Miroslaw (Mert) Ochitwa of Canora was one of 12 recipients at the 2019 UCC (Ukrainian Canadian Congress) Nation Builders Award in a ceremony held at The Hotel Saskatchewan in Regina on October 20.
A Community Recognition Award recipient for Volunteerism, Ochitwa was born on February 26, 1928 in Norquay, according to information provided at the ceremony. His parents, Anne (Kyba) and Harry Ochitwa emigrated from Ukraine to farm near Norquay. He and his three sisters grew up in a Ukrainian-speaking home with strong ties to the church and pride in their Ukrainian culture and heritage, continued the information. He developed a strong work ethic and learned the importance of helping others.
Ochitwa attended Norquay Junior Elementary and Westerland Schools. He completed Grade 11 at Norquay High School before moving to Saskatoon in 1947 and attending the School of Agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan. He resided at Mohyla Institute and was active in Kameniari, worked the canteen, joined singing and dance classes, carolled and attended Ukrainian evening classes. He made many lasting friendships at Mohyla and takes special interest in the institution to this day. In 1949 he received his diploma in vocational agriculture.
Ochitwa returned to the family farm, where he worked for several years. He also served local farmers by cleaning grain and delivering fuel.
In 1953 he moved to Flin Flon, Man. to work for his uncle’s bottling plant. In 1962, he bought Canora Beverages, and would often hosts tours of school children from the local school. He joined the Chamber of Commerce and became a member of the Ukrainian Self-Reliance Association (TYC).
From 1962 to 1969 he was president of the Kiwanis Club, fundraising and holding bingos, apple drives, pancake breakfasts and supplying orange crush to the boy scouts for their projects.
A church board member from 1962 to 1998, Ochitwa held various positions, including president. He was president of TYC in the 1970s and became a member of the Order of St. Andrews in 1981. His faith and devotion to church and community were recognized with the Centenary Award of St. Andrew.
He has supported Trident Ukrainian Orthodox Church Camp at Crystal Lake for over 60 years.
In 1961, Ochitwa began as a volunteer labourer to help move the camp to its current location, became camp director and board secretary in the 1980s and was treasurer from 1990 to 2019. He was chair of the fundraising and building committee in 1991. Retiring in 2003, he devoted himself to financial and structural maintenance of the camp.
He is the key holder and a constant advocate, ensuring the camp is operational, clean and welcoming to the hundreds of children who have attended over the years.
In 1971, Ochitwa purchased Pickerel Point Concessions at Madge Lake, located in Duck Mountain Provincial Park. He refurbished and expanded the business to better serve campers and visitors, earning a 25-year recognition award from the Government of Saskatchewan in 1996.
Ochitwa and his wife Beatrice (Tysowski) have three children and one grandchild, and still reside in Canora, concluded the information.