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Committee and Volunteers

Board Members

  • Marjan Ulč​ar, President

  • Mary Rozmanc, Vice-President

  • Stephanie Schaeffer, Secretary

  • Anne Žagar, Treasurer

  • ​Miriam Čekuta

  • Mary (Ponikvar) Desanti

  • Maria Farič​​

  • Mark Ferkul

  • Peter Markeš

  • Paula (Platnar) Peterson

  • Milena Soršak

  • Helen (Smolej) Schaeffer


Past Board Members

  • Franca Anderson ​​

  • Frank Brence 

  • ​Peter Čekuta

  • Pamela Gosgnach

  • Dr. Frank Habjan 

  • ​Dorothy Lenarčič

  • Ema Pogač​ar

  • ​Jerry Ponikvar

  • Stane Kranjc [Past-President]

  • Joseph Slobodnik

  • Anne Urbančič

  • Jožica Vegelj [Past-President]

  • ​Dr. John Vintar


  • Heather Gardiner


  • Mario Resnik

  • Anne Urbančič

  • Bobby Ulcar

  • Michelle Veres

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Heather Gardiner

Heather Gardiner has worked professionally as an archivist for over twenty years. She holds a Master of Information Studies degree from the University of Toronto. Heather began her career at the Region of Peel Archives and has since worked at the Archives of Ontario, Scotiabank Archives and Royal Bank Archives. In 2004, she became the archivist of Women’s College Hospital (WCH). In addition to preserving records and artifacts related to the hospital’s history, in this role Heather operates an active outreach program, curates historical displays, and has developed two successful online exhibits through the Virtual Museum of Canada.

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Miriam Čekuta

After WWII, Miriam's parents settled in Trst (then Free Territory of Trieste) where she was born. Her parents, Vilko and Milena Čekuta, as well as her brother Peter, immigrated to Canada through Halifax’s Pier 21 and arrived in Toronto in July, 1955. Her involvement in the Slovenian community began immediately when she became a member of the theatrical group, “Slovensko gledališče,” led by her father.  During her last years of high school and for the next twenty years, she taught at the Slovenian language school at Marija Pomagaj.  She obtained her teaching qualifications and received her degree from the University of Toronto, working mainly with special needs students in the role of assessment and programming.  Her interest in travelling gave her the courage to retire after 36 years when she took the opportunity to visit six continents. She has two children, Tanja and Isaac Sousa, and an understanding husband who encourages her to be involved with the Slovenian community.  Her interest in history and the preservation of Slovenian culture led her to the Canadian Slovenian Historical Society.

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Mary Ponikvar Desanti

Mary was born in Timmins, Ontario. Her father, Jernej, immigrated to Canada from Ig, Slovenia in 1926, and her mother, Lucija, (Tiringar) from Kranj in 1936. She has 3 brothers: Jerry, John, Fred. Mary graduated from St. Michael’s Hospital School of Nursing (1966), University of Western Ontario (Bachelor of Nursing Science, 1968), Brock University (Masters in Education, 1982). She was a Professor in the Faculty of Nursing at Humber College, for 30 years and is now retired. Mary has always been proud of her faith, Slovenian roots and culture. This stemmed from her parents’ faith and hard work ethic. Many Slovenian traditions were practised in their home and they were encouraged to support and participate in the Slovenian activities offered by the Timmins Slovenian community. They conversed in both Slovenian and English at home.

Her parents operated a corner store in Timmins and Mary remembers many new Slovenian immigrants coming to see her mother for help and guidance in adjusting to their new home in Canada. This gave Mary and her brothers more opportunities to learn about and appreciate their Slovenian roots as they got to know these people.Mary joined CSHS in 2013 with encouragement from her brother Jerry. She believes in the importance of each generation sharing all that they can with their children and grandchildren and having them share in the future generation. She encourages children to ask their parents about their lives and to begin writing their own histories. Mary regrets not getting more details about the early lives of her parents, when they were children in Slovenia and as they grew up. She has found CSHS an enriching experience and strongly supports the CSHS mandate of recording and preserving the history of Slovenians in Canada and telling their story. 

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Marija Farič

Marija Farič was born in Ajax, Ontario.  Her father, Anton Faric, was born in Prekmurje, Slovenia. At 17 years old, Anton fled to Austria and worked in displaced person's camp until he was able to get passage as a refugee to Canada. He worked on a farm outside London, Ontario, on a two year contract before settling in Toronto. Anton met his future wife, Pamela Jean, at a Catholic Church dance in the Beaches while she was on a vacation from England. They married in 1956 and had three children. Marija also has always had a close relationship with her family in Toronto and Cleveland, as well as Slovenia. She married Paul in 1984 and they have three children: Christine, Michael and Nicholas. Maria attended the University of Toronto and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History (1982), followed by a Certificate of Law Clerk from Fanshawe College (1983). She completed the Institute of Law Clerk of Ontario (ILCO) Provincial Associate exams (4) in 1987.  


Marija worked at a major Bay Street law firm for many years practicing as a Corporate Law Clerk. She was the Co-Op Co-Ordinator of the Law Clerks Program and was on the Education Committee of ILCO where she co-ordinated the Associate Provincial exams with Durham, Humber, and Seneca colleges. She later became an ESL teacher (OCELT) and has taught ESL and LINC with the Jewish Immigration Aids Centre Schools for the past 10 years. She has volunteered in Gifted and French Immersion primary school classes, Recess Games Committee for Grades 1-3, Literary and ESL Class Volunteer in High School, Conversational English Groups and English Individual tutoring, was a Beaver and Scout Leader, TOEFL (TDSB), ESL refugee volunteer, was on the Toronto Junior Woman's League Fundraising Committee and other community committees for 5 years and is currently on the Cystic Fibrosis Gala Fundraising Committee. Marija is also a Wedding Officiant. She was elected to the CSHS committee in January, 2020.

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Peter  Markes

Peter was born in Toronto in 1954 to Peter and Marija Markes who emigrated from Spain in 1950 and eventually created their home in the St. Clair-Dufferin area of the city where Peter grew up with his sister Carmen and brother Andrej. Both parents were actively involved for many years in various Slovenian organizations that were being formed in the late 50’s and 60’s such as the Slovenia Parishes Credit Union, CWL, Drustvo Baraga, and Slovenski Dom. This spirit of community involvement, establishing relationships and working with people to pursue common and purposeful objectives undoubtedly helped shape Peter’s upbringing and character. He became involved in committee work at Slovenski Dom on Pape Ave. serving for many years as secretary, audit member and also four years as President.


Peter obtained his BA degree from the University of Toronto, and his career path led to Slovenia Credit Union in 1982 when he was hired to succeed his retiring father as general manager. After a short stint managing the credit union, Peter retired in May 2017 after 35 years of service. During this time, he married Maria Franc from Hamilton and they have been blessed with three daughters and two sons and last year also became first-time grandparents. As a newly elected member of the CSHS board, Peter appreciates the opportunity to stay involved in the Slovenian community and help preserve the richness and vastness of our history and how it helped build the Canada that we now live in. They say everyone has a story to tell, we just have to make every effort to have it told, maintained and not forgotten.

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Paula (Platnar) Peterson


Paula was born in Toronto to Slovenian parents (father refuge and mother landed immigrant) who met and married in Toronto. Paula grew up through the Our Lady of Miraculous community, attending Slovenian school and participating with scouting. Paula was Chair of the scouting organization for over 20 years and a member of of the Parish Council oF OLMM . Currently Paula is an active committee member of the OLMM Catholic Women’s league and also in the Naša Pesem choir. Paula joined the historical society because of her interest in history of the Slovenian community.

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Mary Rozmanc 

Mary was born in Toronto, Ontario Canada, of Slovenian parents. At home, her parents spoke to her and her sister only in Slovenian to ensure that the Slovenian language would not be forgotten. It was at Our Lady Help of Christians Slovenian Parish School where Mary received formal instruction in Slovenian grammar, Slovenian history and Slovenian Culture. Mary became involved with the Canadian Slovenian Historical Society (CSHS) in 2006 and has been Secretary for the CSHS since 2007. She participates in the CSHS Outreach program to Canadian Slovenians across Canada. Mary participates in the KDO SMO and Povejte Nam Kaj CSHS programs at various Canadian Slovenian events across southern Ontario. In 2012 Mary had the opportunity to represent the CSHS at the joint CSHS/SRC Razstava opening ceremonies in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

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Helen (Smolej) Schaeffer


Helen was born in Toronto to Slovenian parents who at the end of WW2 were forced to leave their beloved country to save their lives, and to safeguard their faith and freedom. The commitment by her parents to preserve Slovenian culture enabled Helen to grow within the Slovenian community, where she attended Slovenian school and participated in the church choir, Brownies, Girl Guides, and the dance group Mladi Glas. As a young adult, Helen continued her community commitments as a Sunday school teacher, Girl Guide leader, Scouting Committee Member (for over 20 years) and also participated on an ongoing basis with choirs including Naša Pesem. Retirement after more than 30 years with the City of Toronto did not interrupt her volunteerism.  She is an executive member of the Catholic Women's League (Katoliška Ženska Liga) and Board Member of the CSHS. Her passion for preserving Slovenian history and culture is exemplified through her article submissions to the Our Story newsletter, social media posts, and her work at CSHS events. 


Stephanie Schaeffer

Elected to the CSHS committee in 2018, Stephanie is committed to the Slovenian community. She sings in the Slovenian choir, Naša Pesem, assisted with Otroški Kotiček and was involved in the Scouting organization. In addition, she has worked at Dom Lipa. The residents still are excited to see and catch up with her whenever she is at Dom Lipa working in the archives or singing with Naša Pesem. She also was a research assistant at Slovenski Dom with their Slovenian Authors in Canada book project. She loves learning the Slovenian history and culture, as it brings her closer to her roots and family.

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Milena Soršak

Milena was born in a suburb of Ljubljana during the Second World War. Her childhood was marked with modesty and her parents' example of hard work, deep faith and unconditional love left a deep impression on her. She enjoyed school and, after graduating from high school with honours, enrolled at the University of Ljubljana to further her studies of the Slovenian language. In 1964, she had an opportunity to visit Canada and interrupted her studies to visit her uncle in Toronto, the Rev. Mejač, in the hopes of improving her English skills. Two months after her arrival, she became a teacher at the Slovenian school at Marija Pomagaj, and was also involved in the editing of Fr. Zrnec’s school books, Materina Beseda and Veseli Dom. She then joined the Slovensko Gledališče theatrical group.

Milena enjoyed socializing with the Slovenian community and joined the folk dancing group Nagelj, to which she remained loyal for over 50 years, assisting in various capacities.  During this time, along with her husband Ciril, she raised a family and founded an engraving business which they ran for over 30 years, while continuing to participate in many cultural events in the Slovenian community.  From 2006 to 2011, she was the co-editor of the Glasilo magazine. In 2000, she was among the founders of the Viktoria Fund, a charitable organization for challenged children of Slovenian descent in which she is still deeply involved. Additionally, Milena was part of Radio Glas Kanadskih Slovencev for many years.  In the meantime, she continues to write and edit articles for various Slovenian publications. Milena became a board member of the Canadian Slovenian Historical Society in 2014 to assist in organizing the archives.     

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Marjan (Mario) Ulcar

Mario was born in Steinfeld, a refugee camp in Spittal, Austria in December 1948. In 1949, his father came to Canada and served his one year contract on a farm in Saskatchewan. In 1950, the rest of the family immigrated to Toronto and settled in Etobicoke. At age 16, he became a cub scout leader and shortly thereafter was president of the Youth Club. Mario founded a theatrical group called Mladi Glas which later evolved into the present day dance group. He was also a drummer for the band “Veseli Študentje” for seven years. When the Ljubljana pavilion in Caravan (Toronto, Ontario) was moved from Marija Pomagaj to Brezmadežna, Mario was chairman of the Ljubljana pavilion for four years. After graduating from Ryerson, he was hired by a computer company, performing technical support and managerial duties.

Ten years later, he became a professor at George Brown College where he taught electronics for 33 years. Mario married Millie Koščak and they have five children: Sandy, Bobby, Jimmy, David and Laurie, all of whom are now married. In 1981, Mario was asked to join the Executive Committee of Slovenia Parishes Credit Union and held various offices there for 18 years. He has also been on the Slovenian Summer Camp (in Bolton, Ontario) committee for over ten years coordinating the bar and the sports activities. In 2002, Millie and Mario were honoured with the Slovenia Credit Union Award which is presented annually to recognize accomplishments in the Slovenian community. Today, Mario continues to organize the sporting activities at the Slovenian Summer Camp which attracts over 500 young people of Slovenian descent each summer. He recently joined the CSHS with a primary focus to launch a new website. 

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Anne Žagar

​Anne was born in Toronto.  Her parents were Slovenian refugees who spent several years in the displaced persons’ camps in Austria, and arrived in Canada after the Second World War.  Anne grew up in Toronto, in the circle of the Slovenian community at Marija Pomagaj, where, as a young child, she attended Slovenian school, was part of the Slovenian children’s choir and its piano accompanist, and thereafter, was involved with and supported various other Slovenian cultural and social activities.  Her undergraduate degree in History and English was obtained at the University of Toronto. 

Because of her diverse business experience with several companies and government bodies, she subsequently obtained her education degree in business studies and then taught at various high schools throughout the Mississauga/Brampton area with the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board.  She also worked as a guidance counselor, was head of the guidance department, and was involved in various committees and extra-curricular activities at both the school and school board level. She has three daughters and six grandchildren, and currently resides in Mississauga with her husband.  After retiring from the teaching profession, she joined the CSHS in the fall of 2015 to pursue her interest in the history of Slovenians in Canada and to assist in furthering the aims of the society.

Past Committee Members

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Franca (Fran) Anderson

Franca  was born in Val D’Or, Quebec where her parents first settled as refugees, arriving from the German Camp Lesum. The family first settled in Collingwood and then in Toronto in a flat above the Alliance Dairy.  Franca’s father Rudy Drozina, would dispatch the milk orders for daily deliveries by horse and wagon. Her mother Slava maintained the offices and store front. Franca’s family participated in Toronto’s Slovenian community, attending church or events at  “Marija Pomagaj” parish and  at the Slovenian parks. As a child, Franca took accordion lessons from Mr. Fojs and later, from Matt Lebar. Following up on her love of music and particularly the accordion, Franca recently became involved with the Button Akordion Rocks Club.
Franca graduated from the University of Toronto (B.A., B. Ed.) and Brock University (M.Ed.).


She is a retired school principal of the Dufferin Peel CDSB. While Franca is a former president of  “Drustvo” Simon Gregorčič, she has also collaborated with other Slovenian Associations such as Slovenski Dom for Potica and Strudelj Baking projects.  Over the years Franca has liaised with American Slovenian communities, organizing various bus trips to picnics and banquets at SNPJ Enon Valley, Pennsylvania and the Slovenian National Home in Cleveland, Ohio. Franca was elected to the board of directors of the Canadian Slovenian Historical Society in 2017. 

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Frank Brence

Frank was born in Slovenia in 1936. His family left the country in May 1945 and spent the next three years in a displaced persons camp in Austria. The family arrived in Canada in December of 1948 and moved to Toronto in 1949. After graduating from De La Salle High School in 1953, he worked at the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), and then joined the Civil Service of Ontario from which he retired in 1994. Frank married Julie in 1958 and they have two children and four grandchildren.

Frank spent his youth volunteering in the Slovenian community at Our Lady Help of Christians Parish and belonged to the Holy Name Society, the Baraga drama club and the youth club (mladinski klub). He joined the Slovenia Parishes Credit Union when it was founded and was elected to the supervisory committee, and then to the board of directors, also serving as President. He was directly involved in the purchase of the credit union property on Browns Line and the construction of its new head office, retiring in 1997. With the Canadian Slovenian Chamber of Commerce, he helped organize the trade show at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto and co-ordinated a trade mission to Slovenia led by Hazel McCallion, then mayor of Mississauga. In 1976, Frank was instrumental in founding a facility for the members of the Planica Hunting and Fishing Club. For ten years, he acted as the technical editor and publisher of the magazine “The Voice of Canadian Slovenians” – “Glasilo kanadskih Slovencev” for the All Slovenian Cultural Committee. Frank was also one of the founding members of the CSHS and served on the board of directors as Treasurer until retiring in 2016.

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Stane Kranjc - Past President

Stane is a native of the village Nadanje selo near Pivka in the Primorska-Notranjska region, and graduated from high school in Postojna. In 1951, Stane left his homeland and came to Edmonton, Alberta. In 1953, he joined the Slovenian community in Toronto, and married his wife Elsie on July 23, 1955. He was employed for 42 years by two companies in the North American food industry. With hard work and strong determination, he acquired a diploma in Industrial Management in Arts and Technology. In addition to work, which sometimes took him across America, Stane Kranjc always found time to work for the Slovenian community. Many times, this also included activities at different charitable and Catholic organizations, such as Shepherd’s Trust, Canadian Food for Children, United Appeal, ShareLife, and more.


He has been active in the Slovenian community since 1954 and has assumed positions in parish councils, with the Boy Scouts, and at the Slovensko letovišče (Slovenian Summer Camp). He was president of the All Slovenian Cultural Committee, The Canadian Slovenian Congress and was a member of the board for aid to Slovenia during the floods and for the campaign for Slovenian independence. He was the founder of the Canadian Slovenian Historical Society and a member of many other Slovenian societies in Toronto. Furthermore, as coordinator, he prepared programs for Slovenian days at the Slovenian Summer Camp until 2012. He also organized the insertion of a Slovenian commemorative plaque in the historical museum in Halifax and until 2012 was also the representative for Canadian-Slovenians in the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia. In 2005, Stane received an Order from the president of The Republic of Slovenia for his continuing promotion of Slovenian culture.

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Jerry Ponikvar

Jerry Ponikvar was born in Timmins, Ontario. His father, Jernej, immigrated to Canada from Ig, Slovenia in 1926 and his mother Lucija (Tiringar) arrived from Kranj in 1936. He has two brothers, Fred and John, and a sister, Mary. He holds a BA (UWO); B Ed (York University); M Ed (U of T), an Ontario supervisory officers’ certificate and a specialist certificate in special education. He began his career in Sault Ste. Marie as a teacher, then vice principal and principal. In 1967, he served in teacher education at the Ontario Teacher Education College (OTEC) in Hamilton for eleven years. After working in the Curriculum Branch of the Ministry of Education, he moved to the Toronto Catholic District School Board for twelve years. From 1990-1995, he was the Director of Education for the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board. After retiring, he became a consultant on Ministry of Education special projects, and also served part time with the Faculty of Education, Brock University. He has served on the Senate Board – York University, Ontario Catholic Supervisory Officers Board, and Member & Vice Chair - Council of Ontario Directors of Education. He was appointed as vice chair and chair to the board of directors of EQAO, the Ontario provincial schools testing board.


On retiring, he made a commitment to become actively involved with the Slovenian community. He has served on the Slovenian Canadian Congress Board, the Slovenian Society of St. Joseph/Villa Slovenia Board as president and the Slovenian Canadian Scholarship Foundation. He joined the CSHS as a charter board member because he is proud of his Slovenian roots and is eager to assist in preserving our Slovenian history, thus providing future generations with the opportunity to know their roots and their story.

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Anne Urbančič

Anne is one of the founding members of the CSHS and was Vice President from 2004 until 2014. She participates in CSHS activities with regular articles in the magazine Glasilo where she writes the stories of Canadian Slovenians who have been interviewed for the Oral History Archives. She also contributes regular columns to the OUR STORY bulletin. Currently, she is the Mary Rowell Jackman Professor of Humanities at Victoria College, University of Toronto. 

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Jožica Vegelj – Past President

Jožica (Zorčič) was born in Brežice, Slovenia just before World War II.  In July, 1941, the Germans occupied the territory and sent the family, along with 30,000 other Slovenians from the Krško polje region, into exile to Germany.  In 1945, after the war, the five members of the Zorčič family opted to return to Slovenia instead of accepting an offer to immigrate to the USA. Jožica then completed the compulsory education and found employment at the registry office in Brežice. In 1960, Ivan Vegelj, who had come to Canada in 1958, asked her to join him. She accepted his invitation, they married, and together they made their home in Hamilton. Jožica and Ivan became involved in volunteer work when St. Gregory the Great Slovenian Parish was established under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Alojzij Tomc. Jožica also took the opportunity to further her education and completed high school and various courses in accounting. She has continued to volunteer in various capacities in the Slovenian community in Hamilton and Toronto. She was one of the founding members of Canadian Slovenian Historical Society and was President from 2006 to 2016.

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John Vintar

Dr. John Vintar came to Canada as a young child from Vintarji, near Velike Lašče,Slovenia, and spent his formative years in the Northern Ontario mining town of Timmins. He received his BA degree at the University of Western Ontario and his B Ed, M Ed and Ed D at the University of Toronto. Dr. Vintar taught at all levels of education from elementary to graduate school. As an administrator, his positions included Principal, Inspector of Schools, Superintendent of Personnel and Director of Education. John was appointed to the Senate at York University and served on the Education Faculty Councils at both York and University of Toronto. He also assumed leadership roles in provincial and national educational organizations and committees, from which he received citations and awards. 

Among these are the Ontario Catholic Supervisory Officers' Association Award of Merit, The Ontario Association of Education Administrative Officials President's Award for excellence and was made a Fellow of the Canadian College of Teachers. Parallel to his abiding interest in education was his active involvement in The Royal Regiment of Canada from which he retired with the rank of Major. He was awarded the Canadian Forces Decoration for service. He continued his affiliation with the Regiment by serving as President of the Officers' Association.

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