William & Amelia Kushniryk Memorial Award

William and Amelia Kushniryk

Both William and Amelia were first generation Canadians, born to Ukrainian immigrants who fled economic and political oppression to settle in southern Manitoba in the early 1900s.  Today, more than 1.25 million Canadians have Ukrainian roots.

William Kushniryk (1909-1940) was the fourth child of Iwan Kushniryk and Maria Magus, who settled in Caliento, Manitoba.  Amelia Bereziuk (1915-2012) was the fourth child born to Peter Bereziuk and Anna Tarnopolski, who farmed north of Sundown, Manitoba.

Married in Oct. 1933 in Sundown, William and Amelia set up homesteading in Caliento in a two-room, white-washed, mud-plastered log cabin on five acres.  Life was a hardscrabble existence on sub-marginal land. A decades-long drought and the worst economic depression in Canadian history compounded their struggle.  They persevered and through hard-work and with the support of their families, eked out a living there from 1934-1938.  During this time, they had two sons, Emil in 1935 and Lawrence in 1936.  Sadly, Lawrence lived only to 10 months.

In October 1938, William was admitted to Winnipeg’s St. Boniface Sanatorium with tuberculosis (TB), a diagnosis he received in late 1937.  Amelia was left home alone to look after the livestock, tend to the drought-stricken garden and her three-year-old son.  In early 1939, she too was diagnosed with TB and had to be admitted to the sanatorium in Winnipeg by December of that year.  Amelia arranged for young Emil to stay with a foster family in Winnipeg. 

During the eight months Amelia and William were in the sanatorium at the same time, they were permitted only one-hour visits with each other on Sundays. William died of TB in July 1940.  Amelia recuperated after a two-year stay and was reunited with Emil in late 1941.

Amelia, a woman of incredible resiliency, beauty and strength of character, lived to 97 years of age.  She outlived four husbands and endured a leg amputation in 2010, all with grace and dignity.  During her third marriage, she earned her St. John’s Ambulance Certificate and qualified as a Home Nursing Care Worker.  In 1979, she retired to Victoria to be closer to Emil and his wife, Lynette (1940-2015).  She lived independently in her own home till she was 94.

It is in loving tribute to his parents that Emil (Kushniryk) Hain created this award in 2017 to preserve their legacy as pioneering Ukrainian Canadians.  Since semi-retiring to Victoria in 1975 (fully retired 1990) Emil has maintained close ties with UVic.  He has taken fulltime courses, enjoyed the many cultural and sporting events UVic offers, and established two other scholarships—in Ukrainian Studies and in French—at the university.

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