This text is based on "Бабини ╡лечики" - "Baba's Ceramics", text by Ariadna Stebelska, photos by Oleh Iwanusiw, Toronto 1995, ISBN 0-9699359-1-9.
Published by The Foundation of the Encyclopedia of Ukraine.

Iwanna Oksana Iwanusiw in the 1960's

I was proud to prepare this publication, " BABA'S CERAMICS" to print, not only because Iwanna Iwanusiw is my mother, but also because her art forms and her style of decorating meet with my spiritual imagination of things "Ukrainian". I, and my wife Bosnia, have been so found of my mothers ceramics that we used to spirit likable pieces after each visit to the Edmonton homestead, with or without the permission of the artist. The readers need to know that Iwanna became a grandmother during the time of her most creative years. It is for this reason that the family coined a special name for her "Prapcya" - diminutive for great grandmother.

It has happened that my mother would come visiting us in Toronto only to find one of her "long lost" favorite pieces. Up to that time she was suspecting someone in Edmonton of having broken it and hiding the deed by throwing away the broken pieces. As a result of our thieving activities, we probably have the largest collection of Iwanna's ceramics, outside of the family homestead and the workshop.

It has been several years since Iwanna stopped kneading the clay, turning exquisite forms on the wheel and decorating the once-fired pieces. Due to the short time she has been into ceramics and due to the fact that she has been doing it for the love of ceramics and not actively engaged in the commercialization of her creations, she is not very well known in the Ukrainian or the Canadian ceramic community. It is with the idea of having her work recorded for the future, that I have embarked on the preparation of this album.

Oleh Iwanusiw, Toronto 1994.

family in 1981 The family of Iwanna and Yaroslav Iwanusiw in front of the St. Josaphat's Cathedral, 1981.

Standing in front - Wenesa and Stacy Walsten. First row - Petro Dackiw, Ihor Iwanusiw, Leonida Wertyporoch nee Chromowska, Yaroslav Iwanusiw, Iwanna Iwanusiw nee Smolynska, Bozhena Iwanusiw nee Wertyporoch, Oleh Iwanusiw. Second row - Ksenia Dackiw (Fedyna), Olesia Van Dyke nee Iwanusiw, Olena Iwanusiw (Coba), Bohodara Waisten nee Iwanusiw and Marta Wasylkewych nee Huzar. Third row - Vira Dackiw (Bokalo), Roman Dackiw, Wadym Olinyk, Borys Olinyk, Zenon Wasylkewych, Motria Dackiw nee Iwanusiw and Orysia Olinyk nee Iwanusiw.Forth row - Fritz Loefler Jr., Alfred Van Dyke, Christine Loefler, Bohdan Olinyk, Yarema Walsten, Magdalyna Olinyk and Roman Olinyk.

Samples of Hutsul Ceramics - for details, click on the image

more samples of Iwanna's handcraft.......

Iwanna Oksana Iwanusiw was born on May 27, 1909, in the village of Rostoka Velyka near the town of Krynycia on Lemkivshchyna. Her parents were the reverend Wasyl and Izabella Smolynsky. Reverend Smolynsky takes his roots from the village of Korenycja near Yaroslav while her mother, nee Benzinska, roots from Peremyshl. Her childhood and adolescent years Iwanna spent in Nova Wes' near the town of Novy Sacz, where her father was the parish priest. Iwanna received her teachers diploma at the Seminary of the Basilian Sisters in Drohobych. She could not find employment as a teacher in Ukraine due to discrimination by the officials of the Polish government. This discrimination consisted of assigning Ukrainian teachers to Poland, and Polish teachers to Ukrainian territories. These Ukrainian ethnic territories were assigned to Poland after W.W.I. As she had no intention of leaving the Ukrainian territory, Iwanna lived unemployed near her parents.

In 1931 Iwanna married Yaroslav Iwanusiw.

From 1932 the Iwanusiw family lived in the village of Hrynivka near Bohorodcany, where Iwanna's husband was employed as a forester looking after the forests belonging to the bishop of Stanislaviv (today Ivano-Frankivsk), Kyr Hryhory Chomyshyn. Here, not far away from Stanislaviv, the Iwanusiw family increased in 1933 with the birth of the first daughter, Motria. Two years later, son Oleh was born in Wacewyczi (today - Zalyzany) near Drohobych.

The start of W.W.II brought significant changes. The Iwanusiw family fled west in the fall of 1939 to live with Iwanna's parents in Nova Wes', and in 1940 they settled in Novy Sacz. Here Iwanna's husband found employment in the department of forestry. Here in Novy Sacz, in 1942, their second daughter, Orysia was born. A year later the Iwanusiw family moved back east to Stanislaviv where Yaroslav continued to work for the forestry department. With time and the further progress of W.W. II, the family fled west again. This time, fleeing through Vienna, the family ended up in the village of Sofienwald (today in the Czech Republic), a few kilometers north of the town of Gmund, infamous to Ukrainians from W.W.I. Here the family spent the winter of 1944 - 45 and then headed further west in April of 1945. On the unforgettable Easter Sunday of 1945, in the village of Emersdorf near Pfarkirchen, the family met up with the advancing United States Armed Forces.

After a short stay in Pfarkirchen, and in the displaced persons camp in Karsfeld, near Munchen, the Iwanusiw family ended up in the displaced persons camp "ORLYK in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria. The bleak camp conditions were interrupted in 1947 by the birth of their third daughter, Bohodara. Early in 1948, the Iwanusiw family applied to immigrate to Canada as workers on the sugar beet plantations in southern Alberta. After a few weeks of hectic activity trying to complete all arrangements and obtain all necessary documents, the Iwanusiw family was on the way. The ship "Marine Falcon' brought the family, father, mother and children - Motria, Oleh, Orysia and Bohodara to Halifax, Nova Scotia. From here, the Iwanusiw family and hundreds of other "sugar beet workers" were transported five thousand kilometers directly to Lethbridge in southern Alberta. And so ended the "displaced persons" saga for the Iwanusiw family.

The family successfully completed the contract at the farm of Tony Tolly in Picture Butte, even though the earnings were not there. The beets germinated well but did not grow, and as a result the earnings based on the weight of the crop did not materialize. And so in the early winter of 1948, Iwanna with her family moved to Lethbridge looking for a place to live. There was a need to start a new life and Iwanna ended up working at a variety of jobs trying to make ends meet.

And so when the family moved to Edmonton in 1950, Iwanna continued to work until her children completed school and obtained higher education. The jobs varied and included being a survey camp cook for her husband, Yaroslav. When the children left the family nest, and her husband retired, only then did she think more of her own needs. At this point in life she was already 60.

Now her inner artistic spirit began to revive. She made friends with Ol'a Monastyrska, a pupil of the famous artist, Julian Bucmaniuk, and a graduate of the Banif School of Fine Arts specializing in ceramics. And finally ceramics came out on top. The hands that were hoeing sugar beets in southern Alberta, or scattering thick clouds of mosquitoes in northern Alberta, began to turn out wondrous shapes on the potters wheel -plates, vases, carafes and other.

In the late sixties and early seventies, Iwanna followed the advice and instructions of her teacher, Ol'a Monastyrska, and worked with the teacher's equipment and facilities. With time she assembled her own workshop in her garage. Here she had an electrically assisted wheel, a furnace, scales and all other equipment required by a ceramics studio.

In the beginning Iwanna was experimenting with traditional Ukrainian designs expressing these on pre cast green ware. Later on Iwanna turned to her own ceramic forms and original ornamental designs. Initially she was using conventional ceramic clays but later on most of her work was done using high temperature fired stone ceramics. Here she was challenged by the lack of pigments that would retain their colors after being fired at the high temperatures. Almost all of Iwanna's forms and shapes are of own creation, they all contain something original, something that allows the Ukrainian soul to come through. As time went on the many shelves in the garage began to be filled with plates, icons, vases and many other useful forms. Iwanna participated is several group showings as well as a number of one artist exhibits in Edmonton and one in Toronto. One can find her works in the homes of her children and friends. She sold very few works, remarking that she had a bard time putting a price on something that was almost a part of her family.

Iwanna and Yaroslav celebrated their 50-th wedding anniversary in 1981. All family members and many friends and relatives came to participate in the festivities. As a gift from their children, Iwanna and Yaroslav received tickets for a trip to Europe to visit all the locations so familiar to them. And so, Iwanna and Yaroslav visited in 1982 all the accessible places in Europe where they spent some time. These included Munchen, Berchtesgaden, Vienna, Gmund, Prague, Novy Sacz, Krynycja, Nova Wes', Peremysl, Presiv, Zilina and many others. Later the same year, there was an exhibit of her ceramics in the TRYPILLA Arts Gallery in Toronto.

There were many other trips to Europe. The last one was in 1989, where Iwanna and others accompanied the Ukrainian Catholic Bishop of Toronto, Kyr Izydor Borecky, to Austria, Hungary, Poland and Ukraine. In spite of the fact that the Soviet Union was already disintegrating, the authorities did not allow Iwanna or Yaroslav to visit their family and familiar places.

Even before the 1989 trip to Europe, Iwanna ended her passion for expressing herself in ceramics in 1986. Arthritis and rheumatism in her hands and fingers did not allow her to kneed the clay or use the wheel to turn original forms. Today, the wheel, the furnace and a shelf of green ware are awaiting the return of the artist to complete the unfinished, and if possible, to continue

Oleh Iwanusiw, 1994.

.....the motionless wheel....

....and the cold furnace, 1993.

Will someone come and revive this pottery kingdom?
- Only time will tell!

Thanks go to Oleh Iwanusiw of Etobicoke, Ontario, for providing me with the original material.

Copyright © to electronic version (1996) Walter Maksimovich. All rights reserved.