A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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EPISODE 38: Kaposvar: The Faith of Lajos Nagy
Directed by Stephen Onda

SYNOPSIS

Director Stephen Onda in his film, Kaposvar - the Faith of Lajos Nagy, explores his own Hungarian heritage by following the life of one of the first Hungarian pioneers in Canada's West, Lajos Nagy. Lajos, like many of the early Hungarian pioneers, was attracted to Canada by the picture painted by a Canadian Immigration Agent, Paul Oscar Esterhazy.

His description of the Canadian West as a "Garden of Eden" neglected to mention the hardships, brutal cold, isolation, and the clearing of the land., and life was brutal for them. They did, however, leave one lasting symbol of their pioneer labours Using the field stones from their farms, the Hungarian pioneers, including Nagy, built a Catholic Cathedral, which became both a place of worship and a gathering point for the community.

Onda uses the wonderful Cathedral of Kaposvar, Lajos Nagy and the annual Hungarian Festival held at the Cathedral, as a template to tell the story of the hardship of these early Hungarian pioneers, ancestors of many of the people we meet through the film, who still attend this annual Hungarian Festival at Kaposvar.

KEY IDEAS

  • Struggle of the early pioneers on Canada' prairies
  • The role of the Canadian Immigration Agents in attracting immigrants
  • The terrible toll of the Great Depression on the prairie farmers
  • The importance of the Catholic faith to these early pioneers

KEY TERMS

  • Esterhazy
  • Community
  • Sod hut
  • Faith

OBJECTIVES

  • To explore the experiences of the first Hungarians who came to Canada;
  • To investigate how Canada attracted these immigrants to the West;
  • To explore the lasting impact of these pioneers;
  • To learn about how these early pioneers had to depend upon each other to survive the brutal Canadian winter.

ACTIVITIES

  1. Many of the early pioneers lived in sod huts. Construct a model of one, and write a letter home to your family left in Hungary, describing what it is like living in it during the harsh prarie winters.

  2. Imagine that you are a Hungarian pioneer in the 1880's. Keep a diary detailing some of your experiences and hardships coming to Canada, and how you felt when you realized this was not the "Garden of Eden here. Describe some of the traditions you were bringing with you from Hungary, and which of these turned out to be particularly hard to hold on to in a new country.

  3. The pioneers had to travel the last 25 miles to Esterhazy by oxen and cart. This came to be known as the "Red River Cart." Create a model of the Red River Cart, and describe why it was such an effective method of travel?

  4. Many of the early pioneers came to Canada on the promise of Land Grants. In return for these land grants, the pioneers had to clear the land and start their lives anew. Pretend you are a Hungarian family in the late 1800s who has heard about the land grants in Canada, and have your family members debate the merits and down sides of moving to a new country to start life all over.

  5. Today, Esterhazy remains a farming community, as well as being home to North America's largest potash mine. What are some of the natural resources which your town or village was built around, and describe how it has affected your local history.

  6. Some "immigrant agents" are still fooling and cheating would-be immigrants today. Do some research through newspaper clippings about some of the recent immigration scams in Canada.

  7. Make contact with a major church, synagogue or mosque in your community, and research its history, including who the people who built it, where they came from, what kind of beliefs they had and how they raised the money to build it. If the building has been there a long time, find out if the social make-up and local community around it has changed over the years, and whether or not this is causing any problems to its survival.

  8. Investigate whether people in your community are trying to raise funds and/or labour to build a new community centre, church, seniors' home, etc. If so, find out what you can do to help them achieve their goal.