Memorable Manitobans: Yuriy “George” Holowka (1941-2005)
Educator, community activist.
Born at Lviv, Ukraine on 2 October 1941 to Olga and Wasyl Holowka, he arrived in Canada with his family in 1948 and settled in Edmonton, Alberta. He moved to Winnipeg in 1964 and, within a week of arrival, he met Wirlana Kitsiuna Kysilewsky, whom he married in 1967. He completed BA, BEd, and MEd degrees at the University of Manitoba then became a teacher, serving at General Byng School (1966-?).
In 1971, he was instrumental in establishing the long-running Winnipeg-Setagaya (Japan) Student Exchange Program. For decades, he was the managing director of a youth choir called Tyrsa, based out of Sts. Vladimir and Olga Cathedral. He helped organize five international tours including the Orient, North America, Australia, and Europe. Simultaneously, he was an active board member of the Rusalka Dance Ensemble, spending 14 years as their tour co-ordinator. Because of these contributions, hundreds of Winnipeg’s Ukrainian youth experienced different countries and cultures, and Ukrainian music and dance was brought into the mainstream arts community and to the world.
As an accomplished athlete, he served as a high school basketball coach and became a moving force behind the North American Ukrainian Olympic Committee. He helped organize the first contingent from an independent Ukraine taking part in the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta (1996); the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City (2002); the World Track and Field Championship in Edmonton (2001); and the Canada Cup Volleyball Tournaments in Winnipeg (1994, 1995, 2001).
His interest in history led him to participate in the establishment and placement of the Holodomor Memorial at Winnipeg City Hall, commemorating the Ukrainian Famine Genocide of 1933. His religious faith brought him to taking charge of the Marian Hour Centre, an organization that sponsors the praying of the rosary on a daily basis on CKJS Radio in Winnipeg. He was appreciated for his devotion to and support of young people, and his kind, generous, and caring nature.
He died at Winnipeg on 27 January 2005 and was buried in the All Saints Cemetery.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 29 January 2005.
George Holowka, FindAGrave.
This page was prepared by Lois Braun.
Page revised: 16 January 2022