This story is reminiscences of Mary Pawluk Gregorovich, whose parents, Todor and Vasylena Pawluk, immigrated to Canada in 1899. The story was written from Mary's words by her son, Andrew Gregorovich.


Alexander Gregorovich and Mary Pawluk Gregorovich
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Andrew Gregorovich



The Pawluk family (Todor and Vasylena) originally came to Canada because they were thinking of their children's future and there was not enough land in their native village Zadubrivka. They also didn't want their children to be recruited into the Austrian Army. All the boys faced conscription and had to go into the army at 20 years of age for a period of 3 years. They thought this military service was a waste of time. Father Todor was in the Austrian army before he was married.

The Pawluk family lived in Zadubrivka, a Bukovinian village a short distance from the city of Chemivtsi. Mother (Vasylena Danyliuk) was quite rich because her family had a big fruit orchard.

Todor Pawluk had one brother Nikolai and three sisters. On father's side no one else came to Canada, but many Danyliuks, the whole family except for one brother.

Todor was in his twenties when he married fourteen-and-a-half Vasylena. She didn't want to marry him because she was in love with someone else, but her brother whipped her to force her to marry Todor. Her father had already died.
Vasylena took care of her mother-in-law for seven years. She died in 1899 just before they left for Canada.

Before leaving Zadubrivka they sold their cows, horse and land, but still brought much with them. They brought great big boxes full to Canada. At least two boxes they brought seemed to me to be about 6 feet square and 5 feet high, but perhaps I was small and they looked so big. They brought a grindstone (zhorna) to make flour. They probably brought seeds to Canada but whether they brought along some Ukrainian earth they never told me.
The only musical instrument in the family was the drymba (Jaw harp) which Vasylena played. Every Bukovinian girl had one behind her poyas (belt) and played it during breaks in the work.

They brought many clothes to Canada. There is still an original poyas which crossed the ocean in 1899 in the family. They had village made pottery and wooden spoons to eat with. The Pawluks had a hard time getting used to Canadian metal cutlery because it used to bum their tongues.

One very beautiful ikon was brought carefully to Canada. It was a picture of St. Nicholas carved and painted by Hutsul craftsmen. Money and important family papers used to be hidden behind it.

None of the Pawluk family had gone to school. But Todor did have an exceptional memory and he loved to tell stories. He knew many lovely Ukrainian folk songs, which he used to sing along with mother. They used to sing a lot. They were church going people, but had no Bible and no books.
Mother had korali (coral necklace) and other jewelery such as grony (money on a necklace). She had very pretty silver earrings with stones and several rings, one of which had a ruby. She loved rings. There were no clocks or watches in the family that I know of. There were some official papers probably from the immigration journey. Mother had yellow boots, which were the pride of every Bukovinian woman, and a full holiday costume. They brought some glass objects from Bukovina such as small vases and fancy dishes. Some of the food they set out was black bread, brendzia cheese and apples.

While in the army Todor was perhaps stationed in Vienna, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He often sang songs about Emperor Franz Joseph. Todor was quite tall, about 5' 10", had brown eyes and brown hair which never turned grey to the time he died at the age of 55. He never shaved himself, he always had a neighbour shave him. He was intelligent, for example, he could very quickly calculate the cost of things in his head without paper. He was a dancer and danced well. One I remember was called Zadubrivka za hory. If asked what he was he would answer, "Rusin". [Rusin is the old name for Ukrainians which comes from the Kingdom of Rus a thousand years ago. Ukrainians were also called Ruthenians - A.G.] He wouldn't say he was a Bukovinets (Bukovinian), I don't know why. Like all Bukovinian Ukrainians he went to the Orthodox Church. He spoke Ukrainian and a little German and Romanian.

They used to sing and talk a lot about Oleksa Dovbush who had lived from 1700 to 1745 and is known as the Ukrainian Robin Hood. They also talked a lot about the Crimean Tatars, Chumaks and Haidamaks. But mostly about the Tatars who made such a powerful impression on the people's consciousness by their slave raids in the 16th-18th centuries.

Todor used to make flutes and tools. But to tell the truth, the Pawluk family is not very handy with its hands. Vasylena made kilims (koverets, woven carpets) and did beautiful embroidery, bead work and pysanky.

Some of the foods they usually ate in Shandro, Alberta were studinets, nachynka, chicken boiled and in soup, chicken fried in cream, kulesha (commeal) every day, potatoes usually with cream, boiled potatoes, perohy (perogies) with cottage cheese, kapusta (cabbage), sometimes borsch (beet soup), and white beans were served for weddings and large occasions.
For Christmas kraplyky were always served. Everyday borsch was with cream. "Lazy perohy" consisted of dough, bacon, onions and cottage cheese all mixed. This poor man's dish was also called tisto z syrom. Kapusta and pork were common. White bread in Canada and dark rye bread in the old country were a daily food, but a round flat loaf of white bread was a treat at Christmas and Easter in the old country.

Baking was done once a week, perhaps a dozen loaves, but they stayed fresh. Kolach bread was white but was coloured yellow with saffron. The usual daily bread was black bread (rye chomy khiib). The test for the oven, called pich, was to throw flour in and when it bums it is ready to bake bread. The burnt wood was emptied and the inside scraped out clean before the dough was placed in. The dough was placed on the metallic shovel into the oven.
For meals they had a lot of beans mashed with oil and onions, boiled whole, cottage cheese with cream almost every day and boiled milk made like yogurt called kisliak. The milk turns sour and catches into a solid. Dessert was dried fruit. Tea and milk were the usual drinks. Horilka (vodka) was served on holidays in Canada. Mother often made a drink from dark burnt sugar and whiskey. The Pawluks had good health in the old country.

The Pawluk and other Ukrainian families started their long journey from Zadubrivka and their ancestral homeland very early on an April morning in 1899. Todor was 35 and his wife, 26.

They went to Chemivtsi to catch the train to the port of Hamburg in Germany. Everyone in the village came to see them off, everyone was crying. In the confusion of saying goodbye, Todor and Vasyi Ambrosy were left behind on the railway station platform. The train left with all their family and possessions. Ambrosy was a big man but he was helpless in this situation and started crying that he would never see his wife and children again. But Todor Pawluk didn't waste time. He quickly arranged to catch the schnellzug (express train) and when the families arrived in Hamburg, the fathers were waiting for them on the platform. I think this incident affected me all my life since I have always had such fear of missing a train.

On April 16, 1899, nineteen persons boarded the ship, S.S. Palatia, in Hamburg. These were the four Pawluks, Todor, age 35, Vasylena (age 26), Vasyl (7), and Ustena (2), four Danyliuks, five Ambrosys and one single brother. Everyone was sick on the ship, which after ten days sailing docked at Halifax. Their money was rapidly dwindling due to the exchange rate.
A long railway journey took them across most of a continent to the city of Edmonton. They were frightened by the English language and found it difficult to communicate. From Edmonton they took a wagon to a homestead of 160 acres in the Edna-Star region near Whitford Lake in the Northwest Territories, which later became the Province of Alberta in 1905. Star was the oldest Ukrainian settlement in Canada. Near the farm was Egg Lake, which the Ukrainians couldn't pronounce and made it into iglyky. They used to catch fish in this lake but it eventually dried up.

Early in May they finally arrived at the homestead area. Everyone preferred to travel early in spring so that they could get the farm started. The very first task was to build a little hut for shelter which they called a kumyk, (a "chicken house'). They dug a hole, put on a roof of sticks and covered it with earth. Then they built a one room house later to survive the bitterly cold Canadian prairie winter. This house lasted a number of years, perhaps to 1906. Finally, they built another bigger house with two rooms, quite large, but this real home eventually burned down. Lighting inside the house then was by coal oil lamps not electricity.

Originally the houses were built by homesteaders on the comer of their land close to the three neighbours' farms so that four farm families were close together. But this made it very far from the highway so they later built a home close to the road. Todor Pawluk miscalculated his property and built his big house on a neighbouring property across the road. When he discovered this, they got everyone together with horses and oxen and pulled the house over to his farm. Gee, that was a big job, I remember.

Father would go to work on the railway extra gang every summer for a long time. All the men in the spring went to work on railway construction which lasted all summer. Women worked the farm but not much at the beginning. They grew only potatoes and onions. One neighbour who worked his farm right from the start became rich. For a whole summer's work one lucky year, father brought home $100.00. This was for five month's work from May to September. Most of the others made only $70 to $80 in those five months. Because they had so little money no photographs were taken by the Pawluk family except one by a professional photographer from Edmonton called Brown, but it has been lost.

Todor worked on the construction of the bridge at Fort Saskatchewan. Father was the leader in his bunch of men. One time the railway fired a group of workers but wouldn't pay them the wages owing. So Todor told the men to eat a lot of garlic and sit around the boss's office. Finally after two days he paid up to get rid of the men, and the smell.

Father worked on the railway about three or four years and then, once he could buy a horse and plow, stayed home to farm. Each farmer would buy a different item of machinery and they would share the equipment between farms.

Todor's brother died in 1913 so there was an estate to settle. He had to go back to Zadubrivka in the spring of 1913 and he returned about two month's later. He brought some things back such as rushnyks (embroidered towels), horbotky (wraparound skirts) and a little money.

When World War I started in 1914, life was very hard. There was no sugar and no flour but we had our own wheat. You couldn't buy anything. Oats were 10 cents a bushel, wheat was 20 cents a bushel and even at that price you couldn't sell them sometimes. During the war our family had no problems of persecution as far as I know.

They had a pretty happy life, kept their traditions the same as in Ukraine, missed their church in the early years, but often held khrams (festivals). Todor learned English but mother spoke very little. It was six miles walking distance from the farmhouse to the nearest small store/post office.

Father died at the end of the war from Spanish Influenza on November 9, 1918. Todor was sick just a short time before he died. His body was put in the house on a bench with candles. Only at the time of the funeral was it put in the casket. Before he died, Todor had once asked the local casket maker to put windows in his casket for him. He was buried in Shandro.

The story of the Pawluk family is typical of the experiences of Ukrainians who immigrated to Canada in the first great wave. Seeking economic opportunities for their children, they were willing to face the unknown hardships and the great loneliness they were bound to experience.