FILIP KONOWAL

Quick facts

Story kiosk location

  • Corner of Booth Street and Albert Street

Important dates

  • (1917) – The year Filip Konowal was awarded the Victoria Cross for his military service. To date, he is the only Ukrainian Canadian to achieve this award.

Audiofile

  • No

Who lived here?

  • The thriving working-class community of Lebreton Flats was appropriated and levelled in the 1960s for re-development

Looking across the LeBreton Flats, your eye falls upon architect Raymond Moriyama’s striking Canadian War Museum...

…and there you’ll find the Victoria Cross awarded to Sergeant Filip Konowal.

Corporal Filip Konowal, V.C.
Credit: Vladimir J. Kaye / Library and Archives Canada / C-010023

As you look at this dramatic painting by artist Ross Rheaume you are witnessing an historic moment during the 1930s. Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was passing through the halls of the Parliament Building when he noticed a janitor wearing the crimson ribbon of the Victoria Cross. 

When the PM stopped and asked him about it, the janitor, Filip Konowal is reported to have said “I mopped up overseas with a rifle and here I must mop up with a mop.” Konowal soon found himself appointed as Personal Custodian to the Prime Minister’s Office.

Cpl. F. Konowal, V.C.
Credit: Canada, Department of National Defence /
Library and Archives Canada


Filip Konowal came to Canada to provide a better life for a family in the Ukraine that he would never see again. Konowal fought in the Great War, seeing action at Vimy Ridge, at Lens, at Hill 70. It was during this battle that he killed at least sixteen enemy soldiers, captured two machine gun positions, and suffered serious head wounds by sniper fire. He was awarded the Victoria Cross.


Ottawa Journal, July 21, 1919


Konowal was chosen to lead Ottawa’s first peace parade in 1919 but the very next day he murdered a man in Hull, Quebec. Found not-guilty on grounds of insanity, he spent over seven years in a Montreal asylum. Released in 1928, Konowal found work on Parliament Hill thanks to the intervention and support of friends and former soldiers.  


Acknowledgments


This story was researched by William Teal as a contribution to the Workers’ History Museum’s Capital History Kiosk’s project for Ottawa 2017. It formed part of his course work for Professor David Dean’s graduate seminar on museums, national identity, and public memory (Department of History, Carleton University). 

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