Olena (Helen) Chyczij was born on December 25, 1929 in Buchach, Ternopil Oblast, in Polish-occupied Ukraine in the family of Danylo and Iryna (Fedushchak) Luciw.
The onset of World War II brought new occupiers to western Ukraine: first the Soviets and then the Nazis. When the defeat of the Nazis in the Battle of Stalingrad paved the way for a return of Soviet terror to Ukraine, millions of Ukrainian refugees fled to seek refuge in western Europe. Olena, along with her parents, younger brother Lev, and grand father Ilya, were among them.
They found their way to Displaced Persons (DP) camps first in Ellwangen, Germany and then Landeck, Austria, where they tragically lost Lev and Illya to diphtheria.
During this time Olena was forced to work in a German munition factory, where exposure to heavy metals may have predisposed her to Parkinson’s Disease that she battled in her later years.
Despite the difficult conditions, Ukrainian refugees created community structures in the DP camps, including schools, churches and cultural groups. It is here that Olena joined the ranks of the Plast Ukrainian Youth Association, an organization to which she devoted many volunteer hours throughout her life. It is also in the DP camps where Olena formed the lifelong friendships that sustained her in her new life in Canada.
After the end of the war, Olena’s family had the incredibly good fortune to be sponsored for emigration to Canada by Joseph and Rose Fedushchak. They, along with their daughters Luba, Vera, and Nadia, welcomed them to Canada with open arms.
The extended Luciw family, including Josyf, Sofia, and their children Oleh, Volodymyr and Marta, settled in Toronto. At the wedding of mutual friends, Olena met her future husband Mykola (Nicholas). Together, they raised three daughters: Alexandra, Irena, and Marta. With Mykola’s untimely death in 1977, Olena was widowed at the age of 48. She continued to provide stability and security for her daughters, ensuring that their education was not interrupted, the way hers had been because of the war.
Olena was blessed with three grandchildren - Tynia, Pavlo, and Kassandra – and spent many summers with them at the family cottage at Cawaja Beach. She instilled in them a love for their Ukrainian culture, heritage, and traditions, and ensured that they learned to speak Ukrainian by pretending not to speak English.
Olena left us on March 21, 2020, just as the COVID-19 crisis was escalating. Her family will lay her to rest in a private ceremony as Olena would not have wanted anyone to risk their health and safety for her sake. When our world becomes a safer place there will be a Memorial Mass and Tryzna so that family and friends can share in a celebration of her extraordinary life.
Mourning Olena are Alexandra, Irena (Roman), Marta (Andrij), Tynia, Pavlo (Jessica), Kassandra (Mikhail) and her father Lubomyr Luciuk, along with family and friends in Canada and Ukraine.
We would like to thank the many family and friends who provided care and support to Olena in her final years, as well as the medical professionals and all staff at the Movement Disorders Clinic at Toronto Western Hospital and the Ukrainian Canadian Care Centre.
At this time, the family asks that you honour Olena’s memory by supporting the organizations and causes that touched her life:
Plast Ukrainian Youth Organization – Toronto. Donations can be made online or mailed to Plast Toronto, 516 The Kingsway, Toronto, ON M9A 3W6 or by calling 416-769-9998. (Please specify Youth Program Development in Memory of Olena Chyczij). https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/id/61259/
Ukrainian Canadian Care Centre https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/25329 (Please specify Program Development for Residents in Memory of Olena Chyczij)
Ukrainian Canadian Congress Charitable and Educational Trust https://ucc.ca/donate/donate-now/
Toronto General and Western Hospital - Movement Disorders Centre Research Fund (Please specify that the gift is in memory of Helen Chyczij and the Gift Designation is ‘As specified by the next of kin’) https://support.tgwhf.ca/site/Donation2?1487.donation=form1&df_id=1487
March 27, 2020
Cardinal Funeral Homes, 92 Annette Street Chapel
The service will be private. A memorial service will be open to all at a later date. Thank you for your understanding.
March 27, 2020
Park Lawn Cemetery
Burial Time is an Estimate