Ukrainian-Canadians celebrate 125 years
Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A few months ago, Manitoba proclaimed an important historical event for the year 2016: the 125th anniversary of the arrival of the first Ukrainians to Canada, and in particular, to Manitoba.

For Ukrainian-Canadians, it is an honour to be recognized by the government and acknowledged as one of the ethno-cultural leaders in our country.

No-one leaves their country unless inspired by some selfless ideal, or compelled by imperative political or economic reasons. It was in early September 1891 that Ukrainian settlers came to Canada from western Ukraine.

This first wave of Ukrainians left their homeland and settled in an wilderness unknown to them, to endure all the trials of a tough pioneering venture in order to establish a new homestead and a new life.

This first group established numerous new communities that formed a long and almost continuous belt, commencing in the southeastern corner of Manitoba and scattering diagonally across the three Prairie provinces northwest to the Peace River area in northern Alberta.

These first Ukrainian settlers were of peasant stock or farmers who arrived with a few personal belongings and limited financial means.

Many were illiterate with inadequate knowledge of the English language, but they were determined to create a new life in Canada. Their gradual success they owed to their zest for life, love of freedom and a belief they would have a better life in this new land.

Manitoba played a significant role in Ukrainians’ settlement in Canada.

From 1891 to 1914, our province was the first stopping place for these dispersed immigrants.

They were instrumental in developing homesteads in the southeast, the Interlake and the Riding Mountain area of Dauphin.

Through hard work, this first wave of Ukrainians transformed much of Manitoba’s wilderness into productive farm fields, carved out roads, built railways, developed commercial enterprises, established cultural educational centres and enhanced the political life of the province. These pioneers brought with them the qualities required for the making of a new nation: a sense of daring, dedication, self-discipline, imagination, optimism and a healthy spirit.

Over the past 125 years, many instrumental key values have meshed into Canada’s life and culture.

Ukrainians have played a significant role in advancing a multicultural concept for Canada by maintaining the dignity of the individual.

There have been four waves of Ukrainian immigration to Canada, the most recent beginning in 1991. Every group came from a different region of Ukraine and settled in a different area of Canada. Each group had its own distinctive experiences and desires, and each wave had something special to offer to Canada.

Ukrainians came to Canada to find freedom from oppression and with the lure of a brighter future. They abandoned their families, friends and native soil for the perilous voyage abroad.

The first Ukrainian settlers of 1891 had faith in Canada; they set the framework for future Ukrainian immigration and a journey for other streams of immigrants who have contributed to our great country in many ways.

Those first Ukrainians came to this land dedicated, self-disciplined and with tremendous stamina and unbelievable courage to start a new life.

As always, Canada has been in a position of accepting many cultures, displaying a long history of caring for all Canadians.

That warm welcome is evident to this present day.

As Ukrainian-Canadians celebrate 125 years of their first settlement in Canada, we salute the many accomplishments and contributions made by Ukrainians to Canada.

The dedication and self-discipline of those first settlers should serve as a living example and an inspiration not only to their descendants, but to every Canadian who loves this beautiful and rich country of opportunity and peace.

Despite the many rapid changes Canada is now undergoing, Canadians should be courageous to follow the footsteps of their descendants and help Canada become a model for the world to show that we accept and adapt diverse cultures into our society.

Peter J. Manastyrsky is an active member of the Ukrainian community in Winnipeg.

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Source: Winnipeg Free Press / Peter J. Manastyrsky