While Ukrainians began immigrating to Canada in the late nineteenth century, very few families came to Windsor and Essex County. After the First World War, many Ukrainian families moved to Windsor from Northern Ontario, predominantly the Fort William area. It was the arrival of John Skalesky that helped begin the process of establishing a parish in Windsor. He traveled to Detroit for Liturgy at first but then convinced Fr. Lev Sembratovych to come to Windsor to serve Divine Liturgy which he first did in 1925 at Sts. Peter and Paul Maronite Church. The community grew and so Divine Liturgies were being served every second Sunday until this was no longer enough and the desire for a parish and church was great.
On September 4th, 1925, the first general meeting of the parish took place, chaired by Fr. Roman Krupa who was appointed pastor by now Blessed Hieromartyr Nykyta Budka who at that time was the Exarch of Canada. At the first meeting, it was decided to look for land for the new Church. Many parishioners responded generously to the collection of funds for the purchase of land as did the “Sitch” organization under the leadership of John Skalesky and with the assistance of Stefan Sulyma. Land was bought, at the corner of Langlois and Shepherd, for $2,750.
With a lack of funds, only the Church basement could be constructed. Work began in the spring of 1926 and the basement was completed in November of the same year. The basement was divided into two parts: one part was for the serving of the Divine Liturgy and the other for social events. On Sunday, December 5th, 1926, the first Divine Liturgy was served by Fr. Roman Krupa and three Sundays later, on December 26th, Bishop Nykyta Budka blessed the hall, served the first Hierarchical Divine Liturgy and, established the parish under the patronage of Sts. Vladimir and Olga.
A parish choir and a ladies sisterhood were soon established and along with “Sitch” worked tirelessly to organize fundraising events that would help pay down the parish debt. In 1927, a Ukrainian school was formed at the parish as well and a few years later, the Brotherhood of St. Nicholas was formed.
In October of 1936, Fr. Ambrose Redkevych was appointed pastor and immediately began planning the expansion of the Church facilities, even though many parishioners were unsure that this was the appropriate time to undertake such a project. Under Fr. Ambrose’s leadership, the building of the Church began on May 20th, 1937 and was completed in November of that year at a cost of $32,000. On Sunday, November 28th, 1937, Bishop Basil Ladyka consecrated the newly constructed Church of Sts. Vladimir and Olga.
In 1939, the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate began their ministry in Windsor and were immediately put in charge of the Ukrainian school and in establishing a conservatory of music at their convent. In the 1940’s, a new rectory was purchased, pews were installed in the Church, many parish debts were paid off and a new convent was purchased for the SSMI. The parish also grew substantially, thanks in part to the post-Second World War immigration of Ukrainians to Canada, which necessitated the appointment of associate pastors since one priest could no longer fulfill all the necessary pastoral responsibilities.
In 1950, the parish celebrated its 25th anniversary with a monumental accomplishment: the full payment of debt and burning of the mortgage. An influx of Ukrainians immigrating from Europe and the relocation of many Ukrainians from Western Canada led to tremendous growth not only at Sts. Vladimir & Olga in Windsor but also initiated the establishment of St. Nicholas Mission Parish in Amherstburg and Sts. Peter & Paul Mission Parish in Leamington.
The growth of the Ukrainian school led to the purchasing of a separate building to house classrooms and later on, another building was purchased for future expansion. In the 1950’s, 3 bells were purchased for the belfry and they continue to be used to this very day. On May 13th, 1956, a son of the parish, George Pereyda C.S.s.R., was ordained to the priesthood in Toronto. After his ordination, he served his first Divine Liturgy in his home parish and was greeted warmly by all the parishioners.
Through the posthumous generosity of Stefan Sulyma, the parish purchased more property next to the Church for expansion of the Ukrainian school and rectory. The parish also purchased 35 acres of land on Howard Avenue in South Windsor for future development. Stepan Smyk, another son of the parish, was ordained to the priesthood on August 15th, 1960 in Rome.
In 1968, Fr. Basil Dzurman was appointed pastor and initiated many projects. Fr. Basil was very involved with the Ukrainian school, Youth Group, and dance school. Fr. Basil, in preparation for the 50th anniversary of the parish in 1975, initiated the renovation of both the outside and inside of the Church. In order to preserve and pass on the orthodox faith, Fr. Basil had an iconostas (icon-screen) erected and commissioned Fr. Theodore Koufos of Toronto to write icons for our parish. These beautiful Byzantine-style icons adorn our Church temple even today and draw the faithful to prayer and contemplation of God.
The 1970’s saw the priestly ordinations of two more sons of the parish. On October 7th, 1973, Harry Boretsky O.S.B.M, was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Isidore at Sts. Vladimir and Olga in front of family, friends and parishioners. Two years later, on September 7th, 1975, Terry Lozynsky was ordained to the priesthood in Toronto by Bishop Michael Rusnak.
In 1980, Fr. Eugene Halitsky was appointed as the new parish priest. Under his leadership, a new rectory was built that was not only a house for the priest but also had three parish offices and three classrooms that would be used for Ukrainian School. On April 30th, 1983, another son of the parish, Peter Hrytsyk, was ordained to the priesthood by Patriarch Josyf Slipyj in Castelgondolfo, Italy. Fr. Peter has the distinction of being the last priest ordained by Patriarch Josyf as Patriarch Josyf reposed in 1984. Fr. Peter was immediately assigned to Sts. Vladimir and Olga as an associate and continues to serve in this capacity.