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June 7, 2000

Michael Kowalsky, Major Donor and Friend of CIUS, Passes Away

On May 24, 2000, Michael Kowalsky, a major donor and friend of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS), died in Toronto, Ontario. He was 92 years old.

Born in the Western Ukrainian village of Uhornyky, Ivano-Frankivsk oblast, on April 9, 1908, Michael Kowalsky completed his secondary education in a classical studies gymnasium in Stanyslaviv (now Ivano-Frankivsk), and then obtained a master's degree in political science and law at Lviv University. After graduating, he managed a co-operative dairy and bank. At the same time, Mr. Kowalsky became active in Ukrainian cultural and political life, as a result of which he was arrested several times and imprisoned for three years by Polish authorities.

When Western Ukraine was occupied in 1939 by Soviet forces, Michael Kowalsky fled to German-occupied Poland, and then to Austria. In 1949, he emigrated to Canada and settled in Toronto, where he married Daria Mutsak. Like most post-war immigrants, he initially had to take whatever menial job was available. Eventually, he was able to save enough money to start his own business.

The deceased, Michael, and his wife, Daria Kowalsky, have been strong supporters of Ukrainian studies at CIUS since 1987, when they contributed $100,000 to establish an endowment fund for academic research, scholarships and scholarly publications. Their gift was matched two-to-one by the Alberta government under a matching grant program. Since Ukraine's independence, an increasing share of the proceeds from the fund has gone to support scholarly work and projects in Ukraine.

In 1997-98, the Kowalskys augmented the endowment fund with donations totalling $700,000, thereby increasing the capital base to one million dollars. At the same time, a special program—named the Kowalsky Program for the Study of Eastern Ukraine—was developed to promote Ukrainian studies and the national renaissance in Eastern Ukraine. It seeks to support scholarship, including the awarding of grants, sponsoring seminars, and subsidizing publications dealing with Ukrainian society, politics, history and culture, particularly on questions of historical memory, identity, and national consciousness in eastern, southern and central Ukraine.

In addition to the endowment, the Kowalskys donated $100,000 in 1997 to support the Hrushevsky Translation Project, sponsoring the publication of one volume of the ten-volume History of Ukraine-Rus'.

Shortly after the inauguration of the Kowalsky Program, in the spring of 1999, the Kowalskys decided to augment their fund once again. It now stands at $1,650,000. The additional funds made it possible to accelerate considerably and expand Program activities. As a result, the Kowalsky Eastern Institute of Ukrainian Studies was recently established at Kharkiv University to coordinate activities. The Kowalsky Institute is the main sponsor and publisher of the historical cultural periodical East-West. Its establishment and the recent publication of a second issue of the periodical are evidence of the early success and efficacy of the Program. Michael Kowalsky had the opportunity to familiarize himself with these initial accomplishments, as well as the satisfaction of seeing the second issue of the periodical shortly before his death.

The Kowalskys' commitment to Ukrainian studies and Ukrainian independence grew directly out of their life experiences. Both grew up as ardent patriots in Western Ukraine. In Canada they achieved financial success, but lived modestly, for they decided to donate the bulk of their savings to support worthy causes, especially those benefiting Ukraine and its people. Through the years they made good on their pledge. As a result of their recent donation to CIUS, Ukrainian studies in Eastern Ukraine now has considerable financial support. This support is particularly important, as governments in Ukraine have drastically reduced funding for scholarship and cultural activities. Although Mr. Kowalsky is no longer with us, the legacy of his foresight and generosity, as well as of that of his wife, Daria, will be remembered and appreciated in Ukraine for many years to come.

Michael Kowalsky was laid to rest on May 26 in Toronto's Park Lawn Cemetery following services at St. Nicholas' Ukrainian Catholic Church. He is survived by his wife, Daria, and by family in Ukraine.

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