Taras H. Shevchenko
Museum & Memorial
1614 Bloor St. West
Thieves Steal Historic Bronze Statue of Shevchenko in
"It's a miracle that the head survived."
- Andrew Gregorovich, vice-president
of the Taras H. Shevchenko Museum
and Memorial Park Foundation
For a long-dead poet and artist, it was the
unkindest cut of all.
A 3-metre bronze statue of iconic Ukrainian Taras Shevchenko,
erected in an Oakville park named for him in 1951, has been
chopped off at the feet by vandals and carted away.
Why? Bill Harasym, the president of the foundation that administers
the park and a Toronto museum, dedicated to Shevchenko's life
fears it's as simple as thieves hoping to cash in on the value
of the statue for scrap metal. "It's a terrible tragedy, not
only for the Ukrainian-Canadian community, but for Canada
as a whole," said Bill Harasym. "Shevchenko was one of
the greats of recent cultural history."
The statue, a gift to the 500,000 Ukrainians then in Canada from
Soviet Society For Cultural Relations Abroad and valued at more
than $350,000, was the center of controversy at the time and for
a while was under 24-hour police guard.
Erected to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Ukrainian immigration
to Canada, it stood for more than 55 years atop a 70-tonne granite
base in a 6.5-hectare park, which was surrounded by another 47 hectares
of parkland along Sixteen Mile Creek that once was home to a children's
camp. While the camp closed in 1998, many still visit the park to
see the historical figure. When the statue was erected in 1951, around 40 thousand people attended
Shevchenko is considered to be the Ukrainian equivalent to Shakespeare.
As a 19th-century poet, he produced more than one thousand literary
and art works.
For the four recent years the Shevchenko Museum and Memorial Park
Foundation has been in negotiations with Oakville officials to donate
the land along with the monument to the Town of Oakville as a public
park. Developers who own property surrounding the park are also
interested in the tract. "To lose the statue, when we were
ready to give the park to the Town of Oakville, is just tragic,"
said Lillian Carrigan, caretaker of the park.
Halton Regional Police found the head of the statue at Thomson Metals
and Disposal on January 2, 2007. A Burlington recycling plant says
it paid less than $1,000 for the head. "It's a miracle that
the head survived," said Andrew Gregorovich, vice-president
of the Taras H. Shevchenko Museum and Memorial Park Foundation.
At an emergency meeting of the foundation executive held on January
2, Mr. Gregorovich proposed the head be turned into its own display
inside the Taras Shevchenko Museum.
A spokeswoman for the Tomson
plant sais the thief only sold the firm the head, and it was never
offered the rest of the statue.
"He must have sold some of it to someone else," said Pia
Rajeng. She said the 170-pound head did not raise suspicion at the
plant because taking in scrap metal is part of business.
Statue thefts in an age of high copper prices are becoming increasingly
common, said Arnold Knapp, consultant with Canadian Copper and Brass
Development Association. He said the bronze used in statues normally
contains about 85% copper alloy. Once that bronze is melted down
for resail, he said, it can never be turned into pure copper but
can still be a valuable product to use in other castings.
"We have a large number of copper thefts in the region,"
said Halton Detective Greg Sullivan on January 2. "On Christmas
Eve there was a break-in at a factory in Oakville where a bunch
of different metals were stolen."
Several cottages that share park property with the statue have also
been recent targets of copper theft. Cottage owner Lillian Carrigan
said she discovered that copper pipes in her fridge, air conditioner
and shower had been stolen when she stopped by her cottage a week
ago. She suspects the two incidents are connected.
"The ladder they used to steal the statue was locked and chained
up behind my cottage," she said. In a nearby cadet trailer
she found goods from her cottage and tools.
Curtis Raae, 36, and Gilberto Leonardo, 36, both from Oakville have
been charged with possession of stolen property.
In the meantime, the Board of Directors of the Taras Shevchenko
Museum and Memorial Park Foundation seeks possible ways to restore
the monument and erect it in Toronto area.
By Jim Wilkes, Toronto Star,
January 1, 2007 and
Laura Hendrick, National Post, January 3, 2007
Taras Shevchenko Museum presents: Exhibition of Taras Shevchenko's
. The opening is on Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 2:00 p.m.
with coffee and sweets reception.
Shevchenko art works in oil, pencil,
watercolour, engraving, Shevchenko philatelic collection and many
unique, one-of-a-kind exhibits are on display.
Taras Shevchenko Museum's Ukrainian decorative folk art exhibit
in the Ontario Parliament Building. (more)
The son of a serf, Shevchenko became not only an artist and academician
of Saint-Petersburg Academy of Art, but one of the most versatile
people of 19th century. His paintings and graphics reflect a refined
world that did not resemble his own life...(more)