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Lesia statue builder honoured by town

Town of Canora held a dedication for Orest Lewchuk in front of the Lesia statue, as well as belatedly celebrating its fourth decade.
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The town honoured Orest Lewchuk, who helped build the Lesia statue that welcomes visitors coming into Canora, at a dedication on July 18. From left, were: Councillor Dave Wasyliw, Community Development Officer Brandi Zavislak, Councillor Denise Leslie, Orest Lewchuk, Audrey Hrycak, and Dorothy and Terry Korol.

CANORA- One of the creators of a prominent Canora symbol was recently honoured by the town during Canora in Bloom.

Orest Lewchuk, along with his father, Nicholas, built the Lesia statue that welcomes visitors coming into Canora from the south.

On July 18, the town held a dedication for Lewchuk in front of the statue, as well as belatedly celebrating its fourth decade. The welcome symbol was unveiled on Sept. 3, 1980, the 75th anniversary of the town and province.

“I was a little bit surprised because I didn't know that they were going to do something like that for me,” Lewchuk said. “My whole life was in Canora, so I thought I might as well leave something behind. With my dad we built this statue and then lately donated a piece of my property to the town.”

Brandi Zavislak, the town’s community development officer, said Lewchuk donated approximately two acres of land, which will be used as a dedicated urban green space.

“This space will be a wonderful space for the community that will stay a park-like setting with various paths for residents to enjoy for years to come,” she said in a speech at the dedication.

Lewchuk said his father emigrated from Ukraine and retained a strong pride in Ukrainian culture and language.

The father-son pair joined the town’s Chamber of Commerce the year they were looking for ideas to attract tourists.

“The Chamber of Commerce was debating what kind of attraction they could have for Canora to bring in more tourists,” he said.

One idea was to have a large kolach – a sweet Ukrainian bread – as a symbol of welcome, said Dorothy Korol of the Ukrainian Heritage Museum during a speech about the history of the statue. According to a newspaper report, the Lewchuks said it would be effective if somebody presented it.

“There were a few things being said and done, but from all of that, the chamber decided to go with our plan,” Lewchuk said.

The Lewchuks built the statue over the winter. It has an iron-steel core and an outer coating of fibreglass.

“Something that we felt that if we're building it, we might as well build something that will last for quite a few years, so that's why we decided to go with fibreglass,” Lewchuk said.

Korol said much preparation went into the unveiling of the statue, with Governor-General Edward Schreyer one of the dignitaries at the event. However, it was a rainy and windy day, and the wind ended up unveiling the statue for Schreyer. The events were soon transferred to the composite school.

In 1982, the Canora branch of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress was granted permission to erect a cairn at the site, Korol said, with a plaque recognizing the 85th anniversary of the first Ukrainian block settlement in the area. On Aug. 19, 1982, then Mayor Lorne Kopelchuk and MLA Lloyd Hampton unveiled the cairn. It was at this event the status was named Lesia.

In 2020, Ernest Lewchuk gave a $10,000 bequest in his will for the purpose of maintaining the statue and surrounding grounds. The funds will be dispensed over 20 years.

“I just hope that the people appreciate what the town has done for them,” Orest said, adding that he’d love to see other local residents chip in with their own ideas to improve the community.