Petro Hursky, 10.22.25 - 9.20.20
Petro Pantelejmonovych Hursky died at his home on Sunday evening, September 20, 2020.
Petro was born in 1925 to Hanna and Pantelejmon Hursky in the selo Zholdaky near Konotop in the Sumy Region of Ukraine. He and his older brother Jacob helped support the family’s small farm by fishing in the Seym River and foraging for mushrooms in the forests, and they spent nights in the meadows grazing horses. Doting grandparents and many aunts, uncles and cousins were close by. Later on, as a father and grandfather, Petro was an excellent storyteller and delighted his children and grandchildren with tales of his adventures with his cousins and various wildlife.
Their farm remained independent of Soviet collectivization. As a 7-year-old, Petro witnessed the genocidal horror of the Holodomor firsthand and lost a cousin and grandmother to starvation. The family survived with food supplies craftily hidden by Pantelejmon. At the start of WWII, Petro’s Technikum class was sent as railroad workers to Russia. After suffering starvation rations and hard labor, the young students pleaded for their instructor to summon them home. Using their railway passes, they maneuvered back to Konotop through Nazi and Soviet Army positions.
In 1943, as the Nazis retreated and the Soviet Red Army advanced towards Konotop, threatening them with military conscription, Petro, Jacob and their father, along with cousin Oleksij Skrypniak and close friends the Kachura brothers, said quick farewells to mothers and grandparents they were never to see again, and escaped at night into the unknown. They ended up as forced laborers in Germany. After the war, they were reunited in a Displaced Person (DP) camp in Augsburg in Bavaria, resisting “repatriotization” to the Soviet Union.
It was in Augsburg that Petro, age 20, met 16-year-old Olha Kryworuchko. They became close and parted when both received university scholarships. Petro always treasured the many letters they exchanged while apart. He received his master’s degree in Civil Engineering from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium.
Petro was reunited with Olha in Philadelphia, where they married in 1956. Devoted to nurturing the Ukrainian language and culture in youth, they organized a Ukrainian Saturday school at St. Mary’s Protectress Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Their three children were supported in speaking Ukrainian and learning the beautiful traditions. The family was active in ODUM (Organization of Democratic Ukrainian Youth) where many lifelong friends were made.
Petro worked at ARCO most of his career, where he distinguished himself as a troubleshooter, being flown around the US and world to diagnose and redesign potentially dangerous piping problems in refineries.
Petro had a lifelong love of music. In Belgium, he played mandolin in a student string orchestra. In Philadelphia, he enjoyed conducting the church choir at St. Mary’s Protectress for most of his life. Perhaps his most notable achievement in music was teaching himself how to play bandura, a Ukrainian stringed instrument with deep historical significance, and in nurturing a new generation of bandura players. Petro had read about the bandura as a child, but only obtained the instrument after arriving in Philadelphia. Using his self-taught bandura skills, Petro organized a number of bandura ensembles and workshops. An epiphany of sorts occurred when he invited the Detroit-based Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus to participate in the bandura workshops he organized for years at ODUM summer camp in Accord, New York. This connected Petro and his community of players to the roots of original bandura culture and techniques in Ukraine. It was at these camps that many young people gained fond memories of summers in the mountains playing the bandura and singing.
For many years, Petro and Olha enjoyed making varenyky with the church volunteers in the basement at St. Mary’s. They would also gather to sing together at picnics, a favorite Ukrainian tradition. Toward his later years, Petro enjoyed the friendship and gatherings of the senior club at the Ukrainian Center, attended church at St. Vladimir’s and sang with the distinguished choir. At the luncheon celebrating the merging of St. Mary’s with St. Vladimir’s in 2015, Metropolitan Antoniy awarded Petro with the orden-medal of St. Petro Mohyla for his long service as Secretary of the Parish Board, decades as director of the parish choir, editor of parish anniversary books and overall cultural leadership of the parish.
Petro was a devoted husband to Olha, a kind and loving father, a doting grandfather, and a favorite uncle to many nieces and nephews. He is survived by his children, Paul (Ann) Hursky, Anna (Vladimir) de Vassal and Natalie Hursky, his four grandchildren Nina and Paul de Vassal and Elena and Matthew Hursky, nieces Alexandra and Tatiana Hursky, nephew Andrij Skrypniak and Kryworuchko nieces and nephews in Canada - Dianna, Natalie, August, George, Marko, and Lescia.
In lieu of flowers, charitable donations may be made in Petro’s memory to:
The Kyiv-Mohyla Foundation or the Women’s Bandura Ensemble of North America.
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