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vinceb

Vegreville

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vinceb

Vegreville is the historical centre of Ukrainians in Alberta and while in Edmonton, my wife and I took a day to tour to Vegreville and visit the Ukrainian Heritage village. I have since then been reading up on Ukrainian immigration to Canada and would like to share some of that knowledge.

People of partial or complete Ukrainian descent in Canada form about 1.2 million out of the total population of Canada, a small number but they have made a lasting impression upon this country with their dance groups, onion shaped church domes, choirs and native food such as borscht, perogies etc. All in all they have produced more than 150 newspapers and periodicals, and they have a forceful Ukrainian Canadian congress which has enabled emigration from the Ukraine to Canada at critical periods such as after WW II. It is even more impressive when I mention that in total only about 170,000 Ukraininians immigrated from the Ukraine to Canada and who for the most part were poor and illiterate farmers who formed the first wave of immigration.

I see several people on a daily basis with a surname which ends in "chuk", like Sawchuk or Boychuk etc. They have produced community and political figures in Canada which include at least one Lieutenant Governor such as Filmon, Premiers such as Roy Romanov of Saskatchewan and even the present provincial premier of Alberta (Ed Stelmach) is of Ukrainian descent. Every Canadian hockey lover knows the name of Terry Sawchuk, the famous Canadian goalie who used to play without a mask in those days - ouch! Certainly in Alberta there are many people in the professions now with Slavic last names.

The first immigration wave were poor farmers from Galicia and Bukovina, who were hoping for a better life elsewhere, and an end to repression in their home countries. Galicia and Bukovina were settled by Slavic people and initially formed part of the old Cossack empire (latter day Ukraine) which were successively dominated and conquered by the Ottoman Turks, Poland, the Austro-Hungarian empire and after the second world war, divided up between Poland which took over Galicia and Russia which took Bukovina. Cracow - the birth city of the previous Catholic pope is in Galicia. The first wave of immigrants came over in the period of approximately 1896 to 1914 and settled in communities in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. They tended to congregate together in communities since very few could speak english and it was a means to survival since they could at least rely on the support of their fellow Ukrainians. Very often they only had enough money to pay for their passage and the transport of their few valuables, and $10 for their land and the menfolk had to go out and find work as manual labourers to support their families for the first few years.

However eventually they managed to set up farm and were progressing reasonably well when the first world war erupted and what happened now seems like a travesty of justice - with the outbreak of World War I, the War Measures Act (1914) was implemented by the Canadian Government. This resulted in the internment of 8,579 "enemy aliens" of which over 5,000 were Ukrainians who had emigrated to Canada from territories under the control of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It also meant an additional 80,000 individuals (of which the vast majority were Ukrainians) were obliged to register as "enemy aliens" and then required to report to local authorities on a regular basis.

These internees were used to develop Canadian infrastructure as "forced-labourers". They were used to develop Banff National Park, the logging industry in Northern Ontario & Quebec, the steel mills in Ontario & Nova Scotia, and in the mines in British Columbia, Ontario & Nova Scotia. This infrastructure development program benefited Canadian corporations to such a degree that the internment was carried on for two years after the end of World War I. There are reports that and I quote "As many of those interned were residents of Canada and possessed real estate, securities, etc., such have been turned over to the 'Custodian of Enemy Alien Properties' for the future decision of the Government"

Notwithstanding these setbacks, the Ukranianian communities slowly but surely prospered and kept their culture and language alive and today there are Faculties in Ukrainian studies at universities in Manitoba, Alberta and Sakatchewan and their descendants have formed an important part of the Canadian landscape.

Here are a few pictures of the Ukrainian Heritage village close to Vegreville:

vegre04.jpgvegre24.jpg

vegre02.jpgVegre01.jpg

vegre06.jpgvegre39.jpg

vegre23.jpgvegre18.jpg

and the famous pysanka in Vegreville and sausage in ? Munster

vegre40.jpgvegre27.jpg

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Dedré

Vinceb,

I think this is an amazing story to tell. I've aimed to keep teaching my children about their SAcan heritage (not taking away that they will be Canadian too). I want them to speak Afrikaans, English and French. I want them to feel proud about whom they are and can become. I want them to keep their roots for generations to come.

This story gives me hope that that hope and dream is actually possible. Thank you for taking the time to make this post.

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dieulefit

Vinceb - thanks for the information and pictures therewith. Very interesting indeed! I got to know and work with Ukrainians in my previous job and have some Ukrainian friends as well - they are very hardworking folk and extremely bright and I have never seen woman, from one ethnic group, wearing such expensive fur coats in winter - the men too! It is part of their culture, I guess. Our Ukrainian friends are all medical specialists and or very successful business men and or lawyers. They've build beautiful Churches - even here in Toronto and are regular Church goers. I think their tough background, coming to make a new life here in Canada and in particular in the Prairies, has paid off in the blessing that their children and their children are still working hard. If only more ethnic groups had this in their bone marrow :ilikeit: .

I might add to this - talking to our friends about the Ukraine of today and folk coming from there now... it is just not the same. That country became so depressed and so did it's people that they feel totally distanced from anyone coming from there to Canada today. Interesting, and what does it say to us about where we are coming from... is it not the cream going first perhaps? I hear how our families start to talk in South Africa - it is as if they have just given it all over and they accept the ways of how things deteriorate - it does not bother them the least. They still live in their palaces, behind high walls and drive their Merc's and BMW's and Volvo's and have their fleet of help in and around their homes, continue to spoil their kids rotten, but when you start to actually have a conversation about what's going on behind those high walls, (the reality in YOUR eyes) that is stinking and telling a story to you who is visiting - they simply do not see it... .

Who are we going to see arrive here 10-15 years from now and are we going to have much in common?

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Heinrich

Thanks "vinceb" for this very enlightening story. You really went into a lot of detail that many of of might not even have known if you hadn't posted it here.

In our area in and around Carberry (MB), we also have numerous Ukrainians. They certainly are hardworking. Further north, there is a little town called Sandy Lake (south east of Clear Lake) with two Ukrainian churches with the distinct design. They are a block away from one another and the one is the "Ukrainian Catholic Church", while the other is the "Ukrainian Orthodox Church". This just shows how much diversity there is within their own unity.

Dieulefit, it makes one shudder to think what might really happen in 10-15 years with our beloveds in South Africa. The story elsewhere on this forum about Eskom's technicians in training is just one example that comes to mind.

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Ingrid Brunkhorst Hurrell

Very interesting post, thank you Vince. :D

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Dax

A great article Vince! I have learnt something new today!

Thanks,

Dax

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Dax
Dieulefit, it makes one shudder to think what might really happen in 10-15 years with our beloveds in South Africa. The story elsewhere on this forum about Eskom's technicians in training is just one example that comes to mind.

Heinrich, Dieulefit,

I totally agree. Especially on the saastralia forum one sees a definite upward spike of people heading for, or contemplating to head for Australia.

Also, people who actually have "missed the boat" to Aus due to the age restriction, are investigating other means of making the move nevertheless.

Example; to come to Aus as an ordinary teacher, you still have to be younger than 45 years, but if you can land a position as a school principal, then the age restriction does not apply.

Cheers,

Dax

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Harry

...and five days into our road trip from Vancouver, I now find myself sitting in Vegreville, reading Vince's thread to figure out what to do tomorrow. We were forced to miss the Ukranian Heritage Village some 30 miles west of town, heading east. Now I have to make another plan to get a grip on some local "Ukranian Colour".

We'll go see the Pysanka tomorrow morning on the way out of town... and I'll definitely be taking pictures of churches...but that hardly makes up the entire Ukranian experience!

---------------------

As for Dieulefit's comment.....yes! When the Polish situation blew up some decades ago, the first wave of engineering people we got was definitely the best. The later ones were not that good.

I don't know whether that means that folks who prefer to stay in SA are of lesser capability...some may just not have the means or opportunity. However, there certainly is:

a] a distinct "braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies and Chevrolet"-collection who will die in denial and

b] a cadre of person who revels in the reduction of standards and norms

...the one denies the mess and the other relishes it....unfortunately they unwittingly make great symbiotic bedfellows.

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Heinrich

Hi Harry, if you are that far away from home, at least about 1800 km, how far "east" are you planning your trip? Safe travels!

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Harry

Heinrich,

sorry for only now getting online again.

We turned at Castle Butte in Southeast Saskatchewan having followed Canadian history via the Yellowhead Highway and the bits north of it....such as Batoche.

Right now we're in Calgary on our way back. We hope to reach home on Tuesday 28-8-2007. I'll say more elsewhere, as I do not wish to hijack this thread.

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Bob Fitzsimmons

That was a GREAT piece on the Ukranians, and the Village. When you speak to the "locals" in the Village they all have an accent.

If you have young children be sure to visit the school. The teacher is a "demon" from way-back-when. I'm no kid and he made me sit up straight, sit down, and shut up. I wasn't sure if he would smack me or not with his stick. I said "yes sir", "no sir", "thank you sir", just like I was 12 years old. It was great fun.

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