Tucked away in the corner of a North End church, a statue created by a world-famous artist and blessed by the Pope is sitting untouched but deeply loved.
"In the middle of the night, people came and they viciously attacked the statue, cutting off its head and then came back on another night and took the cross on the piece of the staff," Bennie Gusnowsky, the leader of the fundraiser for the restoration of the statue says.
What the vandals did not know was that this was no ordinary statue.
"The statue was created in the '80s by Leo Mal. It was blessed by Pope John Paul II who is now St. John Paul when he was here in his visit before its installation at the corner of Flora and McGregor."
Leo Mol is a famed Ukrainian-Canadian artist, who also created the church's stained glass windows, as well as many others in Winnipeg. He has done other St. Volodymyr statues, but no two were alike. The Assiniboine Park has a statue garden dedicated to his work.
"The sad part is until it is repaired, right now it is sitting in the church, protected kind of in the back corner covered up so people do not have to look at the scars."
The head of St. Volodymyr's statue was later returned anonymously, being placed inside a bag on the church's front steps.
At the time, a local art dealer was willing to do the job for the church, free of charge, but has since backed out. The statue was not insured and the church is now on the hook for the pricey restoration. After a rocky 2020 including the pausing of in-person services and much-needed building repairs, the church is moving forward with the statue's $25,000 repairs after getting a deal from a Toronto company.
"The sad part is until it is repaired, right now it is sitting in the church, protected kind of in the back corner covered up so people do not have to look at the scars," Gusnowsky sighs.
Unable to host any kind of in-person fundraiser, Gusnowsky is hoping they can raise the funds, helping boost the morale of the church. So far they have raised $900, a small percentage of their goal.
"With the state of the world right now, it makes it a little bit tough for people to be able to do any kind of public fundraising," he says. "It is a time when it's tough for people to really dig deep into their pockets because their pockets are that deep at this time."
Gusnowsky is looking for people to volunteer their time to the church, hoping there is someone who knows how the art-world works and can help him navigate the statue repairs.
He says because the church requires a lot of maintenance, it makes it difficult to scrape up extra funds for the statue. He says the statue will be repaired but hopes it won't be another burden the church has to face.