I know many of you tirelessly work at collecting family histories. Dusting off the past with hopes of unraveling their stories. What we’re able to learn, is so often found in a stale vault, library or archive. That’s why the “Ukrainian Pioneer Centenary Recognition Program” is so unique.
My journey to the past has revealed that my Great Grandparents Nikolia & Waselina (Nick & Elena) settled in Alberta back in 1900. (Then, The Dominion Lands of Canada as Alberta only became a province on September 1, 1905). They arrived in the spring of 1899 in Halifax via a ship boarded in Hamburg, Germany. Their long journey began in Bukovina, then a part of the Austrian Empire. I’d be keen to know how they got to Hamburg. Did they walk? Was there a train? Those details seem lost to history.
Like so many Ukrainian immigrants, they came for the promise of free land. A plan set in motion by the railroad, to occupy the vast, unsettle west. It was a five-year process. A homesteader had to give proof of consistent residency on the land and show a specific number of acres where being worked. Without farm equipment, this was all done by hand, manual labour. Here’s my Great Grandfather’s Title to the land, granted by the Alberta Government in 1906, what a proud day that must have been.
They came with very few tools, no money and didn’t know english. How daunting would that be? In most cases these new comers had no house to call home. Yet they were not deterred. Three generations later I’m here to acknowledge their perseverance. Sadly, I haven’t any photo’s of them to share, but their son John, my grandfather, also continued to raise his family in the same area. Here they are on the farm in the Mid 40’s
My dad George is far left, Grandpa John is centre.
My Dad’s Brother John stands far right and his mom Anne (my Grandma) is on his left.
My Dad George with brothers John and Metro
The traditions they fostered in their own families continue to be a strong influence for many of us today. With that, multi-generations gathered at the Ukrainian Cultural Village in August to accept a Pioneer Certificate, re-kindle family relations and enjoy traditional music, dance and of course some delicious food. It’s also a chance to show gratitude and be thankful for their sacrifices.
Please join me tommorrow, for a tour of the Ukrainian Cultural Village. A unique glimpse into the past, where my family’s story began.