Memorable Manitobans: Nicholas Bilash (1890-1961)
Educator, community activist.
Born at Payiwka, Ukraine on 19 May 1890, he grew up at neighboring Zelene in present-day Husiatyns’kyj County, Ukraine and received eight years of schooling there. He immigrated to Canada in 1907 and settled first at Virden before working for three years for Brandon storekeeper and counselor Alexander Zylich who had paid for his voyage. He attended Brandon Collegiate, Brandon College, and the Ruthenian Training School while living in Brandon, and was one of 18 people to contribute to construction of a Ukrainian National Home there. He taught at Mountain Stream School (1916), Hranko School (1917), Lemberg School (?), and Poplar Park School (1921-1922) before attending the Dauphin Normal School (1924-1925) where he met fellow student Mary Waroway (1904-1990) and, on 21 July 1926, married her. They taught together at Chatfield (1926-1927) and, in time, had two sons: Dr. Borislaw Nicholas Bilash and Dr. Ivan Bilash.
He attended St. John’s College in Winnipeg, served as President of the Ukrainian Student Circle and Ukrainian (Ruthenian) Canadian Teachers Association, and organized educational and cultural study programs at Strathcona School. He received a BA degree at the University of Manitoba (1929) then taught at Zelena School (1929-1938, founding the Ukrainian National Home at Zelena), Mink River School (1938-1939), Small Creek School (1942-1944), and Skala School (1947-1948). He owned a farm near Zelena School (1929-1949) which he operated part-time while teaching and also a homestead at Neville near Swift Current, Saskatchewan. He farmed at Zelena full-time in the late 1940s and ran a 120-hive apiary as a member of the Manitoba Honey Cooperative.
He was Principal of Purple Bank School (1949-1953), Happy Thought School (1953-1954), and Lloyd George School (1954-1955). He served as the Secretary-Treasurer for the Rural Municipality of Mossey River (1939) and he ran as an Independent candidate for Ethelbert in the 1932 provincial general election. He was active in promoting Ukrainian culture, writing letters to world leaders to draw their attention to atrocities occurring in Soviet Ukraine, and to newspapers including Winnipeg’s Ukrainian Voice and Canadian Farmer on various Ukrainian-Canadian themes. He retired to Winnipeg in 1956 and was given life membership in the Manitoba Educational Association.
Marriage registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
1911 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.
1916 Canada census, Library and Archives Canada.
Western Land Grants, Library and Archives Canada.
“Sifton news,” Dauphin Herald & Press, 12 May 1932, page 3.
US Commission on the Ukraine Famine, Investigation of the Ukrainian Famine 1932-1933: Report to Congress, United States Government Printing Office, 1988, ISBN 0-16-003290-3, page 164.
“Nominations,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 July 1936, page 2.
“Rural Municipality of Mossey River,” Dauphin Herald & Press, 18 May 1939, page 7.
“More than 60 teachers in Dauphin District listed,” Dauphin Herald & Press, 7 October 1943, page 4.
“First time in 40 years, no resolutions offered,” Winnipeg Free Press, 6 April 1956, page 13.
Engagement notices [Mr. and Mrs. Frederick W. Ukena],” Winnipeg Free Press, 21 August 1951, page 12.
“St. Vladimir and Olga choir attends bridal,” Winnipeg Free Press, 14 September 1951, page 17.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 19 September 1961, page 24.
Obituary [Mary Bilash], Winnipeg Free Press, 27 May 1990, page 27.
We thank Orest Martynovych for providing additional information used here.
Page revised: 2 March 2021