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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Life devoted to Shevchenko

Ukrainian patron from Canada, Vasyl Ivanytsky, organized building of monuments to Kobzar in different countries
27 February, 2014 - 10:43

Without exaggeration, he was a unique personality. I am standing next to his last shelter in Lychakivske cemetery in Lviv. The bronze statue of really extraordinary man, sitting in a melancholy attitude, is established on a low granite pedestal. A component of the sculpture composition is miniature bas-relief pictures of some monuments to Shevchenko. On the front side of the pedestal there is an inscription engraved: “Doctor Vasyl Ivanytsky 18.01.1918 – 27.08.2005. Honorary citizen of Lviv.”

Who was he, this really tireless enthusiast and true Ukrainian, for whom, by all appearances, immortalizing of the memory of Great Kobzar became the dearest activity in his life?


Unfortunately, few people in Ukraine know about this active worker of culture and public figure, his role in creation of a monumental Shevchenkiana. But he was a remarkable personality in Ukrainian diaspora: it is not without a reason that in Stanislav Lazebnyk’s book with unique importance Foreign Ukrainians: Origins and Present Day a separate chapter “Vasyl Ivanytsky’s calling” is dedicated to memories about him. People abroad knew well and respected him for devotion to Ukrainian community, organizing erection of Kobzar monuments all over the world. Ivanytsky’s friend from Canada Yurii Moskal noted about this enthusiasm: “He was a fan of his activity.” As for me, his friend was right, aptly noting that owing to which this activity became possible. You bet. When diligence disappears, nothing is left that gives value to our life.

And everything started back in his childhood. In his father’s house on a wall there was a portrait of the genius poet, whom the teenager treated with great honor. It was framed with embroidered Ukrainian rushnyks. The boy was considerably influenced by Kobzar, he started to read it early, and got fond of the creative work of the poet. We can also add that since the day he left his home, Shevchenko’s word was with him. Using the occasion, I will note that the hero of this story was not talkative about his life path. Vasyl Ivanytsky was born on January 18, 1918 in Ivano-Frankivsk region. He studied in Kolomyia gymnasium. He left Ukraine in 1937. He studied in Poland and Germany. He obtained the degree of Doctor of Economics. Apart from Ukrainian, he was fluent in Russian, German, English, Polish, and Spanish. In 1946 he immigrated to Argentina. Running business in Buenos Aires, he turned out to be an active organizer of Ukrainian community in this country, heading the Ukrainian Central Representation. Later he became one of the initiators of creating in 1967 a World Congress of Free Ukrainians (currently Ukrainian World Congress).

“Vasyl Ivanytsky forever entered the history of Ukrainians of Argentina, entire South America,” Stanislav Lazebnyk emphasizes in his work, “as an organizer of erecting monuments to Taras Shevchenko in various countries. This became for him the most important calling in his life. ‘Heroic feats pass, monuments stay,’ he liked to repeat poet Ovidius’s aphorism.”

Most of Kobzar monuments erected with the help of Ivanytsky on the territory of North and South America are presents for local Ukrainian communities, which impress with the high mastery of sculptors in recreation of Shevchenko’s image. However, immortalizing of Shevchenko’s memory was only one manifestation of the versatile nature of Vasyl Ivanytsky. Apart from erecting Kobzar monuments, he actively helped educational institutions of Ukraine, organized tours of Ukrainian performers to Argentina, Brazil, and Canada.


Last year in a newspaper publication “History of Kobzar Monuments” (Den, no. 159-160/2013) art expert Yaroslav Kravchenko thoroughly researched the question of emerging in Ukraine of monuments established to commemorate the genius poet. So, getting ready for Shevchenko’s 200th birth anniversary, it is high time to look at least shortly at the huge contribution Vasyl Ivanytsky made to immortalizing of his memory all over the world. Ivanytsky was a member of the public committee on building a monument to Taras Shevchenko in Washington in 1964. According to estimations of recognized experts, the active member of the Royal Academy of Arts of Canada, sculptor Leonid Molozhanyn (Leo Mol, who came from Volyn and later became Ivanytsky’s comrade-in-arms) and architect Rodoslav Zhuk “created by far most interesting image of a poet, image of Shevchenko who wrote at the age of 26-30 his poems Haidamaks, Great Cellar, Prisoner, verses Chyhyryn, Chyhyryn, A Dream, Dug Up Grave, etc. A student at that time, I was impressed how consciously Dwight Isenhour treated his speech at the unveiling ceremony of the monument. I make this emphasis because the 34th president of US highly estimated it as the one, “which gives moral strength to fight against tyrants.” Since that moment enough time has passed to state with certainty that these words remain the truth.

Vasyl Ivanytsky had a very serious and responsible approach to embodiment of Taras Shevchenko’s image in monumental works. Being an ardent connoisseur of Shevchenko’s word, he considered it wrong to depict Great Kobzar in a traditional way – in a sheepskin coat and astrakhan hat, gloomy. Stanislav Lazebnyk recalls: “He was not like that,” Vasyl Mykhailovych asserted, “The monuments should recreate the image of young Shevchenko in blossom of his strength and hopes, handsome and elegant.” The author of Foreign Ukrainians discussed this topic many times with Vasyl Ivanytsky in 1991, when they traveled over small towns of Brazilian state Parana, where they took part in laying symbolical stones in the fundaments of future monuments to Great Kobzar in Ukraine.


On the whole, this approach should be greeted as an improvement in sculptural depicting of Shevchenko. Vasyl Ivanytsky organized the erecting in 1971 of a monument to young Taras in Buenos Aires. He also contributed to erecting monuments to Kobzar in Encarnacion (Paraguay), Obera (Argentine), Prudentopolis (Brazil). Handsome young Shevchenko emerged on the squares of these cities.

Ivanytsky was also involved in helping the Ukrainian community of St. Petersburg to erect the sculpture of the poet and artist in the city on the Neva. Owing to his personal request, the abovementioned Leonid Molodozhanyn, who in his time studied in the well-known Academy of Painting in Leningrad, agreed to present the city of his youth with the monument to Shevchenko he created. The artist fulfilled his promise. Although the local authorities in all ways delayed the realization of this memorial event, in 2000 with the participation of the presidents of Ukraine and Russia, the monument to Shevchenko in St. Petersburg was unveiled.


Ukrainian patron from Canada Vasyl Ivanytsky always longed for Ukraine in emigration and at the age of 87 he returned forever to Ukrainian land. In March 2007 he founded in Lviv an All-Ukrainian Charity Taras Shevchenko Foundation, a president of which he was till August 27, 2005, when Ivanytsky’s heart stopped beating in Lviv. This organization took care of building of monuments to great poet, held a number of other useful culture-educational events. So, namely the Taras Shevchenko Foundation paid a considerable part of expenses for erecting the monument to Shevchenko in Luhansk. This civic organization presented Sevastopol with the sculpture of the poet in 2003. Owing to effort made by Dr. Ivanytsky, according to his relative Orest Kosyk, another monument was erected in Yalta.

“He was really fond of Shevchenko!” you will say and you won’t be mistaken. Take into account the fact that Ivanytsky contributed to emerging in Lviv of Shevchenko monument and architectural composition – bronze “Wave of National Renaissance.” I will quote another Lazebnyk’s quote who wrote in his book how Great Kobzar came to residents of the city of Lev. “The story of creation of a magnificent architectural-sculptural ensemble in Lviv on the initiative of Vasyl Ivanytsky started at Ukrainian cemetery in the environs of Buenos Aires. At his request the association Ukraine (former Association of Liaisons with Ukrainians beyond Ukraine) sent to the capital of Argentina Lviv-based sculptors, brothers Volodymyr and Andrii Sukhorsky – the winners of the creative competition for the best project of a monument to Taras Shevchenko in the city. The Shevchenko Foundation headed by Ivanytsky created all conditions for them in a studio in Buenos Aires. At first they created a plaster model of the statue of the young poet, which came across oceans and seas to Ukraine. Later the Wave was executed in the same way and transported in two big containers on a steamship. The monument was rising in Lviv, whereas the rest of the ensemble was molded in bronze in Kyiv Artist Plant.

“While artistic and construction works were underway, the fundraising organized by Ivanytsky for establishing a monumental ensemble in Lviv took place in Canada and the US. I remember how glad he was that this goal united Ukrainians of Argentina, North America, and Ukraine, but at the same time always publicly understated his role in this historic action.” That was the peculiarity of his character – not to draw attention to what he favored in his life, what important things he managed to do for Ukrainians.

It is very good that Lviv authorities did not stand aside and acknowledged the importance of his achievements. Ivanytsky’s hard work for immortalization of Kobzar’s memory, his life behavior can serve both a model and moral example for each of us. On the whole, I think that the price paid by rare patron for creation of the world monumental Shevchenkiana is too high. In my opinion, he deserves to be nationally honored by the state. This is a phenomenon which has hardly any analogues in Ukraine.

By Yurii KYLYMNYK, Ph.D. in Philosophy, Kyiv. Illustrations courtesy of the author