Hanka Feschuk, a daughter of Ukrainian parents, immigrants from Peremyszl, Poland, tells the story of her family's experiences as newcomers to Canada.
A pioneer couple breaking newly cleared land
I was born in Star, Alberta. My parents came to Canada, I believe it was in 1901, from the village of Stariava, which is not far from the city of Peremyszl. As soon as my father arrived in Canada, he built a cabin of sorts and then he and a friend of his went away to work. My mother, together with the wife of my father's friend, stayed behind in this small house. It was here that I was born.
My father later acquired a homestead in Innisfree. The land was covered with trees and there were many stones. It was necessary to clear the land of these. My father and mother worked in the field, while I, being the eldest child, had to look after my younger brothers and sisters. There were eleven of us altogether in the family. I also helped on the homestead, picking up stones, gathering together brushwood and milking cows.
I didn't go to school because there wasn't one in the district at the time. A school was built there later when I was already fourteen years old. It was too late for me, a fourteen-year old girl, to go to school and sit next to seven-year old pupils.
When I got married my husband and I bought a farm. The soil wasn't very good. He used to leave me to look after the farm work, while he himself went to work on ranches. I looked after the farm like this for three years. Our neighbour used to come over and sow the grain in the spring and then he cut it with his binder in the fall. I did the ploughing and the harrowing myself. And I looked after the cattle and continued clearing the land of trees and brushwood. It was very hard work. There are some people who say that life in the old country was difficult, but let me tell you that I had it harder on the farm in Canada than some people did in the old country.
The cabin to which my husband brought me had a small homemade stove. The wind had torn most of the thatch off the roof. The ceiling in the cabin was so low because of the sagging beams that my husband had to stoop when he walked inside. He had come to Canada by himself and there wasn't any work to be had, so he also had to put up with many hardships.
Life was very hard for us during the depression years. I planted many potatoes and cut firewood with a bucksaw. My husband took the potatoes and the firewood to neighbouring Winburg to sell. He didn't take them to Innisfree where people knew him because he was ashamed to be seen selling these things. And that was how we managed our simple economy.
interview by Peter Krawchuk
This whitewashed cottage was typical of pioneer days
Gonor, Manitoba, Canada