During the First World War, while the Canadian Government was interning approximately 5,000 Canadians of Ukrainian descent for being enemy aliens, 4,000 brave men of Ukrainian heritage volunteered with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (CEF). Of these courageous men who fought for a country that had declared them unwelcome enemies, one man, Filip Konowal, was recognized for bravery in the face of extreme danger.
Filip Konowal, born in Kutkivtsi, Ukraine in 1888, enlisted with the 77th Canadian Infantry Battalion on 19 June 1915. He left Halifax for Liverpool on 19 June 1916 and was promoted to Corporal in the 47th British Columbia Battalion. In August 1916, the 4th Division arrived in France. In April 1917, the soldiers participated in the assault on Vimy Ridge. From 22-24 August 1917, during the Battle of Hill 70 in Lens, France, Filip Konowal was recognized for conspicuous bravery in the face of the enemy and he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Konowal’s Victoria Cross medal was personally presented to him by King George V. Konowal was also awarded the British War Medal, Victory Medal, George VI Coronation Medal, and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal.
After his military service, Konowal worked as a caretaker at the House of Commons before being reassigned to a lifetime job in Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s personal office.