The Village” has a very strong commitment to historical authenticity and the concept of living history. The Village uses a technique known as first-person interpretation which requires that the costumed performers remain in character at all times (or as much as is feasibly possible). Actors answer all questions as if it is the year their building portrays. Although this technique is off-putting for some visitors at first, it allows for a much stronger experience of immersion in history than traditional third-party interpretation where the actor acknowledges that he is, in fact, in a museum.
The Master Plan of 1979-2016 is still being followed and to date more than 35 relocated and restored structures including a burdei (sod house), a one-room and two-room school, grain elevator, blacksmith shop and three churches of Eastern Byzantine Rite have been established in the Village.
The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is located east of Edmonton along Highway 16, just east of Elk Island National Park. The 2016 summer season starts on May 21st.
Bill Taylor thanked our speaker for a very interesting and informative presentation.