Dorothy Agnes Bilash
It is with great sadness that the family of Dorothy Agnes Bilash (nee Ukena) announces her passing on March 4, 2023, at the age of 95. Dorothy was a beloved mother, teacher, and an active member of the Ukrainian Community in Winnipeg.
Dorothy was born in Belmont, Manitoba, to Katherine Flaming and Frederick W. Ukena. Her mother was born in Manitoba to Mennonite parents who were from the Zaporizhzhia Oblast’ of Ukraine. Her father immigrated to Canada from Ostfriesland (East Friesland), Germany. Dorothy was a descendent of the Ukena family of Leer, one of the founding families of the County of Ostfriesland.
She was raised on the family farms in Belmont and later in Glenella, Manitoba, where she grew up with her siblings, Beatrice and Donald. She completed high school in Neepawa on scholarship. She continued her education at Winnipeg’s Normal School-Teacher’s College, where she obtained her teaching certificate and met her future husband Borislaw Bilash. Together they taught at St. Germain School on St. Mary’s Road. Soon after, Dorothy and Borislaw were married and started their family.
Dorothy was a warm, nurturing, and supportive parent, instilling values of love, kindness, and respect in her children while encouraging their independence and unique talents. She raised children who are kind, compassionate, and dedicated to making a positive impact on the world.
She was a loving and devoted grandmother who instilled values that helped shape her grandchildren’s character and helped them to develop into the remarkable individuals they have become. Dorothy played an integral role in the development of her beloved grandchildren in Winnipeg, guiding them through life’s challenges with wisdom and grace, and despite the physical distance between them, she showered those in Edmonton and New Jersey with affection, shared stories and imparted wisdom. Her legacy lives through her children and grandchildren who continue to value family, community, and commitment to making a difference.
Dorothy had a passion for Ukrainian culture and traditions, which she learned from her husband and in-laws. With their help and support, she became fluent in Ukrainian and established the first Ukrainian nursery school at the Ukrainian National Federation Hall in Winnipeg. After the birth of her youngest child, she taught Ukrainian language classes at St. John’s evening school for three decades. Dorothy also provided individual English language lessons in the Bilash home to Ukrainian community leaders including Father and Mrs. Kysilewsky of Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Cathedral, and Blessed Martyr Bishop Vasyl’ Velychkowsky, who was released from the Soviet Gulag in 1972. In the 1980s, Dorothy taught Ukrainian language classes at Immaculate Heart of Mary School, where she also underwrote a scholarship for good penmanship in cursive writing.
An active member of the Ukrainian community in Winnipeg at large, Dorothy sang with her husband as members of the choir of the Ukrainian National Federation. Later, she became active in the Ukrainian Catholic Women's League at Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Cathedral and a supporting figure of Plast Ukrainian Scouts and Tyrsa Choir at the Cathedral.
It was Dorothy who laid the foundation of Ukrainian as her children’s first language. She was also an authority on Ukrainian traditions, despite not being of Ukrainian background. She was always willing to share her knowledge with others and subsequently became involved in supporting the activities of Folklorama’s Kyiv Pavilion, Winnipeg’s Ukrainian Week and Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival of Dauphin, Manitoba. In 1987, on the occasion of the 90th Anniversary of the first Ukrainian Liturgy celebrated in Canada, Dorothy and Borislaw served as Honorary Hosts of the CNUF, welcoming Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
Dorothy was an active member of the Schoolmasters’ Wives Association of Winnipeg, where she served as president. In her later years, she volunteered at Holy Family Nursing Home where she would “adopt” residents, visiting them and often reading books and newspapers to enrich their lives. She lent her voice for audiobooks recorded for the blind in a local cable television studio.
Dorothy is survived by her son Radomir (Lydia Migus) of Edmonton with his children Kharytia and Mykola (Marta Prystasz) – including great-grandsons Myrolyub, Metodiy and Mar’yan, Luba (Serhiy Skriabine) of Edmonton and their daughter Tamila, Daria (Jack Watkin) of Winnipeg with their children Ivanka, Andrew and Raissa, and her son Borislaw (Natalia Voronka-Bilash) of Millburn, NJ with their daughters Olesia and Uliana, her sister-in-law Shirley Ukena, and her brother-in-law Dr. Ivan Bilash (Margaret Kuzma-Bilash) of Winnipeg.
Also left to mourn are nieces, nephews, and cousins, including her cousin Inge Ukena-Janetzko and her family of Rostock Germany and many cousins of the Fleming (Flaming) and Hiebert families across Canada and the United States.
Even in her final hours, Dorothy’s wit and mental acuity remained sharp, bringing joy and laughter to those around her. The family is thankful to Chassity McIntyre and the staff at River Ridge II Residence for their care of Dorothy during the last five years. We are grateful to Father Isadore Dziadyk and Chaplain D. Friesen at Concordia Hospital for providing Dorothy comfort during her final hours with us. Lastly, we are grateful to her son-in-law Jack, who constantly doted on Dorothy and visited her nearly every day, helping with her exercises and bringing her cheer with every conversation. Dorothy often said how grateful she was to have Jack in her life.
Dorothy will be remembered as a kind soul by everyone who knew her. She never complained. She always helped. She always noticed the positive and encouraged others to do the same.
Viewing and Panakhyda will take place Thursday, March 16 at 7:00 pm at Korban Funeral Chapel, 907 Main Street. The funeral service will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Friday, March 17, at Sts. Volodymyr and Olha Cathedral, 115 McGregor St, Winnipeg with Fr. Ihor Shved officiating. Interment to follow in All Saint Cemetery. A gathering to celebrate Dorothy’s life will follow in the church hall. Further information may be found at www.korbanchapel.com.
For those who wish to make a donation in memory of Dorothy A. Bilash please consider: the Immaculate Heart of Mary School - Scholarship Fund (supporting an award created by Dorothy, to support children at the school.) Donations to the School can be made care of the Lubov SSMI Foundation., 650 Flora Ave, Winnipeg, MB R2W 2S5, Canada or, a charity of one's choice.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Dorothy Bilash, please visit our floral store.