Bohdan (Ben) Junyk, 93, of Toronto, passed away peacefully on August 26, 2023, at St. Joseph’s Health Centre, after a long battle with congestive heart failure.
Bohdan was born on March 18, 1930 in Lysjatychi Ukraine, then under Polish occupation. His mother Katherine was a talented singer and was actively involved in the musical and cultural life of the region. His father Ivan was the cantor and choirmaster of the local church and in addition to his cultural work was politically engaged.
Despite the difficulties of the times, Bohdan had a typical childhood. He was a shy and gentle youth who enjoyed school, the company of his friends and his younger brother Mykola, and the natural world of the village.
As for so many others, this simple life was shattered by the outbreak of war. The Soviet Union occupied Galicia and Ivan was repeatedly brought in for questioning by Soviet authorities because of his activism. He would have been transported to the Far East if not for the German advance and the withdrawal of the Soviets. However, life under German occupation was no easier. The outskirts of Lysjatychi were made into an important airstrip and the village had to endure repeated bombings while the family had to contend with the uncertainties of billeting an erratic German officer. When the Nazis retreated before the advance of the Red Army, the family knew they had to flee or face renewed Soviet persecution.
By horse and wagon, they crossed the Carpathians and entered Slovakia. They were intercepted by German officials and transported to the outskirts of Vienna where they were put to work clearing the forest until the Front advanced and they were forced to flee again. Barely keeping ahead of the fighting they ended up in Germany where they were hidden for the duration of the war by a sympathetic farmer. After German Capitulation, when the United Nations initiated an effort to deal with the massive numbers of people displaced by the War, the family moved to the Karlsfeld camp near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria. Here, despite the unreality of the surroundings, normal life resumed. Bohdan and Mykola went back to school, played soccer, and entered Plast. Several years later when the opportunity presented itself, the family signed a contract to harvest beets in western Canada, arriving in Alberta in 1948.
The harvesting work was extremely difficult and even though their employer wanted them to continue, when the family completed their contract they moved to Lethbridge. There they worked where they could while participating actively in the social and cultural life of the fledgling Ukrainian community. Bohdan contributed to the family’s finances by working in construction. The unsafe conditions of the time led to a workplace accident that left him blind in one eye. In order to pursue greater opportunities the family moved to Toronto in 1952 and began to operate a grocery store on St. Clair Avenue.
Bohdan worked in the store, alongside his brother, until they retired in 2005. In addition to his demanding work life, in his younger years, Bohdan enjoyed playing soccer and participating in the life of the Ukrainian community, in particular Plast. He also deeply loved St Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church. He participated in Mass weekly or more frequently, until illness prevented him from attending at 90 years of age. He also deeply loved liturgical music and was an enthusiastic singer in church. In his later years, he even helped to support the deacon, continuing the tradition of his parents. Ben’s enthusiasm for soccer changed gradually into a more general love of sports. He was a devoted fan of soccer and baseball in particular. He was an ardent supporter of Manchester City. His enthusiasm for the Blue Jays remained a comfort for him until the end. He was able, until 2 weeks before his death, to narrate the details of the two Blue Jays World Series wins. After retiring, at an age when most slow down physically, Bohdan took up running. He began to go to Etienne Brule Park along the Humber River every morning. Here, he discovered and connected with a community that became incredibly important to him in his later years. When he was unable to run anymore, he continued to walk along the Humber every morning - with his friends and his dog, Boris, who he cared for deeply. Gardening was also very important for Bohdan. He not only planted flowers and vegetables at his house, but also took on the planting and upkeep of the roundabout on his street.
Bohdan is survived by his niece, Natalka (Todd) and his nephew, Ihor (Kristin) and his grandnieces Bozhena and Nadia. He will be deeply missed.
In remembrance of Bohdan (Ben) Junyk's life, charitable donations may be made to Help Us
August 31, 2023
Cardinal Funeral Homes Annette Chapel
05:00 PM - 08:00 PM
September 01, 2023
St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church
September 01, 2023