I was born in the village of Zhezheva, Zalischyky District, Ternopil Province. My maiden name was Nadia Monastyrska. My parents were fairly well-to-do peasants. Ours was a large family, consisting of nine children and my parents.
My parents brought me to Canada in 1900 when I was not quite three years old. They sold everything they had in the old country and came to Komarno, Manitoba, where they acquired a homestead.
When I was twelve, I started attending Stryi School which was two miles from our homestead. We always walked to school, no matter whether it rained or there was a blizzard raging. There were no roads in those days, except for a path leading through the woods. I attended school for only two years. My father paid our nieghbour, John Humeniuk, to teach me to read in Ukrainian. This man also taught my brother.
When I was grown up somewhat, I helped my father pick up stones in the field and rake hay. When he cut wood, we children piled it up into cords. My father hauled the wood into town where he sold it. We also had a fair-sized garden, but not many acres under cultivation for growing grain. We also kept some livestock and domestic fowl. The soil on the homestead was not very good.
My father went harvesting in Saskatchewan every fall. He bought us clothing and things that we needed in the house with the money that he earned. We had a garden in which grew potatoes and other vegetables. We all lived together in a one-roomed log cabin. Later, we built a three-roomed house. It wasn't far to the store, only a mile and a half. When the railroad from Winnipeg to Arborg was built, it cut through our farm, making it more convenient for us because we could now walk to Komarno on the track.
Since we had no horses, we used oxen at first. Although oxen are slow, they are stronger and hardier than horses and were highly prized by our settlers.
It was twelve miles to Teulon where there was a hospital. To get there, one had to pass through swamps and muskeg. We were reluctant to walk in the muskeg for fear of breaking through the surface. When we did go into it, we held each other's hands for safety.
I went to Winnipeg when I was fifteen. Some girls from our neighbourhood were already working there and they wore nice clothes when they came home. I also wanted fine clothes to wear. I found a job as a nanny, looking after children and doing some housework. I was paid three dollars a month. I came back to the farm after one year. Three months later, I went to the city again to earn money so as to be able to buy better clothes.
There was neither a church nor any other organization in Komarno when my parents settled there.
I had reached the age of seventeen and was already grown up. I became friendly with Olga Rusnak, a girl from Bukovyna. She took me to the Boyan Association where Wasyl Swystun was a leading figure and choir director. I belonged to that association until I got married.
I would also like to add that Olga Rusnak and I kept company with some boys and girls who belonged to the Ukrainian Labour Temple Association. When the Ukrainian Labour Temple was being built we helped out financially and attended their picnics. I sang alto in the choir which was directed by Pasichnyk. I earned my living working in a clothing factory, the Manitoba Clothing Company. I earned ten dollars a week. There were about thirty of us working there for the most part Jewish, but there were also workers of other nationalities. We were sewing uniforms for policemen and firemen.
I came to Hamilton in 1922. Anna Yakivchuk, Emilia Lilitsak and her sister, Mary Hrabchak, invited me to attend a meeting.
My brother, Dmytro Monastyrsky, used to teach in Oakburn, Manitoba, and I lived there for some time before coming to Hamilton. They had a drama group there. I took part in group scenes. Once we had to go to Rossburn to put on a performance. The girl who was to play the part of Odarka in The Zaporizhan Cossack Beyond the Danube got annoyed about something and refused to play her part. The priest, Drohomyretsky, gave me the part. The farmers, who had never seen this play performed before, were very pleased.
When I got to Hamilton, the priest Drohomyretsky was also there. He began to urge me to come to church in order to play the part of Odarka again. But I was already acquainted with some members of the Women's Section of the Ukrainian Labour Temple Association and didn't go to church again.
I married Fedor Tytarenko. He was my second husband. Although a sympathiser, he didn't belong to our organization. Only later after I insisted, did he become a member and later played a leading part in the organization.
interview by Peter Krawchuk
Homesteaders used teams of oxen