Oksana Skoropad's story of her first years in Canada.


My parents were from the village of Strilkivtsi, Borschiv District, Ternopil Province. They set foot on Canadian soil on the 22nd of February, 1896. They brought with them their two children - a daughter and a son. They settled in Stuartburn, Manitoba. They first lived in a dugout which had been dug by someone before their arrival, perhaps by native Indians.

I was born on the 15th of September, 1903. The town of Stuartburn wasn't very large; it had three stores and a post office. My father took out a homestead of 160 acres. It was stoney land. When my father ploughed in the field, we children walked behind him and picked up the stones, and then gathered them into small piles. Nor was the land very productive. We sowed wheat, oats and barley.

I didn't have much schooling because I had to take the cattle out to pasture and dig seneca roots which we sold. Those were hard times. Ours was a very large family, consisting of my parents and thirteen children, nine of whom are still living. My parents didn't have enough to feed such a large family, clothe it and provide it with shoes. I remember that my father used to go to Winnipeg and pick up a sackful of old shoes at the Salvation Army, bring them home, and then empty the sack in the middle of the floor, saying: "Here you are. Choose whatever pair you like." As we selected a pair, we girls cried because these were men's shoes which were laced not only through eyelets, but also had clasp-hooks on them. My father would take a file and remove the hooks, thus changing the men's shoes into "girls'" shoes.

Whenever we went to church, which was four miles away, we carried our shoes in our hands and walked barefoot. We only put them on again when we were already near the church. Those were the sort of "good times" that we enjoyed!

When we came to Stuartburn, my father went to Dominion City to do harvesting, leaving my mother and the children at home. He left my mother with some flour and a few other essentials. When he earned some money, he sent mother ten dollars. Being illiterate, he sent the money to Oakburn instead of Stuartburn. When he came home, after walking more than twenty miles, he found mother and us half-alive because we had been going hungry for some time.

He was surprised that my mother hadn't received the money that he had sent. He then went to the post office and demanded his money back. The man at the post office asked to see the receipt for the money sent. My father refused to show it to him, afraid that once he parted with it, he would lose his money. An acquaintance convinced my father to produce the receipt. It turned out that the money had been sent to Oakburn. The man at the post office sent on the receipt with which my father parted reluctantly, fearing that now he would lose his money for sure. Eventually, my father did get his money.

We lived in the dugout for some time until my father built a log cabin. Cold and rain would come in through the chinks between the logs.

interview by Peter Krawchuk


Sod roof on an early pioneer home
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Ukrainian Historical Pioneer Village
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Ukrainian Pioneer Log Church, St. Elias Ukrainian Orthodox Church (1909), Sirko, Manitoba.
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