President of the World
Academy of Rusyn Culture
Steven Chepa was born
April 25, 1939, Hamilton, Omntario, Canada – business executive and
philanthropist of Rusyn descent in Canada. A graduate in commerce from
McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario (1962), Chepa has been a director
and officer in several Canadian companies; in 1978 he became president
of the Cheppa Corporation which specializes in merchant banking. During
the 1990s he became seriously interested in his Rusyn heritage and
began to fund projects related to the Rusyn national revival in Europe.
He established the annual Dukhnovych Prize for the best original work in
Rusyn literature (1997), the Steven Chepa Award for Outstanding
Contributions to Rusyn Culture (2001), and the World Academy of Rusyn
Culture (2002) to promote knowledge about all aspects of Carpatho-Rusyns
past and present through the Internet.
P. R. MAGOCSI
Photo: A. Z
of Slovakia need better housing
„If the law system works in Slovakia, the court will prove that we
are the legal owners of the car park as we have paid the previous
owner the total price we agreed on. If the judicial system does not
work, our case will be a great warning for all the foreign investors,“
says Steven Chepa, Canadian entrepreneur and financial expert who
invests in Slovakia, he buys real estates, constructs new family
houses and remodels hotels.
He was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He is the son of Lemko
Rusyn immigrants from the Carpathian Mountains who were born as
subjects of the Austro Hungarian Empire. Steven’s mother was born in
1905, in Uscie Ruske, subsequent to Action Visla in 1947 renamed
Uscie Gorlickie. After considerable success in America, Stevens’
grandfather returned to Uscie Ruskie just before the First World War
only to be conscripted into the Austrian Army. Steven’s Great
Grandfather was imprisoned, his daughter, Steven’s grandmother, had
to travel all day each day to bring food to her father and Stevens’
mother, at nine years of age, was left to look after three children.
Each time the military passed through the village, Steven’s mother
fortunately managed to hide. Her father was taken a prisoner by the
Russians, returned home as a broken man, and died soon afterwards.
In 1929, Steven’s mother emigrated from Poland to Canada. Steven’s
father was born in Malyj Bereznyj, in the village bordering with
Slovakia. Once this territory belonged to Austria Hungary, then to
Czechoslovakia and today as Transcarpathian Region (Oblast) it is
part of the Ukraine. After a short career as a cantor (dyak) in
training for the priesthood became disillusioned with the corruption
within the church at that time, lost his faith, and in 1927
emigrated to Canada.
After a difficult time and, fortunately for Steven, meeting his wife
“to be” in a park in Toronto, Canada, Stevens’ parents had saved
sufficient money to buy a small bakery in Hamilton. Steven as a boy
and as young man used to spend many nights working in the bakery and
many days delivering bread to his fathers’ customers.
Who is Mr.Steven Chepa
Norstone Financial Corporation is a merchant bank and a private
holding company owned 100% by Steven W. Chepa. Norstone Financial
Corporation has two operating divisions as well as several passive
investments. Norstone Financial Corporation owns 100% of Norstone,
s.r.o. which owns 51% of Norstone Development Tatry, s.r.o., 51% of
Norstone Development Kosice, s.r.o., 90% Norstone Morske Oke, s.r.o.
Norstone Financial Corporation has provided all capital for these
Corporations in the form of interest bearing loans and partners’
contributions are limited to nominal registered Capital amounts. (www.norstone.sk)
Norstone Financial Corporation owns 100% of the Global Prime Office
Network. Global Prime Office operates five business centres in
Toronto, Mississauga and Montreal (www.gponetwork.com). Norstone
Financial Corporation recently owned 50% of the Dicon Global Group
of Companies, which maintain research facilities in Toronto, Canada
manufacture smoke and gas alarms in China and distribute throughout
the world with offices in Toronto, Canada and Cheltenham U.K. In
April 2006 Norstone sold its 50% interest in this group for
„My parents always stressed the importance of education to be able
to understand the world and live life to the fullest“ Steven Chepa
says about his childhood. He attended McMaster University to earn an
Honour Bachelor of Commerce degree and then articled with Price
Waterhouse to become a Chartered Accountant. Soon after, he accepted
a position with a large international corporation and in four years,
at the age of 30, had risen in rank to Vice President and General
Manager of this corporations’ security alarm business in Canada.
In 1972, an opportunity to buy a bankrupt business for very little
money presented itself. Steven could not resist and launched himself
on the entrepreneurial path he has continued to this day. He has
personally operated firms which design electronic products in Canada,
manufactured these products in Canada, Mexico and China and
distributed these products around the world. He currently owns and
operates five office business centres in Canada.
He has served as a director of many private firms and five public
corporations in Canada with interests who range from the manufacture
recreational vehicles to navigation aids to home electronics and
security systems to biometric fingerprint identification to bio
analytical laboratory services and new drug development.
businessman and philanthropist from Canada – Steven
Chepa meeting the then Prime Minister of Slovakia
Mikuláš Dzurinda in Bratislava.
Mr. Chepa, you are an experienced man who has gone almost through
everything what your life offered and brought you. Do you still have
your visions and goals?
In my lifetime, the world has definitely become a better place for
man. Yes, the atomic bomb was invented, terrible wars have been
fought and unthinkable atrocities have taken place. Yes, terrible
things continue and there is no force willing to end the genocides
which continue in places like Darfur. Yes, we have new problems such
as preserving spaceship earth’s ability to sustain life but, today,
more people are enjoying a better life than ever before in the
history of mankind. Provided that people remember the sacrifices
that have made this possible and are willing to work hard, sacrifice
for future generations and even die, if necessary, to preserve our
freedoms the condition of man will continue to improve. With
widespread education, as a result of the internet, more accessible
than ever before, I am confident that fundamentalists of all
persuasions will continue to lose their ability to deceive and
control the thoughts and actions of their followers, and the likes
of Hitler and Stalin will never gain power again, though I am well
aware that many will try, and that the current situation in the
Middle East is extremely dangerous for all mankind. I have been
economically fortunate in life and consider the wealth that I have
accumulated to be held in trust to be used to help make the world a
better place. I will continue to contribute for as long as I can.
Why did you decide to invest in Slovakia?
Though I thoroughly enjoy the process of inventing and supporting
the development of new products and processes, thereby improving the
productivity of man, I have also become very active in the movement
to record and, if possible, preserve and continue the evolution of
Rusyn Language and culture in its historic homeland in the
Carpathian Mountains. Rusyn is a rich culture with music, literature
and insights with respect to the human condition which may be of
benefit to individuals throughout the world.
It all started at the Sixth World Conges of Rusyns (my first) in
Prague in 2001. I had founded the Rusyn “Oscar” which was
retroactively awarded to four previous winners of the Alexander
Duknovich Prize for Rusyn literature as well as to Vasil Turok,
Director of the Alexander Duknovich Theatre in Presov and Volodymyr
Mykyta a widely recognized and honoured Artist of Ukraine. After the
conference, it was my privilege to travel to Uhzhorod to present the
2001 Duknovich prize to Ivan Kalynych. I took this opportunity to
explore the road from Bratislava to the High Tatras, through Presov
and Kosice and to Ukraine. I was impressed with my welcome at every
turn and the beauty of a country which belonged to only 5,000,000
people. With the reforms of the Dzurinda period and Slovakia’s
integration in the EU, Slovakia became an attractive place to invest
with an acceptable level of political risk.
Types of family houses
offered in Slovakia by Steven Chepa’s Company.
Your first investment and developer project in Slovakia was to
construct family houses in Košice for more demanding clients in the
area of Kavečany. Why did you invest in the development of better
I noticed that there was a great need for better housing and was
certain that Canadian construction and management techniques could
reduce the cost of a single family home sufficiently to enable these
homes to be sold at prices that many more Slovaks would soon be able
to afford. Starting cautiously, our first project in Kavechany
includes 24 large executive homes, structurally built in the Slovak
tradition, but finished to a very high standard and intended for
those who can appreciate and afford the very best. Our second
project will consist of smaller homes, Canadian structural
techniques, luxurious finishes and prices in the vicinity of
5,000,000 Slovak Crowns. Norstone provides its clients with full
developer services and construction of these “turn- key” houses. Do
you believe that you will break conservative and rather refusing
opinions on developers? There will always be people who will wish to
build their own home, some of them with their own hands. Most people,
however, are content to have anyone build their house provided they
get what they want, that is, a home built and finished in accordance
with their taste at the lowest possible price and in a size they can
afford. The only way they will ever achieve this is to deal with a
full service developer.
To buy such a home in pieces, means they will have to do a lot of
shopping, will pay retail prices for all parts and may or may not
succeed in acquiring all components necessary to create a unified
whole. A full service developer has international reach, buys most
parts of the project at much lower prices than any individual in
Slovakia could achieve and can sell the home for less money than it
would cost for any other person to build. Full service developers
will continue to exist for as long as they provide the homeowner
with the best value in any given locality.
Every developer, especially foreign one, has tried to realize a good
project through its subsidiary established for this purpose. Usually,
it is a public limited company which ends its operation straight
after finishing the project. From the client’s point of view, it is
important to know who will provide warrantees of quality of work and
of a house.
Norstone is a reliable partner, it will not fail and no house buyer
will be left with less than our agreement commits us to provide. All
warrantees will be honoured in full. My reputation and self respect
are worth far more than any amount I would need to contribute to
correct any conceivable deficiencies.
What is your experience with the Slovak market?
To date, my experience in the Slovak market has been both good and
bad. I have met many very nice people, working hard to make an
honest living and to make a significant contribution to the new
Slovakia. Unfortunately, I have also had the misfortune to pay for
property in the High Tatras, title to which remains in the hands of
In this particular case, Norstone agreed to buy a building and a
land plot around it which was intended to serve as a parking lot. As
documents were being prepared, Mr. Hirjak, Norstone’s Chief
Executive in Slovakia, at that time, informed me that our lawyer, at
the time, who had told us early in the process that he was also
acting on behalf of the original seller, had indicated to him that
he would transfer the title to a middleman who would transfer title
to us in exchange for the purchase price in official money from our
bank. In November 2004, Mr. Hirjak reported that the middleman, was
demanding that we transfer the full purchase price for the property
to the middleman even though the necessary documents for the title
transfer had not been produced. He also reported that our lawyer,
who was also the lawyer for the original seller, had informed us
that because he had accidentally forgotten to obtain a confirmation
document from the Heritage Department of the Ministry of Culture of
SR to the effect that they would allow this transaction to proceed
(a sellers duty), the transfer of title to the building would be
delayed for a few days.
I do not understand yet. What was the problem? Didn’t you sign a
contract or your lawyer was sitting on two chairs at the same time?
In the written purchase agreement, Norstone Development Tatry,
s.r.o. had agreed to transfer the full purchase price in official
money from its bank account to the middleman as soon as the title
transfer proposal filed earlier at the Property Register (Kataster
nehnuteľností Poprad) was properly supported by all documents
necessary for the Kataster office to officially transfer title to
Norstone Development Tatry, s.r.o.. Mr. Hirjak reported that our
lawyer had explained to him that transfer of title to the parking
lot land would need to be delayed until a new survey document could
be prepared and filed, but that this was a mere technicality and
that title would be transferred as soon as this document was filed.
The necessary Heritage Department Documents were received a few days
later than anticipated, title to the building was transferred to
Norstone Development Tatry, s.r.o. and the full purchase price was
paid to the middleman as previously agreed.
So you paid for the building and the parking lot but the middleman
has not transferred the property rights to your company… Why?
Within days thereafter, Mr. Hirjak informed me, that the middleman
had demanded compensation for an alleged missed opportunity to earn
17,000,000.-SKK as a result of his inability to buy a claim against
a business as a result of having to wait a few extra days to receive
Norstone refused to consider this ridiculous claim because the
middleman was responsible according to Slovak law for the provision
of this necessary document and this document was a precondition for
the transfer of money from Norstone‘s bank account to occur. With
respect to the parking lot land, the necessary survey document was
filed in due course and the original seller transferred title to the
middleman soon thereafter.
Have you begun legal proceedings against the lawyer and the
In February 2005, I received a message from Mr. Hirjak that the
middleman had suggested he would release the parking lot land in
exchange for 10,000,000.- SKK. This case has been referred to the
civil court in Poprad and we are now awaiting the outcome of the
What kind of verdict do you expect?
If the legal system in Slovakia works, the court will confirm that
we are the legal owners of the parking lot by virtue of having paid
the previous owners the agreed selling price in full. If the legal
system does not work, this incident is a huge red light for all
foreign investors. There are difficult people in every country.
Where there is rule of law, difficult people will be dealt with.
Without rule of law, honest people will sufferIf the law system
works in Slovakia.
Do you think that former communist countries have not sorted out the
issues of corruption in justice and actions of dishonest lawyers?
Equally important, real or imaginary but widely believed, historical
corruption of the judiciary and dishonest lawyers are a legacy which
will haunt East European countries until the system in each country
is proven to be clean. The legal fraternity in Slovakia must police
its membership with respect to ethics, acceptable behavior and
necessary levels of competence for the good of the legal profession
in particular and the Slovak nation as a whole
Do you plan to invest in Ukraine?
I have not invested in Ukraine so far because I have not been
willing to take the political risk. There are signs of improvement,
but not sufficient to entice me into investing in real estate at the
present time. A factory manufacturing products for world markets is
a different matter. Norstone is discussing a project in which
Norstone and its partners will control access to world market
customers. The factory in Ukraine will have no value for any
Ukrainian who might insist that Norstone needs a Ukrainian partner.
Should such pressure arise, the factory will lose its customers, the
workers will lose their jobs and Ukraine will be poorer. This is a
case where Ukraine needs the jobs and the consequences of corrupt
interference are such that it is in everyone’s interest to deal with
corrupt individuals in no uncertain terms. I am optimistic that
agreement with respect to the first factory will soon be achieved.
Beyond that, my father was born in Malyj Bereznyj which is now in
Ukraine. I have a soft spot and would like to do something to help
those very poor people of the neglected region known as the
Transcarpathian Region of Ukraine.