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(RIGHT Reverend) Archimandrite John Tataryn

Ukrainian Catholic Church Parish Priest

Date of Interview: July 15, 2016

Place of Interview: Toronto, Ontario

Interviewer: Sophia Isajiw

Length of Interview: 02:16:09 (raw)


Fr. JT: But I loved work. At the same time Bishop Isidore said, “I need an English secretary, can you come at least once or twice a week?” I says: “I’ll come.” At the same time, Father Firmin was very anxious to get out of there, so he encouraged me to work in the chancellery. He was very nice, he had a very hard time here in Toronto, but that’s a different story.

And then I got so involved in work, you know, that I could think of nothing else but getting my job done. I got very little sleep at night – there was no time. I had to organize this parish [St. Demetrius], started in the fall. I came here the first Sunday in June and then in September I had to go from house to house, in the evenings because there was no time. I went in the evenings from house to house, looking for who was of Ukrainian origin, and I found a lot of people, but they weren’t going to church. Mostly, they were children of our pioneers. On every pioneer farm there would be 12, 14, 16, 18 children. How could they farm? They can’t. They have to go to the city to work. And they didn’t have much of an education. The first level of education they could get of any value was 1 year of teacher’s college, that’s why we had those two Ruthenian teacher’s colleges. Most of them came to the big city of Toronto, Oshawa, and Hamilton to find jobs. At first they stuck with their own community. But then they got married, they wanted to have their own homes, they moved to the suburbs: Scarborough, Etobicoke, were the places, new homes were being built here, there were all farms around here and new homes were being built – you could buy a house for around $18… to $18,500.00 thousand – three-bedroom bungalow.

So, when they moved here, they were raising their children in an Anglo-Saxon atmosphere, you might say, the children didn’t speak Ukrainian. So the Ukrainian community rejected them, because the Ukrainian community was basically, then, the one that came after the war: extremely nationalistic, very possessive of culture, language, and so forth [as a result of the events of WWII], and these were “rejects.” So, Bishop Isidore said, he said: “You have to do something about saving these people.” So I said ok, but, everywhere I went they said if we have the English language, if we have the new calendar, we’ll come. We will have our own parish. I says, “great.” So I went to the bishop and told him, and he says, “give them what they want, save them!”

We lost a huge number in Scarborough because we had patriotic priests there who didn’t want anything to do with anybody that didn’t speak Ukrainian. Here, in Etobicoke, fortunately when we started this parish, the Orthodox started a parish on the Lake Shore [Blvd.] – they had a place, first of all, to come to, where they would not be rejected.

I started a Ridna Shkola; they sent their children. Unfortunately, I had a serious problem. I had 2 classrooms up at St. Basil’s College and 2 at Our Lady of Sorrows School: I needed Ukrainian teachers. And I was so happy I was able to get the services of Ukrainian girls who had finished their Ukrainian courses, and they started teaching. All of a sudden, they quit. I says: why? “Our parents won’t let us teach.”  Why? What’s wrong? “Their friends are calling them ‘traitors,’ because we were ‘traitors’ you see. Ooh, I had a serious spot. I got 2 sisters to come to teach at Our Lady of Sorrows, up at St. Basil’s. I got a Polish lady to come to teach a catechism, and I taught whatever I could in Ukrainian, and then I got another teacher, finally, to teach Ukrainian. They weren’t good teachers, but it’s all we had.

And I started a Ukrainian dancing school because I knew these westerners would love that. And the Torontonians that moved out here too, you know. I knew they would like that. So they did. I organized summer camps, we had all kinds of dances, the types of dances westerners liked. I organized a women’s league, unfortunately, the Ukrainian Catholic Women’s League rejected them, wouldn’t take them as members. Yup, that’s the way it was.

There were all kinds of rallies held downtown at the UNO hall and the СУМ hall [Ukrainain Youth Association], rallies that we have to be eradicated, the Basilian Fathers have to be eradicated, and Bishop Rusnak has to be eradicated because he called himself a Slovak and he’s a Lemko. You know, there was intense nationalism at the time, and as a result there was a lot of suffering. But I think this pulled the people together, you know: ‘Ok, you want a fight, you’ll have a fight.’

I: So what year was this, roughly?

Fr. JT: This was in the early 60’s, and 70’s yet.

I: And this was your first appointment?

Fr. JT: My first appointment was as a сотрудник [employee] at St. Josephat’s. This was a part-time job. But after 4 1/2 years I told the bishop, I can’t handle it, so it’s either one or the other. He said, ‘you stay there.’


  1. Right Reverend John Tataryn's sister, Sister Rachel Tataryn, was interviewed by Zoriana Kilyk on June 13, 2017 for the Oral History of Ukrainian Canada (OHUC) project. UCRDC File #445 (Video).

  1. Huk, John. Strangers in the Land: The Ukrainian Presence in Cape Breton. Centre for Cape Breton Studies 2011 republication, Cape Breton University, Sydney, Nova Scotia. Preface by Rt. Reverend John Tataryn. (Original publication, 1986). In Rt. Reverand John Tataryn’s file, UCRDC archives.

  1. Girard, Carolyn. “Father John Tataryn journeys with St. Demetrius parish every step of the way.” The Catholic Register. May 28, 2009

  1. Pottie, Erin. “Priest celebrates 50 years of service.” Cape Breton Post. July 20, 2009.

  1. St. Demetrius the Great Martyr Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Church website

  1. “St. Demetrius the Great Martyr Ukrainian Catholic Church” in Toronto’s Ukrainian Community, Heritage Toronto, City of Toronto. January 4, 2014.

  1. Markian Ochrymovwych Humanitarian Award. May 3, 2015. 

  1. Eparchial Clergy, Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada website

  1. Father John Tataryn Legacy Scholarship Program


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