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.
“Mopping Up” is a ten minute film produced in 2016 by Kyle Begin, Clarissa Fortin, Cody MacKay, and William Teal. Narrated by Jennifer Matsunaga, the story was researched by Dr Lubomyre Luciuk and Ron Sorobey. Executive Producer was Michael Ostroff. The film was made as part of Michael’s four year seminar on documentary film making offered in the Department of History, Carleton University. It was produced with the assistance of Hasi Eldib and Greg Allison of Carleton’s Media Production Services.
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). William would like to give special thanks to all of those involved in the making of “Mopping Up”.
We are grateful to Megan Michie and Linda Cheslock of the City of Ottawa and Marie-Soleil Bergeron of Ottawa 2017, and city councilor Catherine McKenney for their assistance.
This entry for capitalhistory.ca and its related installation at Booth and Albert was made possible by Ottawa 2017, CIBC and the three Arts, Culture and Heritage Program Stewarding Partners AOE Arts Council, Ottawa Arts Council and Council of Heritage Organizations of Ottawa, funded by a City of Ottawa 2017 Arts, Culture and Heritage Investment Programme Grant.