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Bloc Settlement

Pioneer Ukrainian home in Vegreville area, Alberta. c. 1909.Between 1892 and 1894 the oldest Ukrainian settlement in Canada was founded at Edna (later renamed Star), Alberta, by a handful of families from the village of Nebyliw in what was then the Austrian province of Galicia. Today this region is known as the Ukrainian bloc settlement in east central Alberta but, it is important to point out that it was not initially populated by settlers from Eastern Europe. In many districts other nationalities had preceded the Ukrainian immigrants years before the arrival of the Ukrainians.  Among these earlier groups were the First Nations people of the region whose ancestral hunting grounds were located in that area for centuries prior to the arrival of any European settlement group, Scandinavians at Skaro, English at Waskateneau, Germans at Chipman and a group of Francophones at Vegreville. However, after 30 years of Ukrainian immigration to the area, the region became identifiable as a Ukrainian bloc within which had emerged a uniquely Ukrainian culture, sense of community and way of life.

The Ukrainian pioneers who came to east central Alberta were primarily from Galicia and Bukovyna in Western Ukraine. In the 1890s much of this territory was located within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and was one of the most economically volatile regions of the Empire. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, living conditions in the region were extremely harsh, particularly due to the fact that many of the farms throughout those regions were too small to sustain the families of those who worked them. As a result, overpopulation, shortage of work, and the constant threat of poverty drove people out of their ancestral homelands and across the globe in search of a better life. Between 1892 and 1930, Ukrainian immigrants would establish other bloc settlements in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. None was larger, however, than the Ukrainian settlement in east central Alberta. By the 1920s, it covered more than 8,000 square kilometres between the towns of Fort Saskatchewan and Vermilion. By 1930, a quarter of a million people from Western Ukraine had immigrated to Canada.

For more information on Ukrainian settlement in Alberta, check out the following websites:

Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village Guided Tour: The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is an open-air museum that was built to resemble pioneer settlements in east central Alberta. The virtual guide to the site has a selection of maps, interviews, music, photographs, dictionaries, bibliographies and descriptions that will teach you more about the history and lifestyles of Alberta's early settlers. You can access the site at: http://collections.ic.gc.ca/ukrainian.

Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies: The Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) at the University of Alberta is a leading centre of Ukrainian studies outside Ukraine. The Institute was founded in 1976, following joint efforts by Ukrainian community leaders and academics, to provide an institutional home for Ukrainian scholarship in Canada. CIUS is dedicated to the development of Ukrainian studies in Canada. Visit the CIUS site to find out more about current research and scholarship in Ukrainian and Ukrainian Canadian studies, upcoming conferences and lectures, recent publications, and research grants available to scholars!  You can access the site at http://www.ualberta.ca/~cius/.



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