Story and photos by Jayne L. Buryn, Communications Coordinator, Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton

For the past six years, a few days before Remembrance Day, grade six Ukrainian bilingual class students from St. Matthew’s Catholic elementary school have honoured the soldiers buried in St. Michael’s cemetery by placing a poppy on each gravestone. This gesture originated with Mrs. Maureen G. Bianchini-Purvis, daughter of two war veterans, to commemorate the sacrifice of Canadian men and women “in the service of peace”.

The November 6, 2017 commemoration took place in very different weather from last year’s warm November day. However, the chilly temperature and snow-covered cemetery did not stop St. Matthew’s students from continuing the tradition.  By the end of the morning, the laying of poppies on every gravestone gave St. Michael’s cemetery the look of Flanders Fields, where “the poppies grow between the crosses, row on row” (John McCrae).

The commemoration began with a procession led by an Edmonton Garrison piper to the central cross in St. Michael’s cemetery. The procession was followed by a service in tandem with other cemeteries across Edmonton: the singing of the national anthem, a recital of John McCrae’s poem, a prayer of remembrance, a number of inspirational readings, a moment of silence, the laying of a wreath at the cemetery’s central cross, and the playing of the “Last Post” by a bugler from the Edmonton Garrison. 

A panakhyda (prayer) service was then concelebrated by Frs. Stephen Wojcichowsky, Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton Chancellor & Protosyncellus (Vicar General), Armed Forces Chaplain Fr. Terry Cherwick, and Eparchial clergy Frs. Ivan Nykyforuk,  Michael Kowalchyk, Janko Herbut and  Slavko Dumec. At the conclusion of the services, the children walked to the soldiers’ graves to lay the poppies.   

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More photos from the “No Stone Left Alone” ceremony at St. Michael’s Cemetery on November 6, 2017. (Photos by Jayne L. Buryn)