NP-UN Western Bureau.
Flag-raising ceremonies were held in both Edmonton and Calgary as Alberta celebrated Ukrainian Canadian Heritage Day, September 7.
This date commemorates the first Ukrainian immigrants who arrived in Canada on September 7, 1891, and acknowledges the many contributions Albertans of Ukrainian heritage have made in this province since then.
“We are all so grateful and recognize and appreciate how our Ukrainian communities have shaped our province’s politics, agriculture, business and arts and so, so, much more,” said Leela Sharon Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women, who hosted the event at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton.
The Calgary flag raising was held at the McDougall Centre.
Speaking at the Edmonton flag-raising, Jackie Armstrong Homeniuk, MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, who is descended from Ivan Pylypiw, one of those first two Ukrainians who landed in Halifax on September 7, 1891, recalled how her grandparents Mike Huley and Annie (nee Pylypiw) introduced her to the rich Ukrainian culture and religion.
“We regularly attended St. Mary’s church near Hilliard, Alberta, with baba and dido, celebrating Christmas, Easter, and honoring the relatives that have passed at yearly grave yard services. Baba spent many hours showing us the fine art of Pysanka decorating, teaching us traditional folk and religious songs, and delicious Ukrainian cooking. She also taught us the greatest gift one could have is family and good friends,” she said.
“I love celebrating my Ukrainian heritage which is why I am so humbled and honored to serve as Chair of the Advisory Council on Alberta Ukraine Relations (ACAUR). Ukrainian Culture is an important part of our province and an important part of my riding, Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville.
“We are home to the celebrated Ukrainian Village, the world’s (ed. note: now second) largest Pysanka, and the Pysanka Festival, which is full of Ukrainian dance and culture. The Babas and Borshch Ukrainian Festival and the Garlic Festival showcase Ukrainian food and culture and are held every year within my riding.
“Last year I went to Pier 21 in Halifax, and I looked out onto the ocean, and thought to myself ‘I can only imagine how scared our ancestors were coming to a strange land, not knowing where they would live, or how they would survive’. Just thinking about that gives me goosebumps,” she added.
Approximately 50 people attended the Edmonton event, many of them carrying Ukrainian flags. For the first time this year, members of the Ukrainian community were joined by members of the Belarusian community, carrying their red and white flags, to show appreciation for the support Ukrainians have given the Belarusian protest movement.
Oleksandr Danyleiko, Consul-General of Ukraine for Edmonton said he cannot find the words to describe how proud he is of the contributions Ukrainians have made to Alberta.
The Ukrainian pioneers started from nothing building dugout known as burdeis as their first homes, then turning the wild lands into arable field, he said.
Switching to Ukrainian, he thanked the Ukrainians in Canada for their dedication to Ukraine, preserving its history, culture and language and providing aid.
Orysia Boychuk, President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council stated:
“Today, we once again celebrate the perseverance of our pioneers from every wave of immigration which came to Canada over the past 129 years. Ivan Pylypiw and Vasyl Eleniak arrived here on September 7, 1891, and set off the first wave of immigration. Today, Ukrainian immigrants continue to bring with them knowledge, expertise, experience and a commitment while searching for a better life and for the freedoms Canada offered.
“Perseverance, resilience and sheer tenacity is in our genes, as Ukrainians have survived and overcame centuries of persecution, only to rise on top… Over 365,000 Albertans with Canadian Citizenship identify themselves as having Ukrainian roots, and the Ukrainian community in this province remains a strong, vibrant, contributing force in its development…
“Today we are proud Ukrainians who fill the ranks of every profession. We are Ukrainian Canadians and proud to call Alberta, Canada home. We indeed helped build this province and we continue to add to it every day. We are Strong and Proud and are growing!” Boychuk said.