Taras Shevchenko Museum of Canada
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Museum Building

Taras H. Shevchenko
Museum & Memorial
Park Foundation

1614 Bloor St. West
Toronto, Ontario
M6P 1A7
Tel: 416-534-8662
Fax: 416-535-1063


Thieves Steal Historic Bronze Statue of Shevchenko in Oakville

"It's a miracle that the head survived."
- Andrew Gregorovich, vice-president
of the Taras H. Shevchenko Museum
and Memorial Park Foundation

For a long-dead poet and artist, it was the unkindest cut of all.

A 3-metre bronze statue of iconic Ukrainian Taras Shevchenko, erected in an Oakville park named for him in 1951, has been chopped off at the feet by vandals and carted away.

Why? Bill Harasym, the president of the foundation that administers the park and a Toronto museum, dedicated to Shevchenko's life fears it's as simple as thieves hoping to cash in on the value of the statue for scrap metal. "It's a terrible tragedy, not only for the Ukrainian-Canadian community, but for Canada as a whole," said Bill Harasym. "Shevchenko was one of the greats of recent cultural history."

The statue, a gift to the 500,000 Ukrainians then in Canada from Soviet Society For Cultural Relations Abroad and valued at more than $350,000, was the center of controversy at the time and for a while was under 24-hour police guard. Erected to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada, it stood for more than 55 years atop a 70-tonne granite base in a 6.5-hectare park, which was surrounded by another 47 hectares of parkland along Sixteen Mile Creek that once was home to a children's camp. While the camp closed in 1998, many still visit the park to see the historical figure. When the statue was erected in 1951, around 40 thousand people attended its unveiling.

Shevchenko is considered to be the Ukrainian equivalent to Shakespeare. As a 19th-century poet, he produced more than one thousand literary and art works.

For the four recent years the Shevchenko Museum and Memorial Park Foundation has been in negotiations with Oakville officials to donate the land along with the monument to the Town of Oakville as a public park. Developers who own property surrounding the park are also interested in the tract. "To lose the statue, when we were ready to give the park to the Town of Oakville, is just tragic," said Lillian Carrigan, caretaker of the park.
Halton Regional Police found the head of the statue at Thomson Metals and Disposal on January 2, 2007. A Burlington recycling plant says it paid less than $1,000 for the head. "It's a miracle that the head survived," said Andrew Gregorovich, vice-president of the Taras H. Shevchenko Museum and Memorial Park Foundation. At an emergency meeting of the foundation executive held on January 2, Mr. Gregorovich proposed the head be turned into its own display inside the Taras Shevchenko Museum.

A spokeswoman for the Tomson plant sais the thief only sold the firm the head, and it was never offered the rest of the statue. "He must have sold some of it to someone else," said Pia Rajeng. She said the 170-pound head did not raise suspicion at the plant because taking in scrap metal is part of business.

Statue thefts in an age of high copper prices are becoming increasingly common, said Arnold Knapp, consultant with Canadian Copper and Brass Development Association. He said the bronze used in statues normally contains about 85% copper alloy. Once that bronze is melted down for resail, he said, it can never be turned into pure copper but can still be a valuable product to use in other castings.

"We have a large number of copper thefts in the region," said Halton Detective Greg Sullivan on January 2. "On Christmas Eve there was a break-in at a factory in Oakville where a bunch of different metals were stolen."

Several cottages that share park property with the statue have also been recent targets of copper theft. Cottage owner Lillian Carrigan said she discovered that copper pipes in her fridge, air conditioner and shower had been stolen when she stopped by her cottage a week ago. She suspects the two incidents are connected. "The ladder they used to steal the statue was locked and chained up behind my cottage," she said. In a nearby cadet trailer she found goods from her cottage and tools.

Curtis Raae, 36, and Gilberto Leonardo, 36, both from Oakville have been charged with possession of stolen property.

In the meantime, the Board of Directors of the Taras Shevchenko Museum and Memorial Park Foundation seeks possible ways to restore the monument and erect it in Toronto area.

By Jim Wilkes, Toronto Star, January 1, 2007 and
Laura Hendrick, National Post, January 3, 2007

Taras Shevchenko Museum presents: Exhibition of Taras Shevchenko's Art. The opening is on Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 2:00 p.m. with coffee and sweets reception.
Shevchenko art works in oil, pencil, watercolour, engraving, Shevchenko philatelic collection and many unique, one-of-a-kind exhibits are on display. (more)

Taras Shevchenko Museum's Ukrainian decorative folk art exhibit in the Ontario Parliament Building. (more)

Collection of Ukrainian handicrafts and folk art
First Ukrainian Immigration to Canada
Shevchenko Stamp Collection
Quick Facts on Shevchenko Biography
Become a Donor

The son of a serf, Shevchenko became not only an artist and academician of Saint-Petersburg Academy of Art, but one of the most versatile people of 19th century. His paintings and graphics reflect a refined world that did not resemble his own life...(more)


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