The Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies teamed up with the Ukrainian Catholic University of L’viv and the National University “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy” to bring to Kyiv two plays performed by Fr. Edward Evanko, a Sheptytsky Institute alumnus. The plays were “Damien” by Aldyth Morris and “Be Well and Prosper, My Beloved Ukraine” created by Fr. Evanko himself.
“Damien” tells the story of Damien de Veuster, a nineteenth-century Belgian priest who died serving the lepers of Molokai, Hawaii. “Be Well and Prosper” is a compilation of eye-witness accounts of the Holodomor interspersed with lyric Ukrainian folk melodies sung by Fr. Edward in his lilting tenor.
“The plays were very timely,” said Fr. Peter Galadza of the Sheptytsky Institute. “Fr. Damien will be canonized a saint in Rome this October, and of course, this year is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the genocide famine.” Galadza co-ordinated the Kyiv portion of Evanko’s tour of Ukraine.
Among the dignitaries at the staging of “Damien” was the Belgian ambassador to Ukraine, Marc Vinck and his wife, as well as the papal nuncio to Kyiv, Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic. Patriarch Lubomyr Husar was prevented from attending due to commitments in L’viv.
Having seen “Damien,” Vinck and Jurkovic have begun efforts to bring Fr. Evanko to Rome to perform the play at the canonization celebrations. “It’s a dream come true,” said Evanko. “I have performed the play everywhere from Australia to L’viv, and had always hoped that should Blessed Damien be canonized I would be able to stage it in Rome.” As for his visit to Ukraine, Evanko said: “I had not been to Ukraine since 1982. Then I couldn’t even visit my parent’s village. The ability to do so this time made it very emotional for me.”
Evanko’s play about the Holodomor was also well received at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Michael Reshitnyk of the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv commented: “Evanko’s creation is very moving. It’s an excellent introduction to the Holodomor.” Most of the audience at Kyiv-Mohyla were English students or ex-pats from English-speaking countries.
Before his ordination to the priesthood in 2005, Fr. Evanko had appeared in over 200 musicals in Canada, the USA and Japan. In the 1960s he hosted his own national (Canadian) television series, “The Ed Evanko Show.” He is presently pastor of the Ukrainian Catholic parish in Richmond, British Columbia.