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November 7, 2009  (posted November 9, 2009)

Taras Shevchenko Museum - Monument Theft

Taras Shevchenko Museum - Monument Theft

As the sun was setting yesterday, I quietly witnessed the end of something. It’s rather hard to pin-point what that “thing” was, but its quietus was very distinct.

I was in Oakville yesterday and recalled an incident, which happened almost three years ago. A historic bronze monument in the Taras Shevchenko Museum and Memorial Park went missing. This heritage site was marked with the first monument to Taras Shevchenko in North America. Likened to a poet-bard, Shevchenko is to Ukrainians as Shakespeare is to the English or Goethe to Germans. The eleven-foot bronze figure of Shevchenko was hacked off at the ankles sometime over the Christmas holidays in 2006. Copper prices soared and the bronze sculpture was stolen from the park and peddled for its intrinsic material value.

The incident compelled me to return to the Memorial Park, having last visited the place several years when the statue was intact. The two visitations were markedly different experiences. My initial visit was at the height of summer with the grounds well tended and flowering. It was a peaceful Sunday afternoon and I can recall feeling a deep solace that day. I remember thinking this place had a unique quality—the tree-lined alleys, the classical landscaping, the historic monument, the cornfields that surrounded it all. Oddly, to be there was to be in another time in some other place.

Late 2009, all has changed. The property is now derelict, slated for residential development. Amongst thistles and overgrown brush stands a defaced and disembodied granite base where the Shevchenko statue once stood. A pair of bronze shoes, weeds, mature trees marked for cutting—these are the vestiges of something’s end.