Vasyl Kardash Memorial
Меморіял Василя Кардаша
22,01,1923 - 22,03,2002
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Olya Odynsky-Grod

From the Globe & Mail 

Wasyl Kardash

Monday, May 13, 2002 – Print Edition, Page A16  

Ukrainian nationalist, Holocaust survivor, maestro, mentor, MA (Slavic Studies). Born Jan. 22, 1923, in Novosilka, Ukraine. Died March 22 in Toronto, of pneumonia, aged 79.  

At his funeral, six priests and a Bishop hallowed his memory. They sang like angels. Maestro Kardash must have been pleased. For he was a most earnest man, ever passionate about music, politics, life itself. Some found his ardour too peppery and he cared enough to be wounded by such complaints. Yet he stayed true to his dreams.  

By example, he taught several generations of people, myself among them, focusing on the life-affirming importance of hard work and perseverance. In Canada, he organized and led several Ukrainian Canadian church choirs, choral ensembles and bands -- Prometheus, Vanguard, Levada, Baturyn -- names reflecting the indomitable spirit he associated with the Ukrainian struggle for independence.  

He was a firm but fair taskmaster. Out of earshot, we fondly called him "Mister Three-Foot-Six." But while small in stature, he had a huge spirit, unbowed by horrors that broke many others. As I think back on his life, I realize how his unconcealed joy in bringing music to others, over decades, was both an ode to those who fell and a lesson. For Wasyl Kardash taught us that music outlasts monsters.  

Born in the Ternopil region of western Ukraine, young Wasyl showed such an early and remarkable talent for music that he was invited to continue training in Italy or Russia. The Second World War severed these prospects. Committed to freedom for Ukraine, he joined the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. The Gestapo arrested him, along with his brother and father, on Aug. 26, 1943. After brutal interrogations, all three were transported to Auschwitz. Wasyl was inscribed, tattoo #155108, as was his brother, Michajlo, and his father, Ivan. His mother, Tekla, never saw them again. She died young, alone in Ukraine, in 1950.  

Slave labour awaited her menfolk in the Nazi concentration camps of Mathausen, Melk and Ebensee. Worked nearly to death, starving, weighing only 36 kilograms, Wasyl was liberated by the Americans. He was literally pulled from a bundle of bodies, some dead, some dying, on Ukrainian Easter Sunday -- May 6, 1945.  

Some might regard his personal resurrection on the most joyful day of the Christian calendar as a coincidence. But for this deeply religious man it was near-miraculous proof that he had been spared for a purpose, to make music that would elevate his students a little closer to the eternal.  

Neither his brother nor father ever fully recovered from the Nazi tortures. Wasyl cared for them as best he could, to the ends of their lives. A political exile, one among millions of Ukrainian Displaced Persons in post-war Europe, he found temporary shelter in a refugee camp, at Augsburg.  

Emigrating to Vancouver in 1948, he moved on to Winnipeg where he met the woman who, in 1956, would become his wife, Larissa Khomenko. She became a lifelong, loving companion with whom he had two children, Virlana and Adrian.  

Like most DPs, Kardash worked at many jobs, from being a busboy in Vancouver to an aircraft mechanic, whatever he needed to do for his family. And almost immediately he also began setting up choirs and marching bands for the Ukrainian Youth Association (CYM), making music until his 78th year.  

Among Ukrainians, those who have passed away are remembered 40 days after burial. And so last Sunday, 57 years after the weekend on which he was freed, when I sat down with my family to celebrate Ukrainian Easter, we remembered Wasyl's liberation by singing the traditional hymn, Krystos Voskres (Christ is Risen).  

Olya Odynsky-Grod was a member of Baturyn Concert-Marching Band and Dibrova Women’s Choir.  

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