Back in the High Life Again

Don’t you just hate it when a large bronze cast of your favourite Ukrainian poet goes missing?

Such a loss was suffered by the community of Oakville, Ontario, when its 50-year-old, 25-thousand-dollar likeness of Taras Shevchenko went inexplicably missing from a town park in 2001.

But ten years later, after enjoying who knew what adventures, the Shevchenko statue suddenly turned up again – in a photo attachment to an email. Antique dealer Dan Rotko was holding it in his inventory. He’d picked up the statue from a collector, the collector had found it at a flea market, and that’s all she wrote. Now Dan was looking to unload it. And what more suitable group to try to sell it to than the Taras H. Shevchenko Museum and Memorial Park Foundation?

Thing is, this non-profit organization was the legitimate owner of the statue in the first place. Folks there were delighted to find it again – vice president Bill Harasym told a reporter with glee, “It was like meeting an old friend.” And he was willing to part with a $2,500 cheque to have his old friend back.

But once Dan – who is also Ukrainian – heard the backstory, he wouldn’t take the money. Why? He was just happy to hand Shevchenko over to his rightful owners. “Call it fate,” he said in the news story.

It probably didn’t hurt that his mother practically threatened to disown him if he took the money. Turns out Mama used to bring Dan, as a boy, to the Oakville park to visit his lyrical countryman’s likeness.

Still, it was an impressive act of kindness for Dan to donate back the statue, which will be installed at the Taras Shevchenko Museum on March 9, the 198th anniversary of the poet’s birth.

And what does Shevchenko himself have to say about his joyful reappearance? The bard is keeping mum about his adventures of the past decade: “Then all the shame of days of old / Forgotten, shall no more be told / Then shall our day of hope arrive / Ukrainian glory shall revive” (My Friendly Epistle). He may have written those lines in 1845, but the prescient poet could easily have made those comments today – now that he’s finally back in the high life.

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