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The Journey

Ukrainians who settled in east central Alberta were brought by train to Strathcona, the most important colonization centre in Western Canada next to Winnipeg. From Strathcona the journey to the homestead was rarely direct. Many of the immigrants had to wait for some time before they were settled. Women and children were usually left in the Immigration Building in Strathcona or at the home of an established farmer, while the men went out to find a suitable homestead. The men travelled alone, in groups or with an immigration agent.

Illiterate peasants who knew no English were confronted with many technical difficulties in selecting a homestead. "It was essential to know which lands belonged the Crown, which to the HBC, which to the railways and which lands were designated as homesteads. Of those lands for settlement, an immigrant needed to be told which had already been claimed, and which were still vacant." Eventually certain local farmers, English-speaking and Ukrainians, acquired a reputation for being able to "read" the marks on the survey posts. They were approached by disoriented newcomers and helped the latter to find vacant land.

When a homestead had been selected, the rest of the family followed. Immigrants walked, floated down the North Saskatchewan River on rafts, or travelled by ox- or horse-drawn wagon. The last mode of transportation was the most popular. If a wagon was not provided by friends or relatives on could be hired from a private entrepreneur or the government.

From Martynowych, Orest T. The Ukrainian Bloc Settlement in East Central Alberta, 1890-1930: A History. Occasional Paper No. 10, 1985 (1990).

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            For more on the history of settlement in Alberta, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.