Location: Programs / Historical society
Historical Society

Inaugural conference connects participants with intriguing past, with each other

Karen Pidskalny, SUHS Project Coordinator

On Saturday May 8, 2004, the Saskatchewan Ukrainian Historical Society hosted its founding conference, “In Baba’s Trunk.” The day was filled with stories, discoveries, learning, a few laughs and a lot of visiting.

Upon arrival, participants were treated to a display of Baba’s Trunk, which was filled with blouses, korali, photographs, liturgy books, and a kylym. An array of antiques -- one of them being a plough -- also surrounded the trunk.

In addition to the four informative presentations, the conference offered participants much to see and do. Books on community, organizational, early settler and family history were available to browse as were maps of Ukraine showing its changing borders. Saskatchewan and RM maps were also on display. Everyone was invited to mark the village where their family came from on a present-day map of Ukraine. One could grab a coffee and visit in the Genealogy Corner to view the displays and peruse the vast amount of information.

The day began with a small bag of wheat. These seeds represented the beginning of the Saskatchewan Ukrainian Historical Society. By the end of the day the small bag of wheat became a larger bag of wheat. Participants were invited to take some wheat home with them and share in the future of the historical society.

Dr. Alan Anderson
The first session "It Started With A Plough" was presented by Dr. Alan Anderson, Department of Sociology, University of Saskatchewan. He pointed out regions in Ukraine from where immigrants came -- mostly from Galicia, Bukovyna and Ruthenia -- and where they settled in Saskatchewan.

“The majority of Ukrainian immigrants settled in well-defined bloc settlements,” Dr. Anderson said.

“Not only individuals, but entire extended families and villages emigrated. This was a classic case of what sociologists have called ‘chain migration,’ where several come from a particular area and write home and then this sort of starts a snowball technique.

“They came from very, very specific communities to an incredible extent,” he said.

Dr. Anderson pointed out that possibly the earliest Ukrainian settlement in Saskatchewan was the area between Montmartre and Candiac, which, according to local historians, was settled by immigrants from Galicia prior to 1895. This predates the Ukrainian colony founded in Grenfeld in 1896.

He mentioned the many village names from Ukraine that were transplanted into our churches and schools.

Following brief comments on Ukrainian identity and origin of settlers, Dr. Anderson shared a wonderful story of an early settler family and the struggle they encountered getting to their homestead with their trunk.

Andrij Makuch
“Organizations, Committees and Memberships, Oh My!” presented by Andrij Makuch, CIUS, Toronto, followed next. Makuch discussed how the building of the community hall focused on the beginnings of the social, cultural and political movement of Ukrainians in Canada. He mentioned the numerous newspaper publications and their associations. Within a few years of their arrival in Canada, Ukrainians had many of their own publications.

“The interwar period was the most extensive in terms of Ukrainian organizational activity in Canada, both in terms of numbers and activity, notwithstanding the fact that the Depression really affected a lot of these groups in a serious way,” said Makuch.

Bill Barry
Saskatchewan author, Bill Barry then shared some stories from his book Ukrainian People Places, suggesting that the SUHS could play a role in historical accuracy.

“I know that a lot of the places mentioned in the book, school names, for example, where there are several possible places in Ukraine that it could have come from.”

He said that SUHS might help “trace the origins of the people who actually lived in that school district.”

Barry is presently working on a new project in which he is researching information on war veterans. He mentioned several names of Ukrainian origin, which led to discussion on how this topic is not given much consideration in our schools or by the greater Canadian population.

Michelle & Cliff Rusk, Bohdan Bayda and Bev Guttenberg
The final session was “Your Family Tree”. Michelle & Cliff Rusk and Bev Guttenberg of the Saskatoon Branch of the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society (SGS) as well as Bohdan Bayda, local family historian, gave an introduction on how to begin the family research process.

They shared their stories of victories and hurdles encountered while researching their family history. Among the resources relied upon were family members, archives, the SGS library, the Family History Centre, as well as the Internet. This session generated a huge interest and much discussion.

It was a great way to spend the day with old friends, new friends and some long lost relatives discovered throughout the day.

UCC National Executive Director Ostap Skrypnyk, who began the concept of the historical society, with SUHS Project Coordinator Karen Pidskalny
Participants Mike Sopotyk and Leon Mazurkewich had not seen each other in years -- Mike’s godfather was Leon’s father. Participant Mary (Bayda) Muranetz also experienced a pleasant surprise: Leon’s mother was her grade one (early elementary) teacher. Meeting for the first time at the conference, participants Mary Ann Walker and Bohdan Bayda discovered that they were related.

The day ended with identifying the objectives and goals of the Saskatchewan Ukrainian Historical Society. The participants came up with possible Centennial projects and activities that SUHS members could do. The speakers and participants at “In Baba’s Trunk” shared their interest in Saskatchewan’s Ukrainian history.

Note: Saskatchewan Vital Statistics has announced that effective July 1, 2004, genealogical photocopies will increase from $25 to $50. -- Lisa Warren, Executive Assistant Saskatchewan Genealogical Society