Yaremko “Home with Heritage” at Ukrainian Museum of Canada

By Halia Sluzar

The long awaited new exhibit at the Ukrainian Museum of Canada, Ontario Branch in Toronto was officially opened on June 29, 2007. Approximately one hundred interested guests filled the St. Vladimir Institute Theatre to hear details about At Home with Heritage (У Дома із Спадщиною): The John and Mary Yaremko Collection. Yvonne Ivanochko, Museum President, welcomed his Eminence Archbishop Yuri, the Right Rev. Bohdan Sencio and all the guests. Halia Sluzar introduced the Main Speaker, William Sametz who, because of his close association with John Yaremko, gave a very interesting review of the Yaremko Years. Then, Halia Sluzar introduced the very talented curator of the exhibit, Daria Diakowsky who almost single handedly staged this exhibit spoke in detail about it. Upon conclusion of the opening ceremonies, the guests were invited to partake of the delicious sweets and coffee before visiting the exhibit. The viewers seemed to be very interested and pleased with what they saw.

Upon entering the museum, one enters 1 Connable Drive, the Yaremko residence in Toronto On walking into the museum, one’s attention is immediately captured by die huge portrait of John Yaremko in the centre of the main wall. To the right of the portrait hangs a beautiful painting (winter scene) by Mykola Hlushchenko. Two more smaller Hlushchenko paintings are on the far left.

As one enters further, there is a display featuring a small burled maple table and two matching chairs, all standing on a tiny Persian rug. On the table are two place settings of china set on cross- stitch embroidered place-mats and serviettes as well as two silver candlesticks. A framed photograph depicts the same scene in actual life.

In front of the aforementioned portrait is a chair presented to John Yaremko by the Ontario Provincial Parliament and a miniature table upon which is a photo of Mary Yaremko wearing a bright pink cape, looking up at this same portrait, her black gloved hand raised toward it. On the chair is the actual pink cape, the long black gloves and black evening bag.

In the museum, there are wall showcases, one each on the north and south walls. The case on the north wall features a long white embroidered sorochka which belonged to Mary Yaremko’s maternal grandmother as well as a group of very old family photos including the wedding photos of the Materyns, Mary Yaremko’s parents. On the south wall, the case holds a sorochka belonging to John. Yaremko’s maternal grandmother and family photos. John Yaremko had nine siblings.

The various showcases outline John Yaremko’s career in provincial parliament. One vertical showcase has a beautiful Icon with attached lamp. In this same showcase there are eight black bibles on which Mr. Yaremko was sworn in for his various positions in Cabinet. The last four bibles are in the Ukrainian language. John Yaremko served in the Parliament of Ontario for twenty-four years from 1951 -1974, and held many provincial government cabinet posts such as:

Minister without Portfolio, Minister of Transport, Secretary and Registrar, Provincial Secretary and Minister of Citizenship, Minister of Public Welfare, Minister of Social and Family Services, and Solicitor General.

One of the two horizontal showcases displays the numerous medals received by John Yaremko. Some of these are from Ukrainian organizations and others are from Hungarian groups. The Ukrainian World Congress presented John Yaremko in 1989 with its highest award - the St. Volodymyr Medal. There are many medals from Hungarians showing their gratitude and esteem for John Yaremko for all his help when he facilitated their immigration to Canada after Hungary was invaded by Russian Soviet forces in 1956. A second horizontal showcase contains Mary Yaremko’s Ukrainian headdress and some of her jewellery including the medal and a small diamond pin presented to her by Queen Elizabeth II.

On display are paintings by the well known Ukrainian sculptor Archipenko, a reproduction of one of his sculpted figures, a print of an icon by William Kurelek and a glass painting by Yaroslava.

Unfortunately, Mary Yaremko did not live to see this exhibit because she passed away on March 28, 2005. However, a spry John Yaremko is still interested in everything all around him. He visited the exhibit before the opening and was very pleased with what he saw. We pray that he will be with us for many more years so that he can continue to tell us the many stories he loves to recount about his life and times and all the people he has known.

H  , John Yaremko!

Rose and William Sametz and John Tron are acknowledged for their most important role played in creating the exhibit. With heartfelt thanks, they made it possible for members of the exhibit committee to have constant access to the Yaremko home to select the necessary artifacts that were brought into the Museum for the exhibit. Without their assistance, “At Home with Heritage” could not have been organized and taken place. Also, gratitude is expressed to Lida Smilka for being the exhibit’s language consultant.

Great thanks are extended to all the people who helped in every way to make the “Opening” successful and they are: Claudia Mykytiuk, Lesia Haley, Olia Polisczscuk, Anisia Borowyk, Adele Kereliuk and Steve Yonka. Bless you all!

 Halia Sluzar is long-time member and current Second Vice President and Exhibit Convenor of the Ukrainian Museum of Canada – Ontario Branch