Bohdan V. Olijnyk was born July 27, 1932 in western Ukraine. His family left Ukraine in the late summer of 1944. In the spring of 1945 the trek westwards continued and ended in a refugee camp near Munich. In 1948 an uncle sponsored the family to Canada and so Edmonton, Alberta became home. Throughout his life, Bohdan's spirit of volunteerism was always evident, and after early retirement from business in 1983, he began dedicating even more time to the community.
On January 18, 1994 a fall from a ladder left him with T12-L1, paraplegia. His life changed but here he revealed his extraordinary strength of will. The fact that he needed to use a wheelchair did not diminish his energies and in fact they were redoubled and channeled further in new directions. He said, “I broke my back, not my head!” and adapted himself to new problems and requirements. Despite his injury his belief in community volunteerism continued. He served on the SCITCS Board of Directors from 1995 until his death in 2006, a total of 11 years and epitomized the SCITCS motto to Never Say…”Never.”
Sports always played an important role in his life and so from his wheelchair he kept himself fit by participating in cross-country skiing, canoeing, and tennis. He became interested in Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) cycling, which was available at the SCITCS FES Exercise Clinic established in 1991 under the Faculty of Physical Education & Recreation at the University of Alberta. In spite of technicians being very negative to the idea (due to the low injury), Bohdan’s persistent insistence led to him being assessed for candidacy to the program.
Bohdan was a willing participant in any and all FES research projects of which there were several including the development of a rowing machine. It was believed that it would provide a more rigorous cardiovascular workout for persons with SCI. Bohdan brought persistence, determination and encouragement to the researchers when things did not work out as planned. But above all he brought humour to everything he did. The impact of Bohdan’s personality resulted in the researchers redoubling their efforts. It was a true partnership. See Bohdan HISTORY 1999.The following quotes indicate the impact that Bohdan made:
- from a Feb 2003 email from Dr Dries Hettinga in the UK “tell him he is even famous in the UK. He is a great promotion for FES rowing; 70 years old and still rowing!"
- Dec 2003 email following a speech " the message was so eloquently articulated by Bohdan. His enthusiasm and sincerity shone through like a strong beam of light through a dense fog on the eastern seacoast...."
Bohdan Olijnyk with scientists,
preparing for rowing