Swystun, Wasyl

Swystun, Wasyl [Свистун Василь; Svystun, Vasyl'], b 13 January 1893 in Sorotsko, Terebovlia county, Galicia, d 25 December 1964 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Community leader. He graduated from the Kitsman gymnasium, in which he had enrolled after being expelled from the Academic Gymnasium in Lviv for organizing a student strike over the issue of declaring Taras Shevchenko’s birthday a holiday. He later entered the law faculty of Lviv University in the spring of 1912, but lacking the funds necessary to continue his education, he set off for Canada late in 1912, fully planning to return to Galicia within a few years. In 1916 he helped found and was first rector (1917–21) of the Mohyla Ukrainian Institute in Saskatoon, where his activities brought him into conflict with Bishop Nykyta Budka of the Ukrainian Catholic church. In the wake of this dispute Swystun emerged as a strong champion for the formation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, which occurred in 1918. He also helped found the Ukrainian Self-Reliance League in 1927 and was its first president.

Swystun graduated from the University of Saskatchewan (BA, 1918) and later the University of Manitoba (LLB, 1930). He then practiced law in Winnipeg for the rest of his life.

In 1935 Swystun precipitated a crisis in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada when he openly raised questions regarding its administrative procedures and canonical status. The dispute dragged on and became mired in a court battle over the Saint Mary the Protectress church in Winnipeg. He also turned his energies to the Ukrainian National Federation (UNF) from 1938 and emerged as a major spokesperson for it; he played a leading role on its behalf in the creation of the Ukrainian Canadian Committee (UCC) in 1940.

Swystun abruptly resigned from his UNF vice-presidency and his UCC involvements in 1943 and withdrew temporarily from public life. He re-emerged in 1945 as an advocate of reconciliation with the existing regime in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, which he believed was necessary for the realization of Ukrainian national aspirations. In 1946 he became head of the Society for Cultural Relations with Ukraine. He began specializing in international and Soviet law, even obtaining a law degree (through correspondence) from Kyiv University in 1957. A collection of his later essays appeared in Kyiv in 1959 as ‘Ukraïns'kyi patriotyzm’ v Kanadi—na slovakh i na dili (‘Ukrainian Patriotism’ in Canada—In Words and in Deed). Swystun’s papers are located at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa.

Manoly Lupul

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]

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