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Unprecedented gift advances Ukrainian studies at U of T

Donation offers unique opportunity to build on very substantial and well-established Ukrainian program

Walter Hwozdecky, Mark Lekhyj and Bohdan Senchuk standing outside

Senior Citizens Home of Taras H. Shevchenko Fund Trustees. L-R: Walter Hwozdecky, Vice president; Mark Lekhyj, Secretary-treasurer; and Bohdan Senchuk, President.

One of the largest donations ever made to Ukrainian language studies at a Canadian university will support the creation of a visiting professorship in Ukrainian language and culture in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures.

The $250,000 gift from a fund established by the Ukrainian Senior Citizens Home of Taras H. Shevchenko will support a major effort to enhance the profile of the Ukrainian program in the Faculty of Arts & Science’s Slavic department.

“This donation offers us a unique opportunity to build on our very substantial and well-established Ukrainian program by adding a third position, with a focus on language, to our existing positions in Ukrainian,” said Donna Orwin, chair of the department. “It is an exciting opportunity to expand our offerings, as well as a strategic vote of confidence in our Ukrainian program.”

The new visiting professor — working closely with the department’s Ukrainianists, Professors Maxim Tarnawsky and Taras Koznarsky — will teach two Ukrainian language courses per year, help develop curriculum for three levels of Ukrainian language courses, organize and conduct a weekly Ukrainian language table, and develop an enrichment program of activities for students and the community.

It brings us one step closer to our ultimate goal of a permanent specialist in Ukrainian language teaching.

“We are immensely grateful for this generous gift that will fund the position for five years,” added Orwin. “It brings us one step closer to our ultimate goal of a permanent specialist in Ukrainian language teaching that will not only help reinvigorate the undergraduate experience for students, but also refocus attention on language learning — a vital component of any cultural program.”

The department plans to seek a partner with a university in Ukraine —particularly the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv or the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla in Kiev — where active programs already exist for the development of Ukrainian language teaching materials and methods for non-native speakers.

Opened in 1981, the Ukrainian Senior Citizens Home of Taras H. Shevchenko in Amherstburg, Ontario operated as a highly-regarded seniors’ residence for 35 years, until changing demographics resulted in the sale of the property.

The trustees of the fund resulting from the sale identified a number of Ukrainian organizations, institutions, and programs to receive their support, including the University of Toronto.

“We wanted to support a program that plays an important part in the lives of Ukrainians in Canada, said Bohdan Senchuk, president of the Senior Citizens Home of Taras H. Shevchenko Fund.

We take great pride in being able to give forward. This professorship will be a lasting legacy for the members of our corporation.

“We take great pride in being able to give forward. This professorship will be a lasting legacy for the members of our corporation.”

He added that the trustees hope their gift will encourage others to follow their example of giving to worthy Ukrainian organizations and programs in Canada.

The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures is home to one of the major Ukrainian studies programs in North America and is at the forefront of advancing an understanding of the language, literature, and culture of Ukraine.

The department’s academic programming in Ukrainian studies has benefited immensely over the years from the steadfast support of the Ukrainian community.