Nov. 19, 2021

In Memoriam: Dushan Bresky, Faculty of Arts

Campus flag lowered Nov. 19, 2021
Dushan Bresky
Dushan Bresky

The Faculty of Arts is mourning the loss of Dushan Bresky, a former professor of French literature and head of the Department of Romance Studies (French, Italian and Spanish), now part of the School of Languages, Linguistics, Literatures and Cultures. Bresky passed away on Nov. 4 at Rockyview Hospital, surrounded by his family. 

Born in 1920, Bresky grew up in Prague, competing in track for the Slavia sport club, skiing avidly in winters and attending the Academic Gymnasium, where many verses of Latin, Greek and German poetry were durably memorized, as many a recitation would attest in later years. He graduated in 1938, the year of the German occupation, and his studies in law were interrupted the following year by the forced closure of Charles University.

During the war, Bresky pursued a writing career; his successful novel, Bez konce ysou lesy (Endless Are the Forests) appeared in 1943. He resumed his studies in 1945, completing his law degree in 1947. During those postwar years, he was also a member of the Czech national ski team, until the communist party's coup d'état in 1948 prompted him to leave the country. Living as a refugee in Brussels, he met his future wife, Louise Laverie, in 1951. Soon after his emigration to Canada she joined him to settle in Calgary where the newlyweds worked as reporters for the Calgary Herald.

Both partners in this deeply loving marriage would continue to thrive professionally for decades to come. Bresky’s academic career began in the late 1950s at the University of Washington. After he earned his PhD in modern French literature in 1959, he taught at the University of British Columbia and the University of Montana before returning to Alberta to join the faculty of the University of Calgary in 1963. There he published several scholarly books, supervised many MA and PhD projects, and served two terms as head of the Department of Romance Studies before retiring in 1990. His hard work and warm commitment earned him gratitude from students and colleagues alike.  

Bresky’s vitality and capacity for self-reinvention marked his personal life as well. He was a driven fly-fisherman who supplied trout for many memorable dinners with family and friends at the summer cabin he built during the 1970s on homesteaded land in the Elk River Valley. Well into his late 80s, he swam daily in the summer at the Stanley Park Bend in the Elbow River and skied weekly in winter at Lake Louise. He spent many contemplative hours in the back yard assembling eccentric sculptures out of a prolific, miscellaneous hoard of rusted tractor parts, driftwood, animal bones, antique hardware fixtures, shards of coloured glass, and other curious debris.

An affectionate, encouraging father, he instilled in his two sons a faith in the value of education and a hearty appetite for outdoor sports and expeditionary travel. When Louise, in her last years, succumbed to dementia, he cared for her devotedly until loss of mobility made it impossible for him to continue. He was generous, hospitable, talkative, loyal, proud, and inspiringly interested in people and life. We remember him with boundless love and gratitude.  

Bresky is survived by his sons Edward (wife Libby, stepdaughters Abigail and Madeline, son-in-law Jordan) and Luke (wife Lorraine, son Lief). A celebration of Bresky’s life will be held at a date and place to be announced. Inquiries and condolences:  

Ici venu, l'avenir est paresse. 
L'insecte net gratte la sécheresse ; 
Tout est brûlé, défait, reçu dans l'air 
À je ne sais quelle sévère essence... 
La vie est vaste, étant ivre d'absence, 
Et l'amertume est douce, et l'esprit clair. 

Paul Valéry, Le Cimetière Marin