Traveller, physical fitness enthusiast, and freelance writer living in the beautiful country of Canada.
Published February 11th 2013
Beyond the Perogie: Ukrainian Canadians on the Prairies
Perogies, borscht, intricately designed Easter eggs are some of the things that come to mind when talking about Ukrainians. The migration of Ukrainians to Canada, particularly the prairie region, is an important part of the history of Canada. During 1891-1914, over 170,000 Ukrainians immigrated to Canada. Many of the immigrants were from the western Ukraine, which formed part of the Austro-Hungarian lands of Galicia and Bukowina. Those departing for Canada were attracted by the promise of free land and homesteads of 160 acres. In Saskatchewan, the first settlements were established in Montmartre-Candiac in 1895-96 and around Yorkton in 1897. By the time of the outbreak of the First World War, the number of Ukrainian settlers in Saskatchewan numbered well over 22,000 people. The outbreak of the First World War halted much of the immigration to Canada and ushered in a sad era for Ukrainians in Canada.
Photo mural of early settlers on the wall of the Ukrainian Museum of Canada in Saskatoon. Photo credit: Lisa Gulak
During the First World War and for two years following the end of the war, Ukrainian Canadians were held in internment camps as "enemy aliens". Internment was performed under the terms of the War Measures Act. Approximately 4,000 men, women and children of lands from the Austro-Hungarian Empire were held in 24 internment camps across Canada. Another 80,000 were classified as "enemy aliens" and obligated to regularly report to police. In 1916, some were released from the camps to assist with the labour shortage caused by the war. Those who were interred in the camps had whatever small wealth they owned confiscated and were submitted to forced labour in the camps. Conditions at the camps varied and Castle Mountain Internment Camp was considered particularly harsh. Labour from the Castle Mountain Internment Camp contributed to the creation of Banff National Park, now considered one of Canada's most beautiful and visited wilderness areas. By 1917, many were paroled into jobs with private companies. A few were deported following the closure of the camps. Today, there are around 20 plaques and memorials across the country commemorating the internment, including one in Banff.
Those interested in further exploring the history of Ukrainians in Canada can visit the Ukrainian Museum of Canada. The museum was founded in 1936 to share with the public artifacts that represent the contribution of Ukrainians to Canada. The museum in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was the first Ukrainian museum. Currently, there are four other branches in Canada - Ontario and Alberta branches established in 1944, Manitoba in 1950, and British Columbia in 1957. An associated collection was established in Calgary in the 1970s.
Many of the interesting displays include embroidery, weaving, clothing, religious icons, Easter eggs and breads. There are also displays about the challenges of immigration and life as a settler. The museum also houses a gift shop with jewellery, clothing, books, craft supplies and more. The museum is a delightful way to learn some history and examine beautiful crafts and artifacts.