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Curator, Ukrainian Museum of Canada, Ontario Branch. Great-granddaughter of Ukrainian writer Ivan Franko.

Date and Place of Birth: September 16, 1951 in Toronto, Canada

Date of Interview: November 24, 2016

Place of Interview: Toronto, Ontario

Interviewer: Sophia Isajiw

Length of Interview: 01:12:37 (raw)


Helen Kluchko (HK): Grandmother Anya, she was the only daughter of Ivan Franko. She went to Kyiv to study nursing. During World War I, the Ukrainian prisoners of war needed medical help, and the Embassy in Berlin organized medical relief and she went to Berlin as a nurse and that's where she met Dr. Petro Kluchko. And that’s why I have the Kluchko name instead of Franko. So it’s sort of like a Dr. Zhivago movie, the nurse and the doctor. After the war they settled in Zakarpattya. And they were there until the war and then they immigrated to Austria and Graz, nearby. And then father went to Canada, his father died, and then mother came over and then he sponsored his mother, Anya, also to Canada. So in our home, it’s a duplex, so on one side was our family – Myron, Nadia, and myself, and Olya, and on other side was Anna Kluchko-Franko. And both grandmothers were very strong, very opinionated, and our family was caught in the middle. So mother learned to be very diplomatic for the harmony of the family.

I: So anything from the Franko legacy? Any stories that need to be told?

HK: Whenever I asked grandmother, she would say: "read the book". She published a book and I think the Institute library has a copy of it - Iван Франко родина [Ivan Franko Family] by Anna Franko-Kluchko, and she wrote everything basically in it. It was interesting in that she was the Franko element. Our family, our purpose was just survival, because I became ill. So mother didn't work, she stayed at home taking care of me, I didn't attend school for a year and a half, so I had home schooling. So dad went working, providing, taking care of the nucleus of the family, so anything of Franko was grandmother's department. She would come over, next door, and she would read the speeches she wrote for the community and we would be her sounding board. And then I remember that Canadian (Latin) Christmas we had at our place, and then 'nashi svyata' [our Ukrainian Christmas] was at grandmother's. And she made this beautiful pyrih, a bread that has in the middle meat and egg filling. Absolutely marvelous fresh. I think she got the recipe from her mother, from Kyiv.

I: And did she do a lot of public speaking?

HK: When the community wanted, she was available, but she was a Nurse Assistant at Mount Sinai Hospital and she worked longer than her 65 years. Whenever she had any time she would go into the storage room and embroider. So that was her relaxation. But then when she broke her arm at the hospital and they needed documentation, then they found out she was 70 and way above the age of retirement, so she then had to retire. If it wasn’t for the accident who knows how long?


Governor General of Canada hosts Ukrainian culture at Rideau Hall prior to State visit to Ukraine in which Halya Kluchko’s pysanky are exhibited, 2009

Yasinska, Oksana, “Ukrainian Easter eggs by Ivan Franko's granddaughter have joined the collection of a museum in Kolomyja,”  Ясінська, Оксана, "Писанки правнучки Івана Франка поповнили фонди музею в Коломиї, Prostir.Museum, 02 Sept. 2016, Web.

Stawicki, Andrew. Toronto Star photo of Halya Kluchko with one of her pysankas, 1987 

• Rowan, Michael, J., Fleming, John A. and Kluchko, H. “The Furniture of Ukrainain Pioneers”/Mebli Ukrains'kych Pioneriv. The Ukrainian Museum of Canada, 1992.

excerpt from the Interview with HELEN KLUCHKO

The interviews can be accessed at the UCRDC. Please contact us at: office@ucrdc.org