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Memorable Manitobans: Michael Ewanchuk (1908-2004)

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Michael Ewanchuk
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Educator, school inspector, historian.

Born at Gimli, Manitoba on 14 March 1908, the fourth child of Ukrainian pioneers Wasyl and Paraskeva Ewanchuk, who arrived in Canada in 1902 from Kopychentsi, Western Ukraine. He grew up on a farm two miles west of town, attended Dnister School and entered Gimli High School at the age of fourteen. Following high school, Michael worked for the Winnipeg Electric Railway, and the Ford factory in Detroit. By working on the midnight shift, he was thus able to attend daytime classes at the Detroit Institute of Technology and Detroit City College (now Wayne State University). In 1930, he returned to Canada and attended Wesley (United) College and Provincial Normal School in Winnipeg.

After graduation, his first position as teacher was at Beckett (Svoboda) School near Stuartburn. He later accepted principalships at Happy Thought School and North Springfield School. It was at North Springfield that he met Muriel Smith, the primary teacher whom he married. Michael and Muriel moved to Cartwright where he had accepted the principalship of the high school. While in Cartwright he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force where he served as instructor of navigation and as Officer in Charge of Airmanship. As an instructor he had various Canadian postings at Saskatoon, Regina, Rivers, Rockcliffe, Moncton, and Dartmouth. He was happy that Muriel was able to join him in some of the locations. He also served as a personnel counselor to the retiring servicemen. His last assignment was as an instructor in mathematics and English with the C.V.T. He was discharged with the rank of Flight Lieutenant.

While teaching, he also continued his own education, attaining his BA, BEd, and MEd degrees from the University of Manitoba. Following his discharge from the RCAF, he became the first Ukrainian Manitoban to receive a permanent appointment as a School Inspector. He served in the Roblin-Grandview-Gilbert Plains inspectoral area and, after several years, he transferred to Carman and later to Winnipeg, where he served for twenty years as inspector of elementary and high schools, evaluating, in particular, instruction in science and mathematics at the senior grade level. His special assignment was the statistical analysis of the High School Examinations then conducted by the Department of Education. He also lectured on the preparation and measurement of examinations.

During his years as a School Inspector, he served as President of the Manitoba Educational Research Council, the University of Manitoba Alumni Association, the Manitoba School Inspectors’ Association, the Canadian College of Teachers, and the Canadian School Superintendents’ and Inspectors’ Association (CASSI). He represented CASSI at the American Science Seminal in Washington, DC and at the conference of the American School Administrators in Chicago. He also served on various curriculum committees. In 1964 Premier Duff Roblin appointed him chair of a curriculum committee to prepare the first Ukrainian program of studies, and to select appropriate textbooks for the teaching of Ukrainian in Manitoba high schools.

His contributions to education have been recognized in many ways. He was a Honourary Life Member of the Canadian Association of School Administrators and of the Canadian College of Teachers. He received recognition from the Manitoba Modern Language Association.

In 1973 he retired as a School Inspector and began devoting his time to his avocation of writing. A lifelong supporter of the Ukrainian community, as a student, he was secretary of a Ukrainian students’ club, member of the International Students’ Club of the YMCA and member of the Ukrainian National Association. While at Normal School, he was a member of the P. Mohyla Institute at 11 Kennedy Street where he served as assistant to the rector, was president of the Student Club “Prometheus”, and was active in the debating club. He was active in the Ukrainian Teachers’ Society. This interest was shown in writing about Ukrainian settlement and Ukrainians who have contributed to Canadian society.

Through the years he contributed articles to the Ukrainian Voice and American Svoboda. Then he began concentrating on an area in which he had personal life experience. He conducted historical research in various archives in Manitoba, in the national archives in Ottawa, the United States Archives in Washington, DC, and the Hawaiian Archives in Hilo and Honolulu. He was awarded a certificate, Hramota and a medal of recognition by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, and received a certificate of recognition from the Ukrainian Free Academy of Sciences in June 2000. For his many books he has received the Margaret McWilliams Award from the Manitoba Historical Society. For his contribution to education he was awarded a Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Winnipeg and a Doctor of Canon Law degree from St. John’s College of the University of Manitoba.

In his historical work he was encouraged and assisted by his wife, Muriel. He called her his primary editor and proofreader. The couple celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1991. In 1992 she encouraged him to visit his ancestral village in Ukraine. Even though she had been ill at home with diabetes since 1980, and her condition was worsening, he took care of her at their home until her death on 21 February 1997. Encouraged by her memory, he reproduced 16 books with two volumes still in preparation at the time of his death.

He died at Winnipeg on 26 August 2004 and was buried in the Glen Eden Memorial Garden.

See also:

Trailblazers: The Lives and Times of Michael Ewanchuk and Muriel (Smith) Ewanchuk
by John C. Lehr and David McDowell, Carpathia Publishers, 2011, 232 pages.

His articles for the Manitoba Historical Society:

Lord Dufferin Trail at Gimli, 1877
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 20, Number 2, Winter 1975

Among his books, all of them self-published, were the following:

  • Spruce, Swamp and Stone: A History of the Pioneer Ukrainian Settlements in the Gimli Area (1977)
  • Vita: A Ukrainian Community (1977)
  • Pioneer Profiles: Ukrainian Settlers in Manitoba (1981)
  • Hawaiian Ordeal: Ukrainian Contract Workers, 1897-1910 (1986)
  • Pioneer Settlers: Ukrainians in the Dauphin Area, 1896-1926 (1988)
  • Young Cossack (1991)
  • Reflections and Reminiscences: Ukrainians in Canada, 1892-1992 (1995)
  • Walter Kurelek: Suffering Genius (1996)
  • East of the Red: Early Ukrainian Settlements North of the Dawson Trail, Volume 1 (1998)
  • East of the Red: Early Ukrainian Settlements North of the Dawson Trail, Volume 2 (1998)
  • Vertical Developments: A New Generation of Ukrainian Canadians, Volume 1 (2000)
  • Vertical Developments: A New Generation of Ukrainian Canadians, Volume 2 (2001)
  • Vertical Developments: A New Generation of Ukrainian Canadians, Volume 3 (2002)
  • Growing Up on a Bush Homestead: Pioneer Life as Seen From the Eyes of the Children (2003)
  • Vertical Developments: A New Generation of Ukrainian Canadians, Volume 3 (2004)

Sources:

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 29 August 2004.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 16 June 2013

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