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Bronze statue commemorates RCAF’s Mynarski

Nov. 20, 2014, Winnipeg - An almost decade-long effort to commemorate a North End war hero has finally reached its completion.


November 20, 2014
By The Winnipeg Free Press

Since December 2005, a local committee has been working on the creation of a bronze statue of Victoria Cross recipient Andrew Mynarski. On Nov. 14, the finished product, created by Winnipeg artist Charlie Johnston, was unveiled at Frame Arts Warehouse (318 Ross Ave.). The statue will eventually make its way to Vimy Ridge Memorial Park, with a public dedication tentatively scheduled for June 12, 2015.

At age 27, Mynarski died trying to save a fellow Royal Canadian Air Force member during the Second World War. When his crew’s Lancaster bomber was damaged by cannon fire while flying over France, Mynarski ignored orders to bail out, attempting to instead rescue tail gunner Pat Brophy, who was trapped in his turret. Unable to free Brophy, and with his flight suit and parachute on fire, Mynarski was forced to abandon the plane, but didn’t survive.

Amazingly, Brophy survived to tell the tale, dislodged from his turret upon impact.

Fittingly, the Mynarski statue features a fire axe in one hand and an outstretched helping hand in the other.

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“He (Johnston) always had it in mind that it would reach out to the public,” said Bill Zuk, chair of the Mynarski statue project.

“The statue’s hand is at about eye level of a visitor approaching the statue and like the toe that gets rubbed on the Timothy Eaton statue, which eventually became shiny, we hope people will reach up and grasp the hand of Andrew Mynarski, as he is depicted trying to help his friend in the back of the aircraft.”

Zuk, 67, a pilot and the former executive director of the Manitoba Aviation Council, said the statue, which will sit on granite quarried from Pinawa, Man., will contain a QR code so people can learn more about Mynarski.

“In 2011, I worked on the film called As Close as Brothers, which tells the story of Andrew Mynarski, and when you go to the statue with your smartphone you can scan the QR code and it will take you to the film and an animated story about who put together the statue project and what it means to Winnipeg,” Zuk said.

Johnston, the man behind many Winnipeg murals, as well as three of the Bears on Broadway, said the statue summons some substantial self-analysis.

“What would I do?” said Johnston, referring to how he would respond in a Mynarski-like scenario.

“The only way to know is to be in the heat of the moment, but I like to think that most of us would step up for our friends, step up to help one another.

“What we aspire to be, that’s what (the statue) represents. It’s not about war, it’s not about beating the enemy, it’s about helping your fellow man in a moment of crisis. That’s when the best in us comes out.”