A SHORT HISTORY OF THE KUCS
Chester and Luba Kuc were born in Edmonton, and their parents were active in the Ukrainian National Federation (UNO), participating in cultural activities such as choir and drama. Because of their parents’ involvement in the Ukrainian community, Chester and Luba attended Ukrainian school where they were encouraged them to participate in cultural activities, children’s choir, orchestra, plays, skits and folk dancing.
Chester and Luba were both students of Vasyl Avramenko - the father of Ukrainian folk dancing in North America. However, little did Chester or his parents suspect that sending him for dancing classes at age seven would lead to teaching and the forming of two vibrant dance groups - Shumka and Cheremosh.
Because of their upbringing, it did not make a difference whether it was UNO, Ukrainian Catholic or Ukrainian Orthodox organizations asking them to participate - they were always ready to do their best. They believed then, as they do now, that the Ukrainian communities should work in harmony with each other.
In 1959, Chester decided to approach the best dancers from Edmonton to form a dance ensemble featuring the best talent in the Ukrainian dance field. The group’s first concert at the Jubilee Auditorium was a huge success and the first concert performed by a Ukrainian group in this facility. This unique ensemble was called Shumka. During Chester’s directorship of Shumka, the best Ukrainian talent was featured, such as volcalists Ed Evanko from New York and Volodymyr Luciw from England. Luba was featured as guest violinist at one of the concerts and was also the costume adviser.
Chester taught dancing in schools throughout Edmonton - at UNO, where he had the largest dance school in Edmonton with 350 dancers; St. John’s Cathedral; St. Elia’s Parish; Holy Eucharist Parish; St. Basil’s Parish; the Ukrainian Catholic National Hall and Smoky Lake. Luba was the costume advisor for all of these dance schools - she was very influential in setting the standard at a higher level for costumes.
In 1969, Chester was approached by the Ukrainian National Youth Federation (MUNO) to organize a dance ensemble known as Cheremosh. Cheremosh incorporated Ukrainian regional dances into their repertoire, presenting unique choreography, music and colorful new costumes. Luba was responsible for these costumes which required extensive research to ensure authenticity. At their own expense, Chester and Luba made trips to museums in Ukraine for research - Luba has an exceptional collection of photographs of costumes, embroidery designs and Pysanky resulting from these trips.
Chester taught thousands of students over his 35-year career. He was Cultural Director of the Ukrainian National Federation and acted as their president for several years. In addition to their large Pysanky collection, Chester and Luba have hundreds of Ukrainian folk art items, including shirts, carved wood articles, burnt wood artifacts, ceramics, embroideries and paintings.
Artifacts from their collection have been featured in displays at Heritage Days, the Ukrainian Museum of Canada (Edmonton and Saskatoon Branches), the Ukrainian National Federation Hall, the Muttart Conservatory, the Centennial Ukrainian Celebrations display at the Agricom and the Shevchenko Museum in Kiev, Ukraine in 1992.
The Kucs were blessed with two lovely daughters, Larysa and Daria, who began dancing at the ages of five and three and danced their way to Cheremosh.
This short history has been copied from a catalogue created by the Royal Alberta Museum for an exhibit of Chester's pysanky in 2006.