Inaugural conference connects participants with intriguing past,
with each other
Karen Pidskalny, SUHS Project Coordinator
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.
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.
Dr. Alan Anderson
“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
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
“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.
author, Bill Barry then shared some stories from his book Ukrainian
People Places, suggesting that the SUHS could play a role in historical
“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.
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.
Michelle & Cliff Rusk, Bohdan Bayda and Bev Guttenberg
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.
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.
UCC National Executive Director Ostap Skrypnyk, who began the concept of the historical society, with SUHS Project Coordinator Karen Pidskalny
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