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Danylo Luciuk

Ukrainian nationalist, father, horologist. Born on Dec. 6, 1912, in Volosiv, Ukraine; died on Feb. 15, 2014, in Kingston, Ont., of old age, aged 101.

Danylo Luciuk lived most of his life in Canada but never truly left his homeland, Ukraine. Dedicated to its independence, he insisted that Ukraine would, someday, recover its rightful place in Europe. With the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, his faith was confirmed, although Ukraine is not yet the liberated country he pined for. He never gave up, and was reading the latest news about the Euromaidan protests only minutes before he died.

Born in 1912 in the village of Volosiv, in western Ukraine, Danylo scarcely knew his father, Dmytro, a conscript and POW in the First World War who returned only years after the conflict ended. His mother Evdokiya was poor, so a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest and a village teacher raised Danylo. From them he learned that only force of arms could free Ukraine so, as a teenager, he joined the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, fighting Poles, Soviets, and, finally, Nazis.

In June, 1941, after being betrayed by a Communist sympathizer, Danylo was in a cattle car being transported to the Soviet east when the Luftwaffe bombed. He escaped, aided by a Polish train conductor. Danylo covertly provisioned Ukrainian Insurgent Army units until the Russians returned in 1944.

A marked man, his only hope lay in heading west, where he found asylum in a displaced persons camp near Munich. There he met Maria Makalo, a secretary to the exiled nationalist leadership. They fell in love, married and moved to Canada in 1949. They settled in Kingston, home to other DPs they knew, and raised two children, Lubomyr (which means "lover of peace") and Nadia ("hope") – for love, peace, and hope is what Canada offered. Danylo and Maria remained happily married until she died at home, in his arms, in 2012.

While in the refugee camp, Danylo learned watchmaking. In Kingston, Danny, as he was known, found a fair boss and a good job at Brock Jewellers, where he worked until he retired. But he never forgot Ukraine. He set up the Kingston branch of the Canadian League for the Liberation of Ukraine, and was for decades a meticulous secretary-treasurer for St. Michael's Ukrainian Catholic Church parish and, later, the city's Ukrainian Canadian Club.

He hoped to live to 100. Perhaps because his working life was so focused on the careful measurement of time, he did better than that. And he died content for, just a few days before, his only granddaughter, Kassandra, delivered happy news. She was accepted into the doctoral program of the University of Toronto's history department. When he lamented he might not live to her graduation I reminded him he had said the same when she started her bachelor's degree, and then her master's. Besides, I said, who could say if either of us would be alive tomorrow? Wasn't it better to share welcome news, here and now? He laughed and agreed that it was much better than worrying about an uncertain future. Our last conversation was a good one.

As I drove to the funeral home several days later, I turned on the radio, praying for distraction from a sudden grief. On came a song I had never heard before, its words piercing my sorrow: "I am gone now … but there are still wrongs to right, battles to fight ... so carry on, carry on." That's what Danylo did: He righted wrongs, then carried on.

When he was buried, we sprinkled earth from Volosiv over his casket. Now he rests in peace, in Canada, and in Ukraine.

Lubomyr Luciuk is Danylo's son.

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