Friday, March 8, 2013



In 1987 Ivaan started to make some pieces in silver, bronze and gold commemorating the upcoming 1000th anniversary of Christianity in Ukraine. Being a history enthusiast, Ivaan delighted in telling how,  shortly before 988 A.D., Volodymyr (also known as Vladimir) decided he wanted to become King, so he killed off a few members of his family who stood between him and ascendancy to the throne, became King Volodymyr, and then forcibly converted his fellow countrymen to Christianity.  Somewhere along the line, he repented his murderous deeds, so they made him a saint and named the Cathedral at 400 Bathurst Street in Toronto after him.   Well, that's Ivaan's "executive summary" of the events. I'm sure it was a little more complicated than that and the timeline was a little longer.

Anyway, 1988 was the 1000th anniversary of Christianity, Volodymyr-style, in Ukraine.  And at the Cathedral on Bathurst Street,  plans were under way to commemorate the event.  They put a big banner out in front of the Cathedral saying 988-1988 and underneath it said "1000th Anniversary of Christianity".

Among other things, Ivaan made three large bronze plaques with his depiction of Volodymyr, the year 988, and text around the circumference which read "1000 YEARS: CHRISTIANITY IN RUS'-UKRAINE".  He wanted to donate two of them to the Cathedral, to be mounted on the front doors.  For reasons which I never fully understood, but were likely heavily rooted in bureaucracy, his donation never occurred, and I knew Ivaan was hurt.  Knowing Ivaan as well as I do, I speculate that he showed the Cathedral officials the plaques in their raw state, not realizing that it would be hard for them to imagine the finished product.  As a conductor can look at an orchestral score and hear how it sounds, Ivaan could look at a newly-cast piece of jewellery and envisage the finished product.  He could never fathom that others did not share his vision.

So the bronze plaques languished among his rough pieces for the next quarter of a century.  Recently I was looking at them and thinking it was time to reopen the issue with the Cathedral.  After all, it's now 2013 -  the 25th anniversary of the 1000 year celebrations in 1988.  And next year it will be the 25th anniversary of the death of Ivaan's mother.  Suddenly, I remembered a conversation Ivaan and I had had a few months before his death.  He said that he had intended to donate two of the plaques in honour of his favourite priest, Father Bohdan Sencio, and Dobrodika Katerina Sencio, his wife, a truly wonderful lady of whom Ivaan had always been very fond.  So I arranged for the plaques to be finished and coated with a protective patina, and reopened the idea of the donation with the Cathedral officials.  This time, the wheels of bureaucracy turned smoothly (maybe St. Volodymyr should take lessons from me!) and the three bronze plaques are en route to the Cathedral, one engraved in honour of Father Sencio, one engraved in honour of Mrs. Sencio, and the third in memory of Ivaan's parents.  I can't wait to see them displayed in the Cathedral - but here's how they look.  Ivaan is definitely beaming down on me.

But because this is a story about Ivaan, naturally there is a funny side.  In 1988 we were walking up Bathurst Street, across the street from the Cathedral.  Directly opposite the Cathedral is a streetcar stop.  At the stop were two older Ukrainian ladies.  One pointed to the banner in front of the Cathedral, and said "So I phoned 988-1988 but nobody answered."

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