In Memoriam: Peter Savaryn (1926 - 2017)

07 April 2017

Colleagues of Peter Savaryn and staff at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta, are deeply saddened by the news of his passing. In Peter we have lost not only a friend but one of the founders and leading lights of the Institute, and a leader and activist who made a significant contribution to the Ukrainian and Canadian communities.


Peter (Petro) Savaryn was born to Mykhailo and Anna (Atamaniuk) Savaryn in Zubrets, Buchach district, Ukraine, on 17 September 1926. After immigrating to Canada in 1949, and upon graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1955 and a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1956, both from the University of Alberta, Savaryn established his own Edmonton law practice in 1959. Peter Savaryn married Olga (Olya) Prystajecky in 1951, and they had three children: Vera, Michael, and Halia.


In 1958, Mr. Savaryn was among those who inspired the provincial government to introduce Ukrainian language classes in Alberta high schools and at the University of Alberta. His further activities led to the establishment of bilingual schools, the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village provincial museum, and CIUS at the University of Alberta. It also motivated community ventures, spearheaded by Savaryn and others, such as the world's first memorial honouring victims of the Holodomor (Edmonton City Hall, 1983), St. Michael's Long Term Care Centre, Verkhovyna St. Josaphat's Senior Citizens Residence, and the Alberta Ukrainian Commemorative Society.


Peter Savaryn never wavered from his devotion to cultural involvement and outstanding service to the Ukrainian-Canadian community. He chaired the World Congress of Free Ukrainians and was a founder of both the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies and the Alberta Cultural Heritage Council. Savaryn was the 12th Chancellor of the University of Alberta. In 1987, Savaryn received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Alberta and the Order of Canada for his exceptional contributions to the community. His achievements and support for multiculturalism have earned him numerous awards, including the Shevchenko Medal, the highest award of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Law Society of Alberta, and the University of Alberta's Alumni Association's Honour Award.


In 1996, the Canadian Foundation for Ukrainian Studies (CFUS) created the Peter Savaryn Award for Contributions to the Development of Ukrainian Studies, to honour Mr. Peter Savaryn for his many years of dedicated service and contributions to Ukrainian studies. In 1997, during the presentation of the award, Mrs. Savaryn generously matched its value with a personal donation, and it was renamed accordingly as the Peter and Olya Savaryn Award. The award supports a range of scholarly and educational projects at CIUS, such as providing grants to scholars, organizing public events, and supporting publications and translations in Ukrainian studies.


Peter Savaryn's achievements, contributions, and legacy will endure. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Peter's wife Olya, his son Michael, his daughters Vera and Halia, and all of their families and friends. Нехай йому канадська земля буде пером - вiчная пам'ять!

Volodymyr Kravchenko, director, on behalf of colleagues and staff at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta