One of the first Ukrainian settlers to make Canada his home, Wasyl Eleniak was born on 22 December 1859 at Nebyliv, district Kalush in Western Ukraine. He had heard tales of Canada from some of the German colonists who had relatives in Canada, a land, it was reported, "where the settlers received 160 acres of land for nothing."
Determined to make a better life in Canada, in 1891, he left with a fellow villager, Ivan Pylypow, and proceeded to Hamburg, Germany, where the two young men boarded a ship and sailed to Canada. Prior to settling on their own homesteads, the two new Ukrainian settlers went to work on Mennonite community farms in Gretna, Manitoba. After two years, Wasyl Eleniak had saved enough money to afford a return trip to Nebyliv, where he intended to gather his family and a few friends and bring them back to Canada with him. He obtained a regular passport from the district office in Kalush (dated 26 February 1894) and together with six other Nebyliv families proceeded to Hamburg. He found himself short of money to pay the passage for all members of the family and was forced to return to Nebyliv to work for another month driving rafts on the Limnytsia river. Once he had saved enough money for his passage he left again for Hamburg, where he boarded the S.S. MONGOLIAN which arrived at Quebec on 25 June 1894.
Eventually Eleniak settled on a homestead within the Edna-Star district in 1898 (Chipman, Alberta). There, his family prospered. He became a successful farmer, raised a large family and on January 3rd, 1947 was chosen by the Canadian Government to be one of the honorary recipients of Canadian Citizenship Certificate during the First Citizenship Ceremony held at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa. The Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King, was the first recipient.
Wasyl Eleniak died in Edmonton, 12 January 1956 at 97 years of age and was survived by three sons, four daughters, 51 grandchildren, 62 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. Wasyl Eleniak was buried in Chipman, Alta. The Eleniak family remains a large part of the Chipman area, where many still farm and have raised families themselves. A rural road just outside of Chipman has since been named in his honour.