Vincent Zhuk-Hryshkevich

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Vincent Zhuk-Hryshkevich (Belarusian: Вінцэнт Жук-Грышкевіч, February 10, 1903, Budsław — February 14, 1989, Barrie) was a Belarusian politician and teacher.

Vincent Zhuk-Hryshkevich studied at a Belarusian gymnasium in Budsław and then, after the gymnasium's closure, in the Belarusian Gymnasium of Vilnia from which he graduated in 1922.

He graduated from the Charles University in Prague in 1926 and worked in 1927-1939 as a teacher in the Belarusian Gymnasium of Vilnia, parallelly taking active part in Belarusian activities in West Belarus.

In late September 1939, after the Soviet invasion of Poland, Vincent Zhuk-Hryshkevich was arrested by the Soviets and sent to the Gulag concentration camps.

In 1942 he was set free as a Polish citizen and fought in the Anders Army. After the war, since 1950, Zhuk-Hryshkevich lived in Canada and actively participated in Belarusian activities in North America. He was president of the Belarusian Democratic Republic government in exile between 1971 and 1982.

She is an author of several books and textbooks on the subjects of Belarusian history and language. She died April 2, 2009. She is buried in the Belarusian cemetery in New Brunswick, NJ, USA together with her husband.


Vincent Zuk-Hryskievic played a significant role in the Belarusian independence movement of his time. His involvement included activities in pedagogy, research, social and political organizing for which he was persecuted, arrested, deported, and exiled from his homeland. He was born on February 10, 1903, into a Catholic family in the township of Budslau, Vialejka district, the son of Anton and Mary (née Chaniauka). Vincent attended elementary school in Budslau. His secondary school years were divided between Budslau and Vilna, where he graduated in 1922. That autumn he enrolled in the Charles University in Prague, where he was a student of Slavic philology and history. He received his degree in 1926, qualifying him to be a secondary school teacher. From 1927 until 1939 he taught history and literature at the Belarusian Lyceum in Vilna. Simultaneously he held the rank of lecturer in the Belarusian language at the Belarusian Orthodox Seminary and at the School of Higher Political Studies, both in the city of Vilna. In December 1932, he passed a national examination at Stephen Batory University in Vilna, qualifying him to teach history and Slavic philology. In both Prague and Vilna he was actively involved in community organizations and teachers' societies and participated in the publication of several Belarusian-language newspapers and periodicals. Having come to Canada in 1950, he matriculated at the University of Ottawa which awarded him a doctorate in July 1952 after his successful defense of a dissertation on the lyricism of Janka Kupala. As a member of the Polish Army from 1945 to 1949, he lectured in history and psychology in Polish military schools in England and in Italy. He emigrated to Canada in 1950 and from 1951 to 1954 coordinated and conducted a series of lectures in Belarusian Studies through the University of Toronto's extension programme.

In addition to his lifelong career as a teacher and lecturer, Zuk-Hryskievic was involved in the social, educational, and political life of the Belarusian community in exile. When the first elections to the Polish Sejm were held in 1922, he served as the campaign director for the Braslau and Dzisniensk regions for the Belarusian campaign committee of Vilna, promoting the minority-bloc Belarusian candidates in the Sejm and the Senate. With the occupation of Vilna by the Soviet Army on September 30, 1939, Zuk-Hryskievic was arrested and, over a period of many months, was imprisoned in Lukiski, Bialystok, Vialejka, Miensk, Polack, and Vorsha. In 1940 he was charged with being an "anti-social element" and an "enemy of the [Soviet] people" and was sentenced to eight years at hard labour. Together with thousands of other prisoners, he was sent to the north, where he worked on the northern railroad from Kotlas to Vorkuta. In 1942 an agreement was signed between Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov and Polish General Sikorski to free Polish citizens being held in Soviet prison camps. He was released and joined the newly formed Division of the Eighth British Army, made up of citizens of Poland. He served with this Division in Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, and later, in Italy, where he took part in the Battle of Monte Cassino. With the cessation of hostilities in Italy, he taught history and psychology in the Polish military secondary school. It was already known that the final destination of a number of the Belarusian soldiers would be Great Britain. As he worked with these young soldiers, Zuk-Hryskievic laid the groundwork for the creation of what would become the Association of Belarusians in Great Britain, the first organization formed in any Western country in the post-war period. Elected its first president, he directed the work of the Association into several fields and began the publication of two periodicals aimed at the Belarusian immigrant community.

Having moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in January 1950, Zuk-Hryskievic became a leading figure in Belarusian-Canadian community life. He took an important role in a number of initiatives, for example, in the organization of the First Convention of Belarusians in North America, which took place at Niagara Falls, Ontario, in 1952; in the formation of the Byelorussian (Toronto) Credit Union, Limited; and in development of a lecture series on Belarusian themes at the University of Toronto. In September 1953 Vincent Zuk-Hryskievic married Raisa Zukouskaja, a student in the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Toronto. For a period of two years, Zuk-Hryskievic moved to Munich, Germany, at the invitation of Mikola Abramcyk. Here Vincent established and managed the Belarusian section of Radio Liberty. He made the first broadcast to his homeland on May 20, 1954, and remained with the programme until April 1956 when he returned to Toronto. In Canada he resumed his involvement in community affairs. Among the first projects which he undertook was assisting Dr. V. J. Kaye in preparing his essay, "Canadians of Byelorussian Origin." In response to the felt need for an umbrella organization to help coordinate Belarusian activities throughout Canada, he spearheaded the formation of what became the Belarusian Canadian Coordinating Committee and became its first president. In 1967, he established the Belarusian Institute of Arts and Sciences in Canada and was elected its first president. As a member of the Council (Rada) of the Belarusian Democratic Republic, he undertook the restructuring and reorganization of that body, by means of amendments proposed for the Statute (Constitution) of the BDR. These ideas were presented in a discussion paper at the Tenth Session of the Rada, held in New York in April 1968. Vincent Zuk-Hryskievic was elected Vice-President at this Tenth Session and, upon the death of Mikola Abramcyk in May 1970, assumed the presidency. At the Eleventh Session of the Rada which took place in New York in May 1971, he was elected to full six-year term of office. In fact he held the post of president into the 80th year of his life, until November 1982. Vincent Zuk-Hryskievic died February 14, 1989, in Barrie, Ontario. He was interred in the Belarusian Cemetery in East Brunswick, New Jersey, U.S.A.

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