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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Romanian Immigration

William Yurko

William Yurko was born in Hairy Hill, Alberta, in 1926, the son of Romanian immigrants. During World War II he served two years in the Air Force. After the war he completed university and began work as an engineer, holding positions with organizations such as the Atomic Energy Canada and General Electric. Some of these positions took him outside of Alberta, but he returned in 1967. Two years later he was elected to the Alberta Legislature as the member for Edmonton Goldbar.

In 1971 he was re-elected, and Progressive Conservative Premier Peter Lougheed appointed him as Minister of Environment, the first time such a department existed in Canada. He remained a cabinet minister until 1978 when he resigned to run for federal office. In 1979 he was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Edmonton East. He held his seat until the 1984 election when he ran as an independent and lost. The following year he was made a Member of the Senate and Board of Governors, University of Alberta.

Yurko has been involved with the Romanian community for many years and today is the Honorary President of the Canadian Romanian Society of Alberta.

George Mihalcheon

George Mihalcheon was born in 1893 in Boian, Bukovina, in what is present-day Romania. In 1901 he moved with his father to Hairy Hill, Alberta. In 1918, Mihalcheon became a teacher in the Boian school. While there he met and married Mary Lutzak, who was Ukranian. Marriages between the two communities were common at the time. Mihalcheon continued to teach until 1926 when he resigned to run as the United Farmers of Alberta (UFA) candidate for the riding of Whitford. Although the riding was predominantly Ukrainian, Mihalcheon’s ability to speak English, Romanian, and Ukrainian helped him win the election. In doing so he became the first MLA of Romanian origin in Alberta. However, when the next election came in 1930, he was asked to not to run again. Members of the UFA constituency feared that Mihalcheon’s Romanian origin would cause him to lose the election if the Liberal party fielded a Ukrainian candidate.

Mihalcheon stepped down and started to farm and run a store in Hairy Hill.


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