About the film – and Bill

A unique – and universal – story:

Bill (right) with his mother & siblings, Potochysche, Ukraine

Chapters and Verses, completed in August, 2017 tells the story of a larger-than-life personality, Wasyl (Bill) Kuryliw.

Bill came to Canada in 1928, “with $5, a grade 3 education and a powerful zest for life,” and became one of the most dedicated and best remembered activists in Sudbury’s Ukrainian-Canadian community. For 70 years he was known for his unflagging energy in promoting Ukrainian organizations and culture, his adopted city – and his beloved “Mama Canada”.

This film however, is more than just the story of one man. In recent years, there have been many Ukrainian-oriented films shown in Canada – both documentary and fiction. However, almost all of them are focused on Ukraine: either about the current situation in Eastern Ukraine, or about historical events, especially the Holodomor. It is rare to find a film that tells a story about Ukrainian-Canadians and their contributions to community and country.  Moreover, even in non-film media, it seems most accounts of past Ukrainian-Canadians are about those who settled in the West. Here is the life of a “different” kind of Ukrainian-Canadian pioneer: one who helped foster a community in a Northern Ontario city.

Bill’s story resonates beyond the Ukrainian-Canadian community. His experience of leaving home and family, of difficulties establishing himself in a new land (during the Depression, and at first speaking  no English), raising a family, and helping to build a community is an experience shared with millions of immigrants to Canada.

Finally, his example of selfless contribution – to community, city and country – is an important one to recognize. One person (in his 30s) who saw the film said, “it made me rethink the meaning of ‘success'”.

The introduction given by Sonia Holiad at the film’s premiere in September, 2017 (below) reflects some of what Bill’s life signified. For more about Bill see the bottom of this page.

Introducing the first screening

We had our premiere screening on Sept. 12, 2017 at the Spadina Theatre at the Alliance Française in Toronto. Sonia Holiad gave a wonderful introduction to the film:

The “Chapters and Verses” of Bill’s life – and the documentary:

Bill’s (Polish) passport on leaving Ukraine, 1928

The film uses archival video, audio, photos and newspaper stories – including a radio interview where he talks about his early life in his village of Potochysche, and his arrival in Canada. There is also video of him reciting Ivan Franko, and interviews with many who remember him. We hope the film captures the energy and commitment that earned him the nickname “Action Bill”.

The “Chapters” in the film attempt to tell his story, and answer some questions: How did a child from the small village of Potochsyche in Western Ukraine later mingle with the business and political leaders of Sudbury? How did a welder at Inco eventually establish an endowment, named after Ivan Franko, in Ukrainian folklore at the University of Alberta?

The “Verses” in the film are those of Ivan Franko: the poet and writer whose words and philosophy greatly influenced his life and outlook. No event in the Sudbury Ukrainian community – from births to deaths, in halls and homes – was complete without his reciting, from memory, an appropriate Franko poem. One poem (“A Parable About Life”) that was particularly important to him is interwoven into the narrative of the film and of his life.

In addition to poetry, Wasyl had a life-long passion for promoting many other aspects of Ukrainian culture. A self-taught musician on numerous instruments, he was well-known for his mandolin classes, teaching both children and adults to play Ukrainian folk music. He also played cello in the first Sudbury Symphony Orchestra.

Reciting Ivan Franko, 1988

He was famous for his tireless efforts to support the Ukrainian community, especially the Ukrainian National Federation and associated organizations.  He helped found the Sudbury branch of the UNF, along with the Sudbury Ukrainian Credit Union and Food Co-op. He became perhaps the leading seller of advertisements for the national Ukrainian-Canadian newspaper, New Pathway and sold endless fund-raising lottery tickets.

But he was also passionate about Canada, and believed in contributing to the country that gave him a home. He was well-known by all Sudbury-area politicians. The film includes a tribute that members of Sudbury Regional Council gave him prior to his leaving Sudbury. The Chamber of Commerce granted him an honourary membership for the huge number of new members he recruited when their numbers were dwindling.

We hope you can join us at an upcoming screening.