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THE FULLNESS OF TIME: Ukrainian Stories from Alberta
Immigration History

The Fullness of Time is the story of Alexander Szpak and the first Ukrainian immigrants who came to north-eastern Alberta at the turn of the century. Alexander and his wife Anna emigrated from Western Ukraine, from a town called Sniatyn in July of 1900. They crossed the ocean on a ship called the Assyria. With them they brought three children, Vasilynai, Sophia and Vasily.

Isolated individuals of Ukrainian heritage may have come to Canada during the War of 1812 as mercenaries, during the Russian colonization of the West Coast or with Mennonite and other German immigrants of the 1870s. The Szpaks, however, were part of the first major wave of Ukrainian immigration to western Canada that began in 1892 and lasted until the First World War. This movement of immigrants brought 170,000 Ukrainian peasants to Canada, primarily from Galicia and Bukovina. The numbers of immigrants grew after 1896, in particular, when Canada began soliciting agricultural settlers from eastern Europe(1).

By 1914, the prairie provinces were dotted with several rural Ukrainian communities. Many of these immigrants put down roots in a rural block settlement called Star-Edna, some thirty miles north-east of Edmonton. It extended for seventy miles beyond that and grew from the original colony in Alberta through the Rosthern and Yorkton districts of Saskatchewan to the Dauphin, Interlake and Stuartburn regions of Manitoba(2).

While most of these early Ukrainian immigrants chose to homestead, some became wage-workers in natural resource industries in places like the Crow's Nest Pass, northern Ontario and Cape Breton. Around the turn of the century, immigrants and migrants from the rural block settlements began to develop Ukrainian urban communities in selected Canadian towns and cities such as Winnipeg, Edmonton and Saskatoon(3).

Between the two world wars some 70,000 Ukrainians immigrated to Canada for political and economic reasons. They included war veterans, intellectuals and professionals as well as peasants. Between 1947 and 1954, many Ukrainians were displaced by World War II and some 34,000 arrived in Canada. While the prairie provinces absorbed the bulk of the first two immigrations, the displaced Ukrainians settled mainly in Ontario. From the mid1950s through to the 1960s, fewer Ukrainians immigrated to Canada annually. In the 1970s and 1980s, however, renewed emigration from Poland and the Soviet.Union saw perhaps 10,000 ethnic Ukrainians and Soviet Ukrainian Jews come to Canada. Since 1991 independent Ukraine has contributed a modest but growing number of immigrants(4).

Endnotes:
1,2,3,4 - The 1998 Canadian & World Encyclopedia
(McClelland & Stewart, Toronto, 1998).

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