Last year, North Saanich resident Anastasia Shkilnyk decided it was time to honour change and make a difference in Ukraine and this summer, she will finally see her hard work pay off.
This past year, Shkilnyk put her ideas for a law and moral-based award in Ukraine into action. Shkilnyk, who is a Canadian citizen that was born in Germany to a Ukrainian family fleeing their country, still has roots in Ukraine and holds the plight of the country very close to her heart.
“Ukraine, as many other emerging economies are, is experiencing corruption in many of its institutions and organizations. Corruption hurts ordinary citizens as they become forced to pay bribes to gain access to essential services we take for granted here in Canada,” Shkilnyk said.
Growing up with a father who was well versed in law but also held morals at a very high importance, Shkilnyk began to see at an early age that more people would benefit from a higher moral standard in all facets of life. Shkilnyk’s father, Dr. Mykhailio Shkilnyk was a well-known lawyer and political figure in Ukraine who had very high morals and did many good things for the country and its people. As a way of honouring her father and to ensure that younger generations would begin to see the importance of morals, not only in justice but in all parts of life, Shkilnyk came up with the idea of The Light of Justice Award and Scholarship. Because of the political turbulence in Ukraine, Shkilnyk’s appreciation and love for her father and her experience growing up in a peaceful country, she wanted to start a program that offered two things: an award to a person who has shown great moral leadership in the past in Ukraine and a scholarship for a student who shows interest and enthusiasm in law and morals for the future.
“The idea is that each year one older person who has showed great moral leadership is awarded the Light of Justice Award and one younger person who has the ability to spark change is awarded the Light of Justice Scholarship to help them attended university; something many young people in Ukraine may never do because of financial barriers. After all, there isn’t a country in the world that doesn’t need or benefit from moral leadership,” Shkilnyk said.
The first Light of Justice Award was given out last summer with cooperation between Shkilnyk and the Ukrainian Catholic University Myroslav Marynovych to recipient Yevhen Sverstiuk, a former dissident and political prisoner of Ukraine, a human rights activist and a publicist who was awarded for his moral, spiritual, and ethical leadership in Ukraine. The award was given by Shkilnyk herself who travelled to Ukraine especially for the ceremony in June of 2010. The next award will be given this summer to the newest recipient, Mustafa Cemil for his exceptional, morally high and non-violent political work for his people, the Crimean Tatar people.
New this year is the Light of Justice Scholarship portion of the award which Shkilnyk is busy fundraising for this spring. The scholarship will be given to a promising university student who shows interest and enthusiasm for moral and non-violent justice.
To fundraise for the scholarship fund, Shkilnyk and her husband Jim Kingham, organized The Timeless Treasures Sale at Holy Trinity Church. It raised $5,000 dollars toward the cause. “The fund-raiser exceeded all my expectations,” said Shkilnyk. “We raised enough for two scholarships, and people seemed to have a wonderful time.”