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The Heritage Trails are presented courtesy of CKUA Radio Network and Cheryl Croucher

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Ukrainian Settlement, Part One

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The first wave of Ukrainian immigration to Canada began with two farmers searching for a better life. Ivan Pylypow and Wasyl Eleniak came from a part of Ukraine know as Galicia-Bukovyna, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time.

As historian Radomir Bilash explains, the future looked bleak for these peasant farmers.

It was getting harder and harder in the 1890s to eke out a living. By the end of the 1890s, in sectors of Bukovyna the inflation rate was already double-digited yearly. So the people were looking for an out.

Pylypow and Eleniak often heard from their old neighbors from the German colonies in Western Ukraine who had recently emigrated to Canada.

Some of them moved to what became Stony Plain, Alberta, and would send letters back once in a while saying, "You know, life here is just so good. You can't believe; it's such a contrast to what we left behind. You should really come out and you should really consider perhaps emigrating here as well."

So, in 1891, Pylypow and Eleniak left their village and travelled to Canada.

By this time, their old German neighbors had moved from Stony Plain to Bruderheim. Pylypow and Eleniak immediately realized the promise of this vast land.

And they wrote back and they said, "We're coming back and we're selling everything that we have. This is Heaven compared to what we have, we've got to go."

And Ivan Pylypow even took out a homestead before he left, alongside his neighbors. He had a school friend or some acquaintance - we're not quite sure - called Jan Krebs.

Back in the Ukraine, Pylypow encouraged his fellow villagers to follow him back to Alberta. And, as historian Radomir Bilash points out, Pylypow was even quoted in the local newspaper.

This was a mistake. He was taken to court. He was charged with trying to encourage people to emigrate, which was, however it was worded, against the law, and he was imprisoned for six months.

But Ivan had filled the villagers with such wonderful visions of promise they couldn't wait. They left for Bruderheim, Alberta, without him.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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