Fr. Igor Tkachuk (1918-1995)

   Following a prolonged illness, Archpriest Igor Tkachuk, Rector Emeritus of Holy Transfiguration Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Brooklyn, NY, fell asleep in the Lord peacefully at home in Elmhurst, NY during the morning of November 8, 1995.

   He is survived by his beloved wife, Maria; a sister and nephew in Ukraine; a daughter, Nina Dimas of Elmhurst, NY; and a son, Archpriest John Tkachuk of Montreal, Canada.  Grandfather of Constantine Dimas and Vera Tkachuk Solak; great grandfather of Justin and Alexandra Solak.

   Igor Tkachuk was born on August 7, 1918 in Zdolbunovo (currently in Ukraine).  After completing the Warsaw Theological Faculty, he was married to the former Maria Steblinska on February 11, 1940, ordained to the holy diaconate on February 18, and to the holy priesthood on February 25 of the same year at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Warsaw.

   Fleeing the advancing USSR forces, he and his family were fortunate to end up in the US Zone (Germany) as Displaced Persons after the close of World War II.  Father Igor served many Orthodox Christians in the "DP" camps throughout Germany, until emigrating with his two children to the USA in January, 1952 (his wife was stricken with tuberculosis and remained in a Swiss hospital until rejoining the family almost two years later).

   He served two parishes in San Francisco, CA from 1952-56 - Holy Trinity Cathedral and the Home of Mercy.  From 1956-1959, he was assigned to SS Cyril and Methodius Church, Milwaukee, WI, and served as secretary to Archbishop John (Garklavs) of Chicago and Minneapolis.  In 1959 he was named pastor of St. Theodosius Cathedral in Cleveland, OH, which he served until being called to New York City in 1963 for appointment to the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Protection and later to Holy Transfiguration Cathedral in Brooklyn, where he served for 30 years.

   Fr. Igor retired from active priesthood in 1983, but continued working the the NY/NJ Diocese, ministering to his spiritual children throughout the USA and around the world.

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Father Igor Tkachuk Remembered

by Archpriest Thomas Edwards

(Winter, 1996)

   On November 11, 1995 I helped carry the mortal remains of Archpriest Igor Tkachuk around the outside of Brooklyn's Holy Transfiguration Cathedral. As mourners sang, "Holy God", my mind wandered back to the last time Fr. Igor and I had processed around this cathedral together: that was Holy Pascha night 1968.

   On Holy Pascha 1966, having been an Orthodox Christian for exactly one week I was visiting New York City. Someone had directed me to the Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral of the "Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church."  A priest was hearing confessions; it was Fr. Igor. With a certain amount of "fear" I approached him to explain that I was a "brand new Orthodox and former Uniate seminarian from Washington ..." How would he receive me, a perfect stranger right off the street? My fears were immediately dissipated when he welcomed me with great patience and true priestly concern.

At the end of the liturgy, Fr. Igor asked me, 'AWhat are you doing for the rest of the day?" I replied that my friend and I had no specific plans and he said,  "You are coming home with me. You must spend your first Orthodox Pascha with my family..."

   And so it was that my friend, Michael and I were whisked up the FDR Drive in Fr. Igor's car to his house in Westchester County, known in those days as, "The Bronxville House."  Here we spent a most delightful afternoon - my first "Russian Orthodox Easter." We were graciously entertained by Fr. and Matushka Tkachuk and met their children, Nina and John (now Father John of Montreal) and his friend, Oleg Olas. Fr. and Matushka's hospitality made such an impression on me thirty years ago that it seems like yesterday.

   Fr. Igor asked if I was thinking about going to St. Vladimir's Seminary and I told him that I wasn's sure. I said this because I had just completed seven years "cut off from the world" in a Uniate seminary and could not imagine ever going back into a seminary again. Fr. Igor encouraged me to consider St. Vladimir's. His sincerity gave way to reality when that evening he drove me to Crestwood and introduced me to Fr. John Meyendorff.  I entered St. Vladimir's Seminary that September, through no small part of this providential encounter with Fr. Igor and his family.

   On February 12, 1968 I was ordained a priest and shortly thereafter (through no effort on my part) was appointed assistant to Fr. Igor, who was now rector of the Holy Transfiguration Cathedral in Brooklyn. Still attending St. Vladimir's and believing myself to be a typical "blundering student" - an expression immortalized by seminary Professor Serge Verhovskoy, I began my first days as an Orthodox priest under Fr. Igor with the same "fears" I had anticipated the first time I had met him two years before. And just like my first encounter, all of my "fears" vanished in the reality of the kindness and patience he extended to me. He guided me through his example of how a priest serves "in the parish." What I know today of how "to serve in a parish", I received serving alongside Fr. Igor.

   Those moments and the kindness of Fr. and Matushka towards my new bride, Matushka Evelyn, and me are forever etched in our memories. I cannot drive down the FDR Drive or see a sign for the Williamsburg Bridge without thinking of him with fondness and affection.

   Many things happened to both of us since our days together in Brooklyn, but whenever our paths would cross at an All-American Council or some other event he would always seek me out. He would not simply give me a perfunctory "kiss on the cheeks" or simple handshake; rather, Fr. Igor would engulf me with an old fashioned bear hug that was as strong and as all-encompassing as the love he had for all of God's children.

Fr. Igor's family and our Orthodox Church in America have lost a "giant" of a man and priest's priest. He will be greatly missed by all who were blessed to know and love him.

May his memory be eternal!

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[Fr. Thomas is the pastor of Holy Apostles Church, Saddlebrook, NJ.]

 

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