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Saturday, September 30, 2023
Royal Oak student places second in regional poetry contest
Lev Prokipchuk Steacie shows off his award for placing second in the Legion's district-wide poetry contest. EVAN LOREE

A Royal Oak student is feeling a little overwhelmed after placing second in a regional poetry contest — for writing about an ancestor who made a great sacrifice over 100 years ago.

Lev Prokipchuk Steacie, a Grade 7 student from Niagara-on-the-Lake, secured his spot against students from 16 different schools across Niagara.

He is the first from Niagara-on-the-Lake to place this high in the Royal Canadian Legion’s annual Remembrance Day poetry contest in six years, said Stan Harrington, legion member and NOTL native.

“It’s a bit overwhelming, actually,” the 12-year-old student said.

Lev said he dedicated the poem to his great-great-great grandfather, Capt. Richard Steacie, who died of a gunshot to the neck in the First World War.

“Ever since I’ve been little, we’ve always told stories about him,” Lev said.

When he learned of the Legion’s poetry contest, he decided it was a good time to share his ancestor’s story.

“I am surprised to see this side of Lev,” said his mother, Christyna Prokipchuk.

Prokipchuk describes her son as a science nerd, a label he wears proudly.

She said it’s “really nice to see him excel and apply himself” in an artistic subject. 

“I don’t like literature. I don’t like essays. I don’t like that. But I really, really, really like words,” Lev said.

Captain Steacie was in the Royal Montreal Regiment and died in the second Battle of Ypres in 1915.

According to the Royal Montreal Regiment Foundation, Captain Steacie was buried at an unnamed grave in Belgium.

The detail was well-captured in Lev’s poem: “For years his grave had no name / But in my family, he has a great deal of fame,” he wrote.

It wasn’t until author and historian Michel Gravel and Capt. Grant Furholter of the Royal Montreal Regiment looked to ensure Steacie’s grave was properly memorialized.

The Grade 7 student began working on the poem in the fall, shortly after his father, Aaron Steacie, died of a heart attack in September at age 41.

Lev said the act of “writing or creating things” was both a “distraction” and a place for him to talk about his challenges.

“It made me have more of a connection with that sense of family,” he added.

His mother explained her son was proud of his family legacy, both the Prokipchuk and the Steacie side, and this would have come out in the poem regardless of his father’s death.

“Lev loves the fact that he’s Ukrainian, and he loves the fact that he’s a Steacie as well,” she said.

Plus, Lev already expresses his creativity in the world of science experiments – in which he learns lessons not unlike what one writing a poem may learn.

“Sometimes it’ll turn out good. And sometimes, it will turn out bad. And even if things do turn out bad, it’s not really considered a failure,” he said.  

Although Lev will not be moving onto the provincial level of the Legion’s poetry competition, he still received a medal, a certificate and a cash prize for placing second.

Lev said he can see how people can get drawn into poetry and said he can see himself doing it for fun, not just for school assignments.

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