Pauline Maksymonko tells her story about how she came to Canada and about her first years in a new country.


My maiden name was Pavlina Holubowsky. I was born in the village of Tsineva, Pozhniativsky Region, Ivano-Frankivsk Province. My father was a veterinarian and of average means. He wanted his children to get an education and often used to say to us: "You have to learn a trade, children, because it is difficult to make a living by just staying on the land."

I liked sewing even when I was still quite young. I went on to learn this trade well, so that I was able to work in garment factories after coming to Canada. I continued in this employment until late in life. I liked singing when I was going to school and sang in the church choir. My brothers, who were musically talented, formed an orchestra and were able to provide for themselves. One brother became a veterinarian. A sister went into the textile industry. However, World War I cut her schooling short and she became a secretary at the courthouse.

In 1913, my youngest uncle was going to Canada. I also wanted to go and see the world. My uncle agreed to take me with him because I was still too young to set out on such a journey by myself. I was interested in faraway places even as a child.

My father used to bring home pamphlets from time to time which he enjoyed reading. He also subscribed to a newspaper in Lviv called Ruske slovo (Rus Word). People often used to meet at our place in the evenings and talk about various things, including the Radicals. This shows that the Radical movement existed in our district even in those days.

When I was leaving for Canada my father asked me not to stay longer in that country than a year. He warned me that I wouldn't like Canada, saying that he had read about how difficult life was out there.

The time came at last for my uncle and me to start out on our journey. My father and I, and eleven other people, started out on a wagon for the railway station. Crying, my mother kept repeating: "Will you ever come back to us, Dear Pauline?" I replied: "Father told me not to stay away more than a year, so I surely will come back home." My mother began to lament: "My heart tells me, dear child, that I will never see you again."

As we drove beyond the village, I looked at my beloved Carpathian Mountains, in which I used to go picking blackberries. The Carpathians are truly enchanting in the summertime. Here and there one could see bonfires, which the peasants lit to frighten off the wild boars that rooted in their potatoes. This scene remains fixed in my memory. I will never forget how, when we sat in the train, I looked out at my dear ones - my mother overcome with weeping and my father holding her up so that she, poor woman, wouldn't fall fainting to the ground.

The road travelled by our people from Galicia and Bukovyna to the New World in search of a crust of bread was a difficult and tragic one, even as Wasyl Stefanyk described in his short stories. It was a difficult road for us also. We were only fortunate in that we had no small children. Later on, I did see entire families that had gathered in the immigration building, with some carrying small children in their arms while dragging bags filled with their wretched clothing. The men were carrying large packs on their backs. We all had to sleep on a dirty floor.

Two days after our arrival in Hamburg, we were called for questioning. Some were allowed to continue the journey, while others were turned back. We spent three days in Hamburg waiting for the liner. The food was good here and we had comfortable sleeping quarters.

On board ship, we were placed fifteen to a cabin. Some slept in lower berths and others in upper berths. The food was very bad and we thought we were going to starve to death. For fifteen people they brought two buckets - one full of soup and the other with some boiled potatoes. They brought bread in paper bags. We ate in our own quarters - each person sat on the bed and held the plate in his hands. Then we washed our plates in cold water on the upper deck. For supper we got a baked potato and a piece of pickled herring. We only had water to drink.

At last we arrived in Halifax after a journey on the ocean lasting two weeks. There were instances of children dying. These were thrown overboard. Some mothers were very sick and close to going out of their minds. It took another three days by train to go from Halifax to Toronto. Most of the immigrants were going west to Winnipeg. I should mention that the train broke down on the way and we had to wait. There was nothing to eat. In one small town where the train had stopped, a bread wagon was spotted. The people surrounded it like a swarm of bees. Whoever could, seized a loaf of bread and ran back with it to the train. Having eaten some bread, they drank some water and so eased their hunger pangs. Only a few people paid for their bread. The driver stood by and just observed the scene. If he hadn't stood aside, he probably would have been trampled underfoot because so many people were pressing around the wagon.

We walked downtown from the station. My uncle knew that there were Ukrainians living on Bathurst, Wellington, Spadina, Front and Queen Streets. He wasn't acquainted with any street beyond Queen.

We obtained living quarters in a six-room house belonging to people who had come from our village. We were three girls and seventeen men. A young couple that had recently married also lived there. The girls all slept on one bed in the kitchen. We were supplied with soup, coffee and tea, but had to buy bread and sugar. After work we helped do the household chores - washing the floors, doing the dishes and making up the beds.

We worked ten hours a day, six days a week, in a laundry and were paid five dollars a week. I found the work hard, having to stand on my feet all day long. I often cried. On one occasion, Pauline Sawchuk, who came from my village, and I bought half a pound of butter and some bread for fifteen cents. That was all the money we had between us. We consumed the bread and butter at one sitting and finished our meal with some tea.

Life was difficult for our immigrant friends who had gone to live in the west. Nor was our life any easier in the eastern cities. And so, day followed day, week followed week and month followed month. I constantly kept track of the dollars I saved, so that I would know when I had enough to go back to my family. One didn't need very much money in those days, and forty dollars was enough to pay for the passage, but it was hard to put this much together. Then World War I broke out and this put an end to my plans and those of my friends. We didn't speak of this to one another, we only cried. However, we began to become accustomed to the new situation as time went by.

I asked various girls whether there was a choir in Toronto that a person could join. Some girls told me that they belonged to a church choir and took me with them. I was happy about this. I made the acquaintce of Tetiana Kostyniuk and Anna Andreyko there. I kept close company with Tetiana Kostyniuk. Anna Andreyko kept other company because she was younger than we were.

The church in West Toronto was the first place that I found happiness because it had a choir and I met many new friends there. There were some things that I didn't agree with, such as people bringing bread and butter to the church. Back in the old country, my father used to tell my mother not to take bread and butter for the priest, but to give the food to children for them to enjoy. It used to happen in the old country that the people would bring a whole pile of bread for the priest which he later fed to his pigs. My mother obeyed my father and never brought the priest any bread. It was from my father that I acquired beliefs that later helped me understand the meaning of progress and taught me to defend people's rights.

There were no progressive Ukrainian organizations in Toronto at that time, but a group of young men (John Boychuk, Paul Woytovich, Nick Terletsky, John Horbatiuk, Peter Bukovinsky [Solovey], the Holinaty brothers, Swiaty and others) formed a Russian-Ukrainian group of social-revolutionaries. They met at the place where Paul Woytovich used to live. Some girls also belonged to the organization. We rented small halls and put on dramatic performances and held meetings. More and more people joined our group.

I remember when the Volga Region and Ukraine were hit by a severe drought in 1921. There was still no Women's Section of the Ukrainian Labour Temple Association. We attended a meeting on the third floor of the building at 553 Queen Street West and decided to hold a picnic, the proceeds from which were to go for aid for the starving people. A large number of women came to the meeting. John Boychuk turned to me, saying: "Comrade Maksymonko, sit down at the table and open the meeting."

At the meeting we decided to hold a basket-social picnic. Each woman was to bring a nicely decorated basket containing something to eat and drink. The time for the auction arrived. It was conducted by John Boychuk. No one knew whose basket it was that was being auctioned, only John Boychuk knew. He said that the basket now being auctioned belonged to the most beautiful girl in Toronto. And all the men present bid for the basket. This was the basket prepared by Parania Koss. And indeed, she was still very young at the time and seemed to be a single girl. The bid was highest for this particular basket, thirty dollars. This was big money at the time. We earned a good deal of money at that picnic. Everybody had a good time. Parania Koss was chosen Star.

credits: Peter Krawchuk and Kobzar Publishing


A publicity flyer encouraging immigration to Canada


Flyers that advertised to emigrate to America and Canada.
Western Ukraine