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Saturday, January 30, 2021

A Person Does Not Live by Bread Alone

Halyna Kravtchouk,

Genealogist, Family History Researcher and Author


Lord of Heaven and Earth, 

We call upon you with our prayer: 

Send upon us celestial aureole 

With your right hand, Almighty.

Semen Hulak-Artemovsky 

The true character of the first settlers from ethnic Ukrainian lands, is revealed to the reader from their personal memories, press archives and research papers relating to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These courageous, hardy, stalwart, hardworking pioneers were cast by fate to the other end of earth looking for a better life.

With sweat on their brows and a prayer on their lips they attained their immediate goal – daily bread and a roof over their heads. However, having arrived in a foreign country, sundered from their native customs, culture and traditions, from the very beginning they felt the need to be with their own people. This was not easy for those farmers who were separated from each other by miles of impenetrable bush. Those who lived in Winnipeg met at their landlords' usually larger premises. Having gotten together they rejoiced like family, poured out their souls to each other, encouraged each other and looked for some kind of solace together... It was very emotional just hearing their native tongue and singing together, with the songs transferring them back to their homeland. Days like these became like feast days. But what are feast days without a church?

In getting accustomed to their new surroundings they realized, that for them, this new land, with its own language, culture and traditions, is now their fatherland. They knew they needed to adapt and make a conscious effort also to maintain their identity and spirituality. Their innate religiosity drew them to their forefathers’ faith... They felt the need for their own church, under whose roof they could pray and socialize as they did in the old country. For years in this land they had neither church nor clergy of their own. They wanted to educate their children and give them a better future but they had neither schools nor teachers...

From ancient times the church was one of the most important institutions in Ukrainian life, uniting all levels of society. Everyone, regardless of their social status, occupation, education or wealth could cross the church’s threshold. The church, without which people could not imagine worldly life, was also the centre of the national and cultural life of those villages, from which most of the first settlers came from, and the most powerful part of every village history. 

The pages of the accounts of early pioneer life allow the reader, more than a century later, to relive and experience what our forefathers lived through: cast into a foreign faraway land (and that without any spiritual leadership). Their memory invokes a respectfully our bowed head and bent knee at their graves...

Having bid farewell to their native land, they would never have comprehended that establishing the church as an institution would be one of their most difficult tasks and the cause of endless disputes, legal cases, and possibly one of the most discussed themes in the press...

After having settled in a foreign land our first settlers found themselves in the midst of not only a linguistic polyglot but also among other cultures and faiths. They came from various ethnic Ukrainian territories and faith-wise were usually either Greek rite Catholics or Orthodox (their numbers did, however, also include some Roman Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, etc.). From a ritual aspect the Orthodox and Catholics did not differ. They both followed the Byzantine rite, which had already developed a distinct and significantly Ukrainian character (Михайло М. Mарунчак. Історія Українців Канади в двох томах. – Вінніпеґ, Канада: Накладом Української Вільної Аакадемії Наук в Канаді, 1968-1974. Т. І – С. 103-104)

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries the Ukrainian people did not have their own independent country. Their lands were split between Russia and Austro-Hungary. The majority came from Galicia, Bukovina and Transcarpathia which were part of Austro-Hungary. They were officially referred to as Rusyns (from name Rus’) and in German as Ruthenen (Енциклопедія історії України cgi-bin/eui/history.exe=Rusyny). Besides the Rusyns, who constituted a significant majority of the population, their homelands were home to Poles, Romanians, Hungarians, Germans, Jews, Russians, etc. Some of them also settled in Canada.

The Polish shlyakhta (nobility), Romanian boyary (magnates) and Hungarian pany (lords) of Transcarpathia had total control over the common people. Besides that, the unenlightened populace of Galicia and Transcarpathia was demoralized by muscophiles (or russophiles) who spread their heresy that the Ukrainian nation does not exist, did not exist and will not exist. Because of this foreign influence the people began to regard themselves as Russians, Poles or Hungarians. Some of them abandoned their Greek-Catholic faith, the faith of their ancestors, and joined the Russian Orthodox or Polish Roman Catholic Churches.

A group from the Lemko area of Transcarpathia, the poorest and most God forsaken of ethnic Ukrainian lands, also settled in North America, including Canada. As a result of widespread russification, a portion of these brainwashed Lemkos, autochthonous residents of the area, who also called themselves Rusnaks left their forefathers’ Greek-Catholic faith,and converted to the Russian Orthodox faith.

Bukovina was also unable to avoid the muscophile influence. In addition to a ban on the Ukrainian language and all other aspects of Ukrainian life, there was also a ban on the (Ukrainian) Orthodox faith, which was the dominant faith in Bukovina. Under the influence of muscophile propaganda some Bukovinians also abandoned their language and national identity. These confused exiles from ethnic Ukrainian lands spread to the far corners of the earth...

Western Ukrainian lands at the beginning of the 20th century: 

At the end of the 19th century some immigrants from Russian-held, but ethnically Ukrainian lands, settled in the Canadian prairies. In Austro-Hungary at that time, almost every church had a school. National awareness was emerging, an intellectual class arose, and socio-economic organizations were established. There was a rebirth of Ukrainian literature, culture and press, resulting in a growing national consciousness. In the Russian controlled territories the situation was markedly worse. The russophile propaganda did not cease and the Ukrainian language was banned and forcibly replaced by Russian. The “higher” Russian culture was dominating in all spheres of community life of the “little” Russians (this is the way Ukrainians were called by Russians). Ukrainian life in these lands, as well as the Ukrainian nation itself, were doomed to extinction. 

Up to the First World War only one church dominated in those lands – the Russian Orthodox, whose clergy unceasingly fed the nationally unaware populace with teachings about only one Russian nation, only one Russian language and only one Russian Orthodox Church. The Russian Orthodox clergy cruelly exploited the masses. Although the Russian tsar restricted emigration, a portion of this Russified population and their debased clergy managed to find their way to Canada and the United States. There weren’t that many of them. However, under the influence of Moscow and various evangelical churches and their hierarchs, they became very adept at exploiting their faithful. They played a major role in spreading of muscophile ideas and promoted Russian Orthodox Church. For several decades, mesmerized by Russia, they fragmented the community and were an obstacle in attempts to organize the Ukrainian religious community.

On examining the passenger lists of ocean liner companies and archival Canadian Immigration lists, we can see that our first settlers, primarily generations of farmers, were not listed by nationality, but instead by their place or territory of origin. For this reason some were registered as Galicians, Bukovinians, others as Austrians, Hungarians, Poles, or Romanians, etc. The term Rusyn (not to be confused with Russian) did not come into use in Canada until 1905 (Yuzyk Paul. The Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada. – Ottawa, Canada: University of Ottawa Press, 1981. – P.30). “Ukrainians” became the commonly accepted term just before the First World War.

The English language press (Manitoba Free Press, Winnipeg TribuneDaily Nor'Wester,etc.) lumped all settlers from Ukrainian lands into one group they called “Galicians”. M.Marunchak, author of a series of studies on Ukrainian immigration to Canada, writes that the main impression of our settlers in the eyes of the general public, was formed by the Daily Nor'wester, and was as follows: alien race, and religion, dirty, penniless, uneducated,etc. Cast among the enlightened community (British), they will become a burden and ruin the reputation of the British; they will bring and spread diseases, they will not adapt to their surroundings where the language is English; the cost of schooling will increase (the school district will need to hire an additional teacher to teach the children in their language; education act permitted bilingual teaching where there were at least 10 students speaking a minority language); they occupy land which could be given to more “desirable” settlers; their farms will be overgrown with weeds, etc.

As a result of such misconceptions, which were heaped upon the heads of our people, it appeared that all eastern Slavs were of the worst sort out of which to build a future Canada. Similar lies, myths and insults coming from “chauvinistic” elements, spread over our settlers like some sort of plague. When there was a killing in the Stuartburn district of Manitoba it was not difficult to see where the blame would fall. When a rumor arrived from New York that fifty thousand Galicians, rejected by the United States, would engulf Canada, even the Toronto Mail began to write against them (Михайло Г. Марунчак. Студії до історії українців Канади. Том І, 1964-1965.– Вінніпеґ, Канада: Українська Вільна Академія Наук. – С.51-53). However, even among non-Ukrainians, there were those who defended our settlers.

The historian M. Marunchak also confirmed that there were no differences among settlers from different ethnic Ukrainian lands. They did not separate into different factions. Even in religious matters they were of one mind, sometimes even building churches together. At that time there was no split of the Orthodox Church into Rusyn-Ukrainian and Russian (Історія Українців Канади. Т. І. – С. 105-106). This harmony was subverted when the Russian Orthodox Church, which had already established missions in the USA, immediately launched an aggressive campaign against the Rusyn-Catholics of Canada and especially on the Orthodox Bukovinians. The first Orthodox liturgy was celebrated under the open sky in the summer of 1897 in the Vostok colony near the house of muscophile Nemyrsky in what is now Alberta (Божик П. Церков українців в Канаді. – Вінніпеґ, 1927. – С. 18).

Most Canadians at that time were either Roman Catholics or Protestants and had well established churches with their concomitant hierarchies. Because there was no Greek Catholic Church as an institution, the first Rusyn Catholics on the Canadian prairies fell under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Church. At that time ecclesiastical leaders of the Catholic Church in the northwest of Canada were Bishop Emile-Joseph Legal (Diocese of St. Albert), Bishop Albert Pascal (Diocese of Prince Albert). Catholics of Winnipeg and St. Boniface were subject to the jurisdiction of Archbishop Adélard Langevin. The Roman Catholic clergy and bishops hoped that they could fulfill the spiritual needs of the Rusyns by using Roman Catholic missionaries with Ukrainian language training. Some of these missionaries did indeed learn Ukrainian and even converted to the Byzantine rite.

Archbishop Adélard Langevin (Archives of Manitoba:

On their part, the ministers of various Protestant denominations, especially Presbyterians, tried to convert our settlers to Protestantism. With this aim in mind, spending large sums of money, they established reading halls, schools and even an independent Ukrainian Orthodox church, asserting that it is truly a Ukrainian church. In reality it was a Protestant church, and served as a tool to convert Ukrainians to Protestantism. The Presbyterians, like most other Anglo-Saxon Protestants, aimed for the quickest possible Canadianization and assimilation of all foreigners, as well as increasing membership of their churches.

The greatest harm to our settlers was caused by the misleading Russian propaganda, jealous servants of Tsar’s Orthodoxy, generously funded by Russian agents, muscophiles,and even Russified Rusyns. They sowed discord in the national and religious life of our people, degrading their faith and persuading people that Rusyns and Russians are one and the same. They claimed that «if you're not Russian you're not Orthodox and if you're not Orthodox you're not Russian. They praised Russia as the only country with no grief or worry». These kinds of pronouncements, praising Russian Orthodoxy and all things Russian, impressed people who had Russian leanings and who were antagonistic to their fellow countrymen and to nationally aware Rusyns. Under their influence some Ukrainian Catholics converted to Russian Orthodoxy, which in turn led to costly court cases regarding jointly built churches. In one case a lawsuit concerning a wooden church and its cemetery, worth at most one thousand dollars, ended up costing eighteen thousand dollars (Божик П. Церков українців в Канаді. – С. 19-20).

As to the essence of Russian Orthodoxy, historian Luka Mashuha writes that «being Orthodox is one thing but belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church is another». In the Russian Orthodox Church the will of the tsar is regarded as the will of God and «together with its clergy was at the service of the greatest enemy of the Ukrainian nation: Russian tsarism, which was destroying the Ukrainian nation and bewildering its people even here» (Пропам’ятнa книга Українського Народного Союзу (РедЛука Машуга). –  Jersey City, N. J.: Svoboda Press, 1936. – P. 154).   

Not all clergy were, or remained, faithful proselytizers of Russian Orthodoxy. Eventually, observing, comparing and analyzing actual facts, some priests began to change their views and convictions. Realizing the importance of unity and harmony among the people, they left Russian Orthodoxy and converted to the Catholic Church, because they saw, with their own eyes, the harm caused by the Russian propaganda and religious sects created throughout the first decades (staropravoslawni, phillipivci, zhukivci, etc.), because they broke away from the true Christian faith. One of the priests who left the Russian Orthodox Church and converted to the Ukrainian Catholic church was the rev. Bozyk, originally from Bukovina, who became convinced that these sects, together with their founders and Russian propaganda «tore apart sacred vestment of Christ's true faith and oneness» (Божик П. Християнство на Україні. – Сифтон, Ман.: Місійне Товариство Св. Йосафата, 1945. – С. 29).

One must not forget the atheist radicals who laughed at the Rusyns forefathers’ faith, and also the various protestant sects and their ruinous work among the unenlightened settlers. All of this led to greater enmity among people and division into groups who were antagonistic to each other for decades.

Having found themselves in such chaos and without proper spiritual guidance, not knowing where to seek a salvation from spiritual emptiness, a sizable number of our settlers, on perceiving the choice of religious persuasion, yielded to outside pressures while others completely renounced their own people and their faith.

Those of stronger spirit stood fast. They asked their Bishops in the old country for advice and requested them to send priests (Catholic and Orthodox). Bishop Andrej Sheptytsky (Galician Metropolitan after December 1900) sent a pastoral letter to the Canadian Rusyns, sympathizing with their fate and promising to send priests. The Orthodox consistory of Bukovina did not respond, fearing to intrude into the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church of North America (Yuzyk Paul. The Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada, 1918-1951. - P. 34).

The first Ukrainian Christian churches (Catholic and Orthodox) in the Canadian prairies were erected at the very end of the 19th century. The steady growth of settlers over the next decades stimulated the building of new churches. This resulted in more intense and fiery disputes over the churches, often further inflamed by muscophiles, the Russian Orthodox mission and some dissenters, who went against their own people. Sometimes there were even physical altercations. Enmity grew among the people, exacerbated the Catholic-Orthodox split. Often, in many districts Catholics and Orthodox built separate churches in order to avoid potential court cases.

The first Ukrainian churches in Canada: St. Michael Ukrainian Catholic Church in the colony of Mink River (Volkivtsi), one of the oldest preserved churches in Canada (Manitoba Historical Society:; St. Michael Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Gardenton (drawing by Frank Saprovich).

Unlike in the old county, where the government managed the church, the support of church and priest in Canada were the responsibility of the community. That our people have never encountered before.

The Canadian Government did not intrude in the affairs of churches or nationalities. However, if requested by a religious community, the government provided land for a church and cemetery as well as lumber for construction. The community chose the location. In the application the community had to clearly indicate its nationality and denomination. The government had no restrictions regarding the construction of church buildings. However, the cemeteries had to be fenced in and the graves dug to a certain depth. The community also had to provide the government with the names, ages, genders, and causes of death of the deceased (Божик П. Церков Українців... – С. 7-9).

The first Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest authorized by the Galician Branch was a non-monastic Nestor Dmytriw, who arrived in April of 1897 from the USA. He was a witness to the relentless struggle of our people trying to maintain their distinction from the Roman Catholic Church. M. Marunchak writes «he (Dmytriw) had to articulate the legal and political foundations of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Canada» (Змагання за незалежність Української Церкви в Канаді. – Вінніпеґ, Канада, 1966-1967. – С. 7). He can be regarded as the first organizer of church life among the Rusyns of Canada.

Nestor Dmytriw was also the editor of «Svoboda», the first Ukrainian newspaper on the American continent. From the articles and letters to the editors, he had a keen awareness of the achievements, misfortunes, and difficulties the Ukrainians experienced. He was also aware of the destructive force of Russian propaganda and the appalling lack of priests. While visiting in Canada for two years he often travelled by foot from homestead to homestead, hearing confessions, baptizing, officiating at marriages and funerals, blessing crosses, etc. He ministered to both Catholics and Orthodox, fostering harmony among the people and among their churches. Being a gifted writer, he recorded his impressions and thoughts during his travels, encouraging the people to remain strong and firm and praising their accomplishments. His travel accounts, titled «Canadian Rus’» are the primary source material for early Ukrainian life in Canada. They were published in «Svoboda» and eventually in a book (Diasporiana He also did not hesitate to criticize, for which criticisms he was often himself criticized.

He started his work in the main arrival centre, Winnipeg, capital of Manitoba, where close to 200 Rusyns lived at the time. Eventually the city would become the spiritual centre for Ukrainian Canadians. But that time was still far off...

There is a Ukrainian proverb: «A single flower is not proof of spring». This also applies to the church. Just because a church building had been erected, it did not follow that the Rusyns in Canada had a church as a national institution. And what is the church without a priest, who in the old country was not only a spiritual mentor and leader in the community, but a teacher and educator, organizer and mentor of the cultural and political life of the village.

At first the priests for Canadian Ukrainians had to be brought in from either the US or the old country. Greek Catholic priests from the US, having obtained permission from their authorities in the old country, came to Canada only for a limited term and then returned. They had a positive impact on the growth of national awareness of the Rusyns, which led to Ukrainization. They were much resented by the muscophiles. The Roman Catholic hierarchy was also not happy about the visits of Ukrainian Catholic priests. As a result of complaints to the papal authority, the jurisdiction of the old country Ukrainian Catholic church over Ukrainian Canadians was nullified. In the old country all priests (both Catholic and Orthodox) were married. The Roman Catholic clergy, under whose jurisdiction our people had fallen, «vigourously opposed the arrival of married clergy on this continent, because of perceived loss of authority by the Roman Catholic clergy, and the Vatican supported this perception» (Михайло М. Mарунчак. Історія Українців Канади. Т. І. – С. 105).Therefore only celibate priests and monks, whose numbers were small, were allowed to come to Canada.

Our settlers, who even in the old country mistrusted the Roman Catholic Polish clergy, were unused to seeing monks as priests, and wanted their church in Canada to have its own priests and spiritual leaders. They held an unwavering belief that the Rusyns Ukrainian Catholic Church should be of equal status but independent of the Roman Catholic Church and they were restrained in their intentions (English adaptation by Petro Sribniak). 

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