Local Community Helps Artist Find Lost Sketchbook Representing Years of Work

Local Community Helps Artist Find Lost Sketchbook Representing Years of Work

October 3, 2023 by Cathy Stack

TORONTO—Dmitry Bondarenko, a Toronto-based artist, lost his sketchbook while cycling to meet a friend for a painting session. The 5x7 black sketchbook contained a decade of his work and had great sentimental value to him.

The sketches included portraits of friends and family, and still life paintings of his great grandfather’s memorabilia from his Red Army service in Russia. The notebook became an visual account of the 40-year-old artist’s life and family history. His parents are Russian and Ukrainian, and he and his family immigrated to Canada when he was a child.


Dmitry shared that he felt a profound sense of loss when he first discovered his sketchbook missing. He speculated that the book must have fallen out of his bicycle’s back basket, and he desperately set out to find it. First, he retraced his steps and posted dozens of flyers along the bike path through the park. He also checked with park services. Several days later, he still had no strong leads on the book’s whereabouts.


“I realized the weight of it when it was gone, how precious it is,” Bondarenko said.


In a last-ditch effort to locate his treasured sketchbook, he turned to social media. He shared a post to a neighborhood Facebook group, detailing his plight. A few other community-oriented Facebook groups reshared the post. Word quickly spread within the local community for everyone to keep an eye out for the missing sketchbook.


Meanwhile, a man named Chris Elam found the sketchbook lying near a tree in the park. As he skimmed through the pages filled with stunning paintings and drawings, he appreciated the value of the artwork within its pages. He wanted to return it to the owner, but could find no name or address on it.


He considered hanging the book on the tree near where he found it, but he feared rain might ruin it. He was so taken with the quality of the paintings that he brought the book home. He hoped to find a way to locate the owner. Then, by chance, he saw Dmitry’s Facebook post. Chris immediately tracked down Dmitry via Facebook to arrange a meeting to return it.

“And then I lectured him like an old man,” Chris recalled. “I told him, ‘Put your name and number in it!’”


Dmitry appreciated that Chris had taken such care with the book, and he tried in vain to present Chris with a finder’s reward. Chris refused, saying he was simply happy to complete an act of kindness for a neighbor.


Dmitry said the act of goodwill by Chris and his local community was a very humbling experience that he won’t soon forget.


“I am left with a deep sense of gratitude,” said Dmitry.


PassItOn and The Foundation For A Better Life Believe that Chris and his community members are heroes for stepping in to help their neighbor. Their act is a great example of the value of community. Please help us celebrate Chris Elam and his community members by sharing this heartwarming story.

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