1916 - 2000
Place of birth: Ukraine
Date of Willard admission: 1953
Length of stay: 24 years
Mr. Dmytro #32643 was born into a poor Ukrainian farm family in 1916; his father died two years later. Under Nazi occupation during World War II, Dmytre and countless others were forced into slave labor. At the end of the war, he tried to make his way home, only to be captured by Soviet forces and sent to an internment camp in Hungary. Escaping, he made his way to Vienna and took refuge in an American displaced-persons' camp. There, he met and married a Polish woman named Sophia, and they emigrated to America in 1949. They settled in Syracuse, where they found good jobs and a welcoming Ukrainian immigrant community. Dmytro started building them a house. Sophia became pregnant and their future looked very promising.
To express his gratitude to his adopted country, Dmytro built a model of the Ukrainian church in his home village and delivered it to President Truman; the church was displayed in a government office in Washington for several years. However, soon after that, Sophia died during a miscarriage, and Dmytro's life began to crumble.
A Painting A Day
In his grief over his wife's death, Dmytro came to believe that he was supposed to marry Margaret Truman, the President's daughter. He visited Washington, DC in 1952, and attempted to visit her at the White House. The U.S. Secret Service detained him and sent him to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington. He was returned to Syracuse and committed to Syracuse Psychopathic Hospital before being sent to Willard in 1953.
For several years, Dmytro languished at Willard. The staff had trouble understanding his thick Ukrainian accent, and he was given 20 electroshock treatments, which did not improve his condition. In the early 1960s, he began to attend occupational therapy sessions, and it became apparent that he had a passion and talent for expressing himself through painting. According to staff, for years Dmytro painted a painting a day, chronicling the story of his life. His artwork was displayed locally and at an exhibit of patient art in Washington, D.C., but few of his paintings have been found, as he generously gave them away to staff who admired his work. Dmytro remained at Willard until 1977, when he was discharged into a county home. At this facility, and at a nursing home to which he was later moved, he continued his painting, decorating the walls with murals. Mr. Dmytro #32643 died in 2000 at the age of 84, and was buried in Norwich, NY.