Konowal became quite active in the Great War Veterans Association. Started in 1917, this was the largest of quite a few veterans organizations that sprang up all across Canada in order to help the thousands of men and women who had been demobilized from war time services. It would soon amalgamate with many of these groups to form the Canadian Legion, renamed the Royal Canadian Legion with HRH Queen Elizabeth's permission in 1960. As an active member Cpl. Konowal actually led a Peace Parade through the streets of Ottawa on 19 July 1919. And at the front of the parade he marched proudly wearing his Victoria Cross.
Since the 1850's many millions of British Subjects have gone off to war. Of these less than 1,360 have been awarded the Victoria Cross. Wearing one on your chest has to be bring the most awesome of feelings, the knowing of the great deeds performed and recognized by your King or Queen, and the incredible responsibility the same award places on your shoulders. Having the VC pinned on his chest by the empire's King, coming through the war when millions did not, stepping back on your homefront soil, and leading the most important parade of your life down the streets of the nation's capital must have given Filip Konowal and incredible feeling of accomplishment and sense of pride. But in a split second that was all gone. In would happen the very day after the big parade in Ottawa.
Soon a crowd gathered. Push came to shove and all of a sudden a butcher knife was produced and Konowal... the very expert with bayonets.., got slashed in the hand and wrist. Instinct immediately took over and the man was knocked to the ground with the butcher knife stuck in his heart.
Most scattered but Filip stood his ground and would argue to the arriving police officers that it was clearly a case of self defence. In the heat of the moment he would also add the terrible statement that he had just returned from war and killed 52 of them over there and that this one made 53. Within very short order he was charged with murder.
Like so many trials, witness statements flipflopped back and
forth and things started getting much worse for Filip when key people said he had actually produced the knife himself. Some suggest his friend and/or some in the gang that appeared had shady dealings in the past, their characters were being drawn into the case and that what was being claimed was clearly not the way it happened. The case would take three years to finally get to trial. Filip's friends in the military and the Ukrainian community came forth with funding and very smart council came to assist Filip. But when all was said and done he was told the best move would be to bring forth past experiences were war memories were affecting him and that he ought to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. This would allow than to show that when the incident took place he immediately had flashbacks to bayonet battles he was in and may have thought he was just in yet another one of them.
Filip was found guilty by reason of insanity and order to be placed in an institution where he could get help. Over the years and with improved medical treatments it was discovered that his facial partial paralysis, suffered since the days of his wound in Europe, matters were worse than originally thought. he actually had a scull fracture and undue pressure being placed on a portion of his brain. Treatments and time resolved this and ultimately he was released to be a free man again.
It was around this time that he discovered his wife back in the Ukraine had perished and his daughter was caught up in a system of red tape that would make her discovery practically impossible. So Filip moved on and remarried in 1934 in Quebec. Within a short period he and millions of others found themselves in the midst of a depression and jobs could not be found anywhere. Eventually a military comrade found him low paying work as a janitor in an electrical authority building. But soon it also came to an end. Later another former military man, then the Sergeant at Arms at the Parliament Buildings tried his best to help Filip, but that meant yet another low paying job again as a janitor. He even had to make coffee for the other janitors. But it was a job and he gratefully took it.
Then a break came one day at work. On his smock he often wore the ribbon for his VC, and who should come around a corner one day by Mackenzie King, then Prime Minister of Canada.. and King certainly recognized that ribbon. When he heard Filip's story he immediately told him to drop the mop and come with him. He was placed in a job as a messenger and special custodian of room Number 16. The very office of the Prime Minister of Canada.
Twenty years later he was still there and at the time told a reporter the, in other words, that he had mopped up Europe and now was mopping of Parliament. (Presumably without bayonets)
Cpl Filip Konowal was able to attend festivities in London in 1956. These were to celebrate the 100th year since her Royal Highness Queen Victoria presented the first ever investiture of the Victoria Cross, on the very grounds at Hyde Park where the men now gathered in 1956. In the much earlier parade Torontonian Alexander Dunn had his VC pinned to his chest by Queen Victoria for his bravery during the Charge of the Light Brigade, noted in this space many blogs ago.
At the 1956 ceremonies Sir Anthony Eden, British PM hosted over 300 VC recipients at a tea Party at Westminster Hall and a Thanksgiving dinner the following day at Westminster Abby. HRH Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip would attend the VC ceremonies at Hyde Park and of course you have hopefully seen the photo a few blogs ago in this space that shows 24 Canadian VC recipients who attended that service. Konowal is in the front row in that picture. Other Canadians also attended but missed the photo op for unknown reasons. There was also a garden party to attend at then Marborough House and a great dinner at the Canada Club as well.
On April 21 1959 Filip finally retired due to ill health. Within 7 weeks he would pass away at Hull Quebec. There are numerous monuments to Filip across the country today. A legion, a bust at the Parliament Buildings, plaques in several locations etc.
Filip's actions at Hill 70 took place dated 96 years ago last week.