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Ukrainian FamilyFor the most part, the western prairies remained relatively empty until around 1896.  Between 1874 and 1896 an average of only 3000 homestead entries were made yearly and very many of these were cancelled shortly thereafter. Although the Canadian Pacific Raily, the first transcontinental line, had been completed in 1885, fear of grasshopper infestations, global economic depression, lacklustre promotion and the fact that the railroads had yet to select the lands to which they were entitled, all combined to reduce levels of immigration to the region.  During the 1880s a few individual Ukrainian peasants had arrived in the west but, for the most part, large-scale Ukrainian emigration from Galicia and Bukovyna to Canada began in 1896 and did not assume mass proportions prior to 1898.  Upon arrival in Canada, most Ukrainian immigrants did not settle on the open prairie lands which stretched across  the southern half of the Prairie provinces.  Instead they chose to settle on lands in the "park belt" and forest areas further north. The oldest and largest Ukrainian settlement on the Prairies is located in east central Alberta, and straddles the frontier between the "park belt" and the forest region.  Prior to World War I approximately 170, 000 Ukrainians had made their way to Canada, most of which settled in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. By 1916, the bloc settlement in Alberta covered a region of approximately 2500 square miles.

For the most part many Ukrainians who settled in east central Alberta traveled across Andrew Shandro Canada by train to Strathcona, which was, at that time, one of the largest colonization centres in Western Canada, second only 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 tended to travel alone, or in groups accompanied by an immigration agent.

Selecting a suitable homestead was a difficult process for many new Ukrainian immigrants as, quite often they were illiterate peasants who knew no English. For all new homesteaders it was imperative that they understand which homesteads had already been claimed, and which were available. When a homestead had been selected, and the fund secured for transport, the rest of the family followed. 

When compared to settlers from Ontario and the United States, many of whom acquired Ukrainian Women additional quarter sections and railway lands at the same time they filed homestead applications, the Ukrainian settlers were at quite a disadvantage upon arrival. Many Ukrainian immigrants sold all their belongings to simply raise the funds for their passage to Canada and, as a result, lacked the financial means and in most cases the foresight to purchase additional lands when they first arrived in Alberta. In comparative terms, official estimates indicate that it was not unusual for some Ontarians and Americans to arrive with four, five or even $10,000 in cash and equipment. On the other hand, the 1917 Woodsworth survey of Ukrainian rural communities revealed that nearly 50 per cent of Ukrainian immigrants arrived in Western Canada with no capital whatsoever and 42 per cent arrived with less than $500 cash at their disposal. While English-speaking settlers hoped to establish commercially viable farming operations, most Ukrainian settlers simply hoped to continue practicing semi-subsistence peasant agriculture. In the Old Country the average peasant farm had fewer than three hectares (7 ½ acres) of land. As a result, the typical Ukrainian settler assumed that 160 acres would be more than enough for his family.

In the years prior to the outbreak of World War I the federal government began to take an active role in the settlement of Ukrainian immigrants when it became apparent that most Ukrainians wished to settle among their countrymen near the Star settlement in east central Alberta. The prospect of a solid Ukrainian bloc settlement covering hundreds of square miles clashed with the government's objective of assimilating and effectively "Canadianizing" new arrivals. On the other hand, it was clear that a complete dispersal of Ukrainian settlers was not a viable solution either. As a result, a compromise was implemented that successfully combined the advantages of bloc settlement with rapid assimilation.  A number of smaller bloc settlements or "settlement parcels" were established throughout the Prairie region. Wooded areas and lands adjacent to established (non-Ukrainian) settlements or industries were chosen so that the settlers might have an opportunity to generate capital by selling cordwood or seeking "off farm" employment. A number of the new sites chosen by government agents, especially the Whitemouth district in southern Manitoba, were vastly inferior to the settlement in east central Alberta, although there is no evidence to suggest that the agents were conscious of this fact.

Ukrainian Wedding With the outbreak of World War I, local attitudes towards Ukrainian settlers began to change. The war years were particularly harsh on Ukraine, and by 1921, despite an attempt to gain its independence, Ukraine was merged into the fledgling Soviet Socialist Republic. Social and economic factors forced many Ukrainians out of their homeland in search of a new beginning. As international affairs began to realign and settle down during the 1920s, the Canadian government also implemented a shift in its immigration ideals. While Ukrainian settlers had initially been welcomed, and even encouraged to immigrate to Canada, the federal government's priorities became attracting the educated and more sophisticated settlers from Britain, the United States and northern Europe. As a result, Ukrainian immigration to Canada was slowed somewhat during the 1930s.

The third wave of immigration by Ukrainians to Alberta coincided with the displacement of thousands of peoples across Europe following World War II. During the war thousands of Ukrainians had been deported by both the Soviets and the Germans to work camps and concentration camps across Europe. At the end of the war, many refused to return to their homeland, fearing continued persecution by the Soviet administration as collaborators or German spies. As a result of their determination not to return to Ukraine, many were granted refugee status across Europe, and many more traveled to North America seeking similar status. By that time, the Ukrainian presence in Canada had become quite substantial. Ukrainians had built up around them a strong community which was influential in putting pressure on the Canadian government to accept the displaced Ukrainian refugees. As a result, over 34, 000 Ukrainian immigrants entered Canada between 1947 and 1953 as displaced persons.

The Ukrainian population remains quite substantive in Alberta. The bloc settlement in east central Alberta, while in decline, remains visible to this day through the spattering of Orthodox churches located on the hilltops and countryside throughout that region. With more and more Albertans of Ukrainian descent being born and raised in the province,  knowledge of the Ukrainian language and traditions have begun to wane somewhat. Intermarriage has increased and the majority of Ukrainian youth have begun to trade in rural life for professional opportunities that await them in the urban centres. Despite these changes, the Ukrainian community within Alberta continues to grow and maintain special aspects of their culture, including religion, arts and crafts, culinary delights and music and dancing.
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