By OLYA ODYNSKY-GROD
Monday, May 13, 2002 – Print Edition, Page A16
Ukrainian nationalist, Holocaust survivor, maestro, mentor, MA (Slavic Studies). Born Jan. 22, 1923, in Novosilka, Ukraine. Died March 22 in Toronto, of pneumonia, aged 79.
At his funeral, six priests and a Bishop hallowed his memory. They sang like angels. Maestro Kardash must have been pleased. For he was a most earnest man, ever passionate about music, politics, life itself. Some found his ardour too peppery and he cared enough to be wounded by such complaints. Yet he stayed true to his dreams.
By example, he taught several generations of people, myself among them, focusing on the life-affirming importance of hard work and perseverance. In Canada, he organized and led several Ukrainian Canadian church choirs, choral ensembles and bands -- Prometheus, Vanguard, Levada, Baturyn -- names reflecting the indomitable spirit he associated with the Ukrainian struggle for independence.
He was a firm but fair taskmaster. Out of earshot, we fondly called him "Mister Three-Foot-Six." But while small in stature, he had a huge spirit, unbowed by horrors that broke many others. As I think back on his life, I realize how his unconcealed joy in bringing music to others, over decades, was both an ode to those who fell and a lesson. For Wasyl Kardash taught us that music outlasts monsters.
Born in the Ternopil region of western Ukraine, young Wasyl showed such an early and remarkable talent for music that he was invited to continue training in Italy or Russia. The Second World War severed these prospects. Committed to freedom for Ukraine, he joined the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. The Gestapo arrested him, along with his brother and father, on Aug. 26, 1943. After brutal interrogations, all three were transported to Auschwitz. Wasyl was inscribed, tattoo #155108, as was his brother, Michajlo, and his father, Ivan. His mother, Tekla, never saw them again. She died young, alone in Ukraine, in 1950.
Slave labour awaited her menfolk in the Nazi concentration camps of Mathausen, Melk and Ebensee. Worked nearly to death, starving, weighing only 36 kilograms, Wasyl was liberated by the Americans. He was literally pulled from a bundle of bodies, some dead, some dying, on Ukrainian Easter Sunday -- May 6, 1945.
Some might regard his personal resurrection on the most joyful day of the Christian calendar as a
coincidence. But for this deeply religious man it was near-miraculous proof that he had been spared for a purpose, to make music that would elevate his students a little closer to the eternal.
Neither his brother nor father ever fully recovered from the Nazi tortures. Wasyl cared for them as best he could, to the ends of their lives. A political exile, one among millions of Ukrainian Displaced Persons in post-war Europe, he found temporary shelter in a refugee camp, at Augsburg.
Emigrating to Vancouver in 1948, he moved on to Winnipeg where he met the woman who, in 1956, would become his wife, Larissa Khomenko. She became a lifelong, loving companion with whom he had two children, Virlana and Adrian.
Like most DPs, Kardash worked at many jobs, from being a busboy in Vancouver to an aircraft mechanic, whatever he needed to do for his family. And almost immediately he also began setting up choirs and marching bands for the Ukrainian Youth Association (CYM), making music until his 78th year.
Among Ukrainians, those who have passed away are remembered 40 days after burial. And so last Sunday, 57 years after the weekend on which he was freed, when I sat down with my family to celebrate Ukrainian Easter, we remembered Wasyl's liberation by singing the traditional hymn, Krystos Voskres (Christ is Risen).
Olya Odynsky-Grod was a member of Baturyn Concert-Marching Band and Dibrova Women’s Choir.
Excerpt from an email upon receiving the Vanguard Band
“Glory to Our Heroes” CD. ...
As I sit here writing this e-mail the tears are beginning to stream down my face again, what incredible memories, what incredible opportunities coming flooding back. Your father brought so many people together and I learned more about what it meant to be Ukrainian next to him then all the years trying to be taught. ...
... the experience of a life-time which is something that I only begin to understand now from this perspective. ... Thank-you especially to all of you who worked on this CD. ...
With much affection,
Words cannot simply express to you, how deeply saddened I was when I heard of your father’s passing.
Your father was truly a unique individual, for whom I have always had the greatest admiration and respect. I have never lost that admiration and respect, and never will.
I often reflect on my time with the ensembles under the direction of your father, of which I have wonderful memories. I speak proudly of them to this day. To understand this, one had to experience it and I am fortunate to have had this experience.
The memory of your father will always be with me. I am honoured to have been in part of his life, and honoured to have had him in mine.
With sincerest condolences to you and your family,
Since I have been in Toronto from 1981, I have been privileged to know Maestro Wasyl,
to be enriched by liturgical music, which he conducted over many years. I was edified at
his gracious retirement, his fervent, humble and inconspicuous participation in the
Divine Liturgy at St. Volodymyr Church in Thornhill prior to his eternal repose in the
When I was present at a liturgical service at which Maestro Wasyl conducted a choir, I
was unfailingly uplifted in spirit and the service renewed my spirit. Truly this was a
time of worship. I felt that Maestro Wasyl was fully imbued with the spirit of the text
and shared this spirit with his choir members. During the singing, I would reflect on the
depth of his faith and love of God, which manifested itself in his directing. As the saying
goes: You cannot give what you do not yourself possess.
Deeply ingrained in my memory and spirit was the way Maestro Wasyl conducted the
male choir at the Requiem Divine Liturgy and at the liturgical service for the deceased,
panachyda. At one such funeral, at which Maestro Wasyl conducted the services, I was
so “overwhelmed” by the depth and beauty of his conducting, that I asked him to
conduct the choir at my funeral, at the very least to sing at the panachyda service.
Obviously, this was not in God’s plan, but I have hope that Maestro Wasyl will conduct
the heavenly choir at my funeral in unison with the earthly choir!
I have fond memories of Maestro Wasyl as conductor of the band of the Youth
Ensembles, the Chornobyl Commemorative Procession on the streets of Toronto, with
the mournful beat of the drum and the plaintive and sombre playing of the band of “So
Similarly I cherish the memories of countless upbeat processionals and rousingconcerts of liturgical hymns on the Eparchial Day at the CNE in June and also at theMarian Pilgrimages at Mount Mary in Ancaster. The performances were as close toperfect as humanly possible, but the accoutrement, the precision, the decorum andfinesse were second to none. On all levels harmony prevailed!
Needless to say Maestro Wasyl was impeccable!
It has been said that the world will be saved not by philosophers or even theologians,but by beauty. Truly Maestro Wasyl Kardash has contributed to beauty generously cultivating his gift, his plumbing of the depths of beauty and meaning, his inculcating and sharing this with the younger and older generation in his marching band, his choirs, his audiences! Thank you, Esteemed Maestro Wasyl!
May the memory of Maestro Wasyl Kardash be Eternal!
Respectfully submitted March 13, 2009 at Toronto, ON.
Sister Victoria Hunchak
Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate
Маєстро Кардаш це особа яка в повнiстю жила гаслом - Бог i Україна, глибоко побожна людина, мала палаюча любов’ю до українського народу та його музичного i культурного скарбу.
Наше знайомство почалося 1980-го року коли я стала членкинею дiвочого хору Дiброва мистецького ансамблю при Осередку СУМ Торонто. Я мала честь ближче працювати з Василем Кардашем пiдчас моєї 10 - лiтнйої каденцiї як голова Ансамблевої Управи Українських Молодiжних Ансамблiв. Мої вражiння мого пережиття як хористка i член управи. Пан Кардаш ( так ми його звали) був дуже iнтенсивною людиною, в серцi горiла гаряча любов до рiдного, а очі iскрилися енергiєю завзяттям . Маєстро був дуже докладний i детальний пiд кожним оглядом, старався щоб все було удосконалене до найменшої дрiбнички. Тут пригадую його слова до мене продумайте до кiнця. Його життя - посвятa, постiйна i видна на кожному кроцi. Вiн мав конкретну мiсiю котру сповняв шляхом
Кожноми членові Ансамблiв п. Кардаш задовольняв iншу потребу. Де кому вiн був батьком i виховником, для iнших патрiотом, для деяких вiн був дорадником. Деяким особам вiн став другом а для iнших дириґентом. Мабуть найбiльша його роля була як виховник i учитель. При вивчанню репертуару ми вчилися про культуру, традицiї, iсторiю i духовнiсть українського народу. При цьому його любов до всього рiдного переливалася у нашi серця. “Як не любити Тебе Украўно?”
Ця любов нераз проявлялася на сценi коли при виконанню даної пiснi хористи разом з дириґентом розплакалися (але доспiвали до кiнця). Його виховна праця сягала поза межi Ансамблiв. Два наявнi приклади цього були рiчнi Рiздвянi концерти колядок i щедрiвок та Гаївки котрi впливали на молодь i громаду в цiлостi. Поверх мистецької працї його прикмети вiдданости, обов’язковости, точности, невтомности, побожности та патрiотизму служили прикладом як провадити
своє родинне, робоче, органiзацiйне i громадське життя.
Усе це повище згадан мало великий вплив на мене. Наступнi два пережиття були найбiлш незабутніми i зворушливими. Перше пережиття було пiдчас епархiяльного свята на площi всеканадської вистави (CNE) у Торонтi коли я стояла побiч п. Кардаша на трибунi дивлячись як духова оркестра “Аванґард”, “Юнi Барабанщики” i “Прапороносцi” Українських Молодiжних Ансамблiв входили маршом на площу у своїх нових одностроях. Це була нагода дiлитися його
радiстю i гордiстю у кульмiнацiйнi хвилi створення Ансамблiв. Цей образ залишиться в мої пам’ятi. Друге пережиття це iсторичне концертове турне 1990-го року при спiвучастi Владики Кир Iзидора Борецького по Українi котра знаходилася напередоднi нового етапу її iсторiї. Це був ласкавий Богом даний момент для ансамблiстiв, для українського народу, а найбiльше панові Кардашевi. Мабуть для нього це було довершення всiєї його працi, а саме, оборона України шляхом мистецтва.
Я чуюся щасливою що мала нагоду бути спiвучасником його вiзiї i мистецької працi котрi без сумнiву збагатили моє життя.
Оля Дзюбанiвська 29.06.2008
My impression of maestro Kardash is that of a person who fully embodied and lived the motto “God and Ukraine”; deeply religious and in whom resided a fervent love for the Ukrainian nation as well as its abundant musical and cultural treasures.
We first became acquainted in 1980 when I became a member of the women’s choir “Dibrova” a part of the musical ensembles of the Toronto Branch of the Ukrainian Youth Association of Canada. I had the honour of working more closely with Wasyl Kardash during my 10-year tenure as President of the Executive of the newly created Ukrainian Youth Ensembles. My impressions came from my experiences as a member of the “Levada” women’s choir and service on the Ensembles Executive. Mr. Kardash was a very intense person, whose heart overflowed with a deep, glowing passion for all things native to Ukraine and whose eyes sparkled with exuberant energy and determination. Maestro was very precise and meticulous in all he did, always striving to improve or perfect everything to the smallest detail. “Think things through to the end” is one of his dictums which I recall to this very day. His life was quite perceptibly one of constant devotion at each step of anything in which he was involved. He had a concrete mission which he achieved through the art of music.
Mr. Kardash fulfilled a different role for every member of the Ensembles according to their need. For some he was a father figure and a teacher, for others a patriot, for others still he served as an adviser. For some he became a friend while for others he was simply a conductor. Perhaps his greatest role was that of a teacher and mentor. As we learned each
piece of our diverse repertoire it was an opportunity to teach us about the culture, tradition, history and spirituality of the Ukrainian nation. At these moments the love in his heart for everything native to Ukraine poured over into our hearts. “How can we not love you Ukraine?” (from the lyrics of one of our songs) best captures the resulting transference. There were moments on stage, while performing a given song, when this love generated an emotional moment as both the choir members and the conductor came to tears on the verge of crying (yet we managed to complete the number). His educational work extended beyond the work within the Ensembles. The two most prominent examples of this were the annual Christmas concerts featuring traditional carols and the Easter Choral Dances known as “Hayivky” both of which influenced youth as well as the entire community at large. Superseding work in the musical arts his virtues of dedication, conscientiousness, punctuality, seemingly inexhaustible high energy, religiousness and patriotism served as an example to follow in carrying on one’s own family, career and community life.
All of the above mentioned items had a significant influence on me; however the following two experiences were the most emotionally touching and memorable. The first moment was during the Toronto Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy’s event at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). I stood on the Band Shell stage at Mr. Kardash’s side watching the
concert-marching Band “Vanguard”, the Junior Drum Corps and the Colour Party of the Ukrainian Youth Ensembles march on to the grounds (their very first appearance in their smart new uniforms) with the glint of the morning sun on their brass buttons and polished instruments. It was a chance to share in his pride and joy at a climactic moment in the creation of the Ensembles. This image will forever remain etched in my memory. The second moment was the extraordinary 1990 concert tour of Ukraine with his Excellency Bishop Isidore Borecky as the country stood on the eve of the beginning of a new epoch in its history. It was truly a moment given by the grace of God for the Ensemble members, the Ukrainian nation and most of all for Mr. Kardash. No doubt for him it was a culmination of his work, in essence the defense of Ukraine through the musical arts.
I feel fortunate and privileged for having the opportunity to be part of his vision and artistic work which without doubt enriched my life.
Olya Dziubaniwsky, RN BScN