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Father Michael Horoshko

Ukrainian Canadian Army Chaplain 1944-1946

Father Michael Horoshko at Queen Victoria Barracks
Aldershot, England, 1944 (PA-l 66031)
Father Michael Horoshko officiating at a service in Brookwood Cemetary
England, 1945 (PA-166055)

 
World War II had a profound influence on the evolution of the Ukrainian community in Canada. The Canadian government actively encouraged the Ukrainian Canadians to fully participate in the Canadian war effort. For example, the Ukrainian Canadian Committee was established to coordinate the activities of Ukrainian Canadian organizations in contributing to the war effort; recruiting ads were placed in Ukrainian-language newspapers; the National Film Board made documentaries about Ukrainian life in Canada. A small but significant step in this campaign was the appointment of Ukrainian chaplains in the Canadian Armed Forces. On June 22, 1944, Father Michael Horoshko was appointed Ukrainian Catholic Chaplain, with the rank of Captain, in the Canadian Army.
Father Horoshko was born on March 3, 1912, in Western Ukraine, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He completed his theological studies at the Seminary in Lwow (Lviv) and was ordained on May 30, 1937. With five other Ukrainian Catholic priests, he volunteered for missionary work in Canada, arriving in Montreal on July 12, 1937. His first assignment was to Hafford, Saskatchewan, as assistant pastor.
Father Horoshko became actively involved in the local Ukrainian community, and in October 1938 he founded the Ukrainian Catholic Youth (UCY) movement. From 1939 to 1941, Father Horoshko was the parish priest in Prince Albert and also served Ukrainian communities in northern Saskatchewan. Later, in 1941-1942, he studied at St. Michael's College in Toronto. He continued to improve his facility with the English language and assisted the local Ukrainian Catholic clergy. Father Horoshko also continued his work among the youth, organizing UCY branches in Toronto. He continued his studies at the University of Saskatchewan during 1943-1944 and was a lecturer at the Markian Shashkevich Institute.
On May 31,1944, when his Bishop informed him that there was a need for a Ukrainian Catholic Chaplain to serve in the Canadian Army in England, Father Horoshko volunteered. He was officially enrolled on June 22, 1944, in Regina. In addition to his uniform, he received his "Mass Kit," a durable suitcase with the necessary articles for celebrating Mass.
Father Horoshko received his military training in Brockville, Ontario, and graduated from officer's training on August 26, 1944. He arrived in England on October 18, 1944, and was stationed at Queen Victoria Barracks in Aldershot. Since Ukrainian Canadian servicemen were scattered in all Canadian military units, he began a schedule of visits throughout England that included units of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Canadian Navy. He soon established contacts with the Ukrainian Canadian Servicemen's Association (UCSA) in London. At the UCSA club he met Father Samuel W. Sawchuk, the Ukrainian Orthodox Chaplain who arrived in England a few months earlier. He also met Gordon R.B. Panchuk, one of the founders of the UCSA in England. He met many friends and former parishioners including members of the UCY from Canada.
Father Horoshko encountered a recurring problem when visiting Canadian military units. Many Ukrainian Catholics were listed as Roman Catholics in the military personnel records. He had to regularly request to see the personnel lists to identify Ukrainian names and then invite them to religious services. Ukrainian soldiers serving in British, Polish and American forces also attended his services. Often non-Ukrainian soldiers attended his religious services, and Father Horoshko explained the Ukrainian religious rite, choral music and other religious traditions.
On one occasion he visited a few Ukrainian Canadian soldiers in a military prison who were either inmates or guards. He met Ukrainian prisoners of war who served in German labour battalions and who surrendered in France after D-Day.
Since Christmas according to the Julian calendar was an especially important time of the year, Father Horoshko was able to arrange a two-day leave for forty-eight Ukrainian Canadian soldiers from the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corp to attend Mass at the UCSA Club in London. The Ukrainian Christmas celebration was usually one of the best attended events at the Club.
When Father Horoshko visited the UCSA Club, there were usually many letters and parcels for him. Packages were sent to the soldiers from the Ukrainian Canadian communities, including some from the UCY branches that Father Horoshko had organized.
During his trips across England, Father Horoshko had the opportunity to replace Roman Catholic chaplains at Aldershot and conduct religious services and Padre's Hours for non-Ukrainian soldiers.
The celebration of Easter according to the Julian Calendar was a special event in London. On this occasion more than 180 Ukrainian Canadian soldiers attended the religious services. With the end of the war in Europe (V-E Day), Father Horoshko was faced with a new series of problems. He was flooded with requests from Ukrainian Canadian soldiers to marry the local British girls. He personally opposed these marriages and forbade most requests. The soldiers were also eager to return home and the chaplains were instructed to do their best to raise morale. Father Horoshko continued his schedule of visits in all parts of England, including the Royal Canadian Navy units. He conducted memorial services at the various military cemeteries where Ukrainian Canadian soldiers were buried.
In July Father Horoshko held a five-day religious retreat for the Ukrainian Canadian soldiers. The retreat was a success and the soldiers gave Father Horoshko a hand-carved souvenir with a list of their signatures.
On August 15, 1945, the war with Japan was over and Ukrainian Canadian soldiers who had served in the Far East and in India were returning through London. The UCSA continued to welcome Ukrainian soldiers from all the Allied armed forces and was a busy centre of activity.
On September 21, 1945, Father Horoshko received permission to visit Ukrainian Canadian soldiers on the continent. He visited Canadian units in Holland, Germany and Belgium. In addition to holding religious services, he visited military cemeteries and blessed the graves of Ukrainian Canadian soldiers. He also encountered the familiar problem of soldiers wishing to marry the local girls. He continued his policy of refusing permission and did his best to discourage their requests. In the British zone he met for the first time Ukrainian Displaced Persons who had fled the Nazis and were now fleeing the Soviets. Most were in a desperate situation and feared being forcibly repatriated to the Soviet Union. Father Horoshko intervened with the Allied military authorities when possible to assist the refugees. He returned from Brussels to England on November 4, 1945. He continued his schedule of visits in England with the various Canadian units waiting for transport back to Canada. Father Horoshko celebrated Ukrainian Christmas at the UCSA Club in London. Soon after, on January 11, 1946, he received instructions for his return to Canada. He said his farewells to his many friends and the members of the UCSA that still remained in England and left by ship for Canada. He then visited Ukrainian communities in New York and Philadelphia in the United States and in Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Calgary in Canada. On March 3, 1946, Father Horoshko was officially discharged from the Canadian Army.
He returned to his work as a parish priest and was assigned to the Ukrainian Catholic parish in Sudbury. He later served parishes in Kirkland Lake, Windsor, Montreal and Phoenix, Arizona. He still continues his work as a parish priest in Mahonoy City, Pennsylvania.
The appointment of a Ukrainian Catholic Chaplain in the Canadian Armed Forces was sincerely appreciated by the Ukrainian Canadian community. They knew that there were no Ukrainian chaplains in the United States Armed Forces, which had a much larger number than the 40,000 Ukrainian Canadian soldiers in their ranks. This gesture became part of an important tradition of cooperation between the Canadian government and the Ukrainian Canadian community. This policy of cooperation with the ethnocultural communities evolved and developed as the Canadian policy of multiculturalism and was announced by the federal government in October 1971.
The Father Michael Horoshko papers (MG 31 F15) document the priest's activities in the Canadian Armed Forces and also his career as pastor in various parishes in Canada and the United States. The information in this collection complements the historical material in the Ukrainian Canadian Veterans Association collection (MG 28 V119), the Gordon R.B. Panchuk papers (MG 31 D118) and the Stephan Pawluk papers (MG 31 D155).
 

Myron Momryk
Manuscript Division

“The Archivist,” July-August 1989
Vol. 16, No.4


New series    2005    Litopys
Published by Forum for the Studies of the History of the UPA
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