Bill & Anna’s Story

The wedding. July 5, 1936, Sudbury

The wedding. July 5, 1936, Sudbury

Originally published Sep. 2007

Click photos for larger images

 On Labour Day weekend, 2007, the annual Toronto Ukrainian Festival was held at Harbourfront Centre. For the past 10 years, it’s been held in our neighbourhood of Bloor West Village, but moved to a new location for this year.

One of the major themes of that year’s festival was the “Ukrainian Wedding”, and because one of the producers of this exhibit was the University of Alberta (specifically, the Peter and Doris Kule Centre for Ukrainian and Canadian Folklore), there is a very strong personal connection for us.

In 1988, Oksana’s parents, Wasyl (Bill) and Anna Kuryliw donated money to the University of Alberta to set up the Wasyl and Anna Kuryliw Family Foundation that provided scholarships to graduate students in the Ukrainian Folklore program.

Because of this connection, the Centre asked if we had a photo of their wedding they could mount. We did (right), but we had more…

Of course, we had the story of their wedding and marriage.

They were both from the village of Potochyshche in Ukraine. Bill left there in 1928 as an 18 year old, with a grade 3 education, $5 in his pocket, and a zest for life.

For eight years, Bill and Anna “courted by mail”, and in 1936, Anna also left Ukraine for Canada.

The dress & display

The dress & display

She brought her own wedding dress, which she had sewed herself, probably on the sewing machine shown below that Bill had bought for the women of the village. (Anna is the second from the right). Three days after she arrived in Canada, they were married on July 5, 1936 in Sudbury.

They were together for almost 65 years, until Anna passed away in 2001 at the age of 90. Three years later, at the age of 94, Bill died.

Sometime after Anna’s death, Oksana discovered Anna’s wedding dress, along with her veil, silk stockings and Bill’s boutonnière. They were in a shopping bag (from Sudbury) in an old trunk.

Those items turned out to be the highlights of the weekend’s exhibit, and now occasionally tour Canada as the Foundation mounts this exhibit.

You can read some more of Bill’s fascinating life in two appreciations of him published after his death in 2004, reprinted here:


The sewing machine in Potochyshche. Anna is second from right

The sewing machine in Potochyshche. Anna is second from right

The dress on exhibit

The dress on exhibit

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Trying it on

Being interviewed

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