Saturday, June 26, 2010

Trouble comes in threes!

The three sisters out for an exciting night in Salmon Arm!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Farewell to Jose Saramago

"We're rational beings but we don't behave rationally.
If we did, there'd be no starvation in the world."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Asha's recital

Asha(on the right) confers with Lucy and Sarah about the evening's program.

Asha sings a special aria for her father as a pre-Fathers' Day surprise.

Meg thrills us with a romantic violin piece.

We felt very honoured to be invited to Asha's soiree, an opportunity
to enjoy Asha's operatic training, Meg's wondrous violin and Heather's
beautiful piano playing. Lucy and Sarah hosted the evening 
with comedic moments as they struggled with the script 
which included Italian, French and German.

Asha's voice is an incredible instrument that soars to amazing heights, 
taking us along with her. On June 24th she will fly off to New York
for two weeks of intense operatic training. BRAVO!!!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Saturday at Highland Farms

Shadows dance on pebbles
while birds flit and flirt

Poppies blaze in glory
and lilies guard the pond

Busy bees buzz about
from blossom to bud

Clusters of cherries hang
pinking in the sun

A lone plane drones overhead
breaking into my thoughts

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Canadian Story

Following the death of my father in 1997, I decided to do some research into his family history. While alive, he had been adamant that he didn't want anyone to poke around in his past. I respected his wishes but, after he was gone, I needed to solve some lingering mysteries. I realize now that research was my way of keeping him close.

The only things that I knew for sure were that he was born in Hafford Saskatchewan in 1921, that he had one sister and three half-brothers, and that he and his sister were placed in an orphanage in Sudbury, Ontario when he was two years old and that he changed his name after returning from WWII.

Why was he placed in an orphanage? Did he have living siblings? Why did he change his name?

So, we travelled to Saskatchewan, visited the archives in Saskatoon and drove to Hafford see if we could find any family members who could answer my questions. The research that followed disclosed some disturbing Canadian history along with a few pieces of the family puzzle.

My father's family, the Kuzyks,  arrived in Canada in 1906 from Galicia, a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. They were Ukrainian. His great-grandparents were accompanied by their eight children, a nephew and his wife and child. The trip to his new country took six weeks for this group of thirteen. They travelled overland, then cargo ship to New York, train to Montreal followed by train to Winnipeg where they discovered that most of the land was already taken. Pressed by land agents to travel further west, they boarded another train to Rosthern, Saskatchewan. Once again, they were urged to head further west, overland this time to Hafford, Saskatchewan where they homesteaded on poor, sandy soil.

Since 1896, Clifford Sifton, Minister of the Interior under Sir Wilfrid Laurier, had implemented a program to "Sell the West". The government offered free or cheap land to the "right kind of settler". In order to attract immigrants, he eventually banned all references to snow and cold from official publications.

He believed that some groups would be inferior and unable to assimilate. The darker the skin, he considered to be the most foreign and least desirable. This group included Asiatics and Blacks. To keep these settlers out of Canada, the Federal government increased the head tax on Chinese immigrants from $50 in 1885 to $100 in 1900 and to $500 in 1903. A "continuous journey" clause in the Immigration Act of 1908 made it impossible for immigrants from India to enter Canada legally. This clause required prospective immigrants to travel to Canada in an uninterrupted journey, which was not possible, as ocean steamers agreed not to travel directly between India and Canada.

So, my father's family was fortunate that they chose to immigrate in 1906, before the "continuous journey" clause came into effect. They were obviously white enough to pass muster and had experience in working the land. 

By 1911, 94 percent of Ukrainians lived in the prairie provinces. To the surprise of immigration officials,  newcomers shunned the open prairie in favour of wooded lots. Forests in pre-emancipated Austria-Hungary were the exclusive property of landlords so free access to wood became a priority as immigrants equated trees with fertile land.

The family settled in with a team of oxen, a plough and a cow. They lived in a lean-to shelter that was attached to a haystack while constructing a single room farmhouse. We visited this simple home, over 90 years old and still standing. For the next eight years, they worked hard to survive in a harsh climate. In 1914 a school was constructed across the street from their humble home and the senior Kuzyk was chosen as the first trustee.

Everything changed in 1914. As part of the Dominion, Canada entered the first world war on August 6, 1914. Nine days later, all subjects of enemy countries were declared liable for arrest and detention, especially if they attempted to leave Canada. The War Measures Act was implemented on August 15, 1914, giving the Federal government sweeping emergency powers. The Cabinet was able to administer the war effort without accountability to Parliament  or subject to existing legislation. They also had additional control over immigrants through media censorship; arrest, detention and deportation; and expropration, control and disposal of property.

Most of the 170,000 Ukrainians in Canada before 1914 came from Galicia, the portion of Ukraine under Austrian rule. Approximately 80,000 enemy aliens were registered in Canada and 8579 were interned. Of this group 6000 were interned as Austro-Hungarian nationals. To make matters worse, as the economy slumped, many Ukrainians were displaced by "Canadian labour" as employers displayed patriotic preference for Anglo-Canadian workers. Many of the unemployed were captured and jailed as they tried to flee to the US in search of work.

Between 1914-1920, receiving stations and internment camps were established in 24 locations across the country. All enemy aliens within 20 miles of a registrar's office were required to register within one month of its opening. Those registered were allowed to remain at large and report monthly. Aliens who were considered dangerous as well as those who refused to register were interned as prisoners of war.

Records show that John Kuzyk, the nephew of my Father's grandfather, was one of the interned. He was listed as Prisoner of War No. 155 and interned at Mara Lake, one of the six internments camps in B.C. His wife and children were left to fend for themselves, to join with other women and children in order to survive.

In the camps, Ukrainians were given "second class" status. German internees were given "first class" status with preferred accommodation and rations. The Austrian internees were compelled to work for the Canadian government, building roads, erecting buildings, clearing & draining land. Ukrainian internees were subject to the laws and regulations of the Canadian military as outlined by the Hague Convention. Escapees  could be fired upon. The most common punishments were reduced rations, solitary confinement and hard labour.

The irony of the internment measures was that an equal number of Ukrainians, whether naturalized or not, served with the Canadian military in Europe. Unnaturalized immigrants from Austro-Hungary were not permitted to serve in any branch of the Canadian military while those who were naturalized, were permitted to serve only in Canada. Those who had arrived from the Russian empire were obligated for European service, whether naturalized or not. Approximately 2000 served in Europe. Thousands of others, forbidden from enlisting, registered as Russians, Poles or Bohemians or anglicized their names in order to serve. Thousands served with the Canadian Forestry Division units in England, Scotland and France.

Ukrainian communities were torn. Some of their men were interned while others were at war, serving the very militia that held others prisoner in internment camps. As the war took its toll, leaving manpower shortages in Canada, a decision was made to parole the prisoners as labourers. Although Government agencies were reluctant to release their supply of cheap labour, by the spring of 1917, nearly all of the "Austrian" internees were released on parole with a payment of $1.10 per day, the same pay as a soldier in France.

The "Wartimes Elections Bill" introduced by the Borden government in September 1917, disenfranchised enemy-alien immigrants who were naturalized since 1902 and gave the vote to close female relatives of soldiers serving overseas. 
My father's family had endured harsh climate, discrimination, internment and loss of rights since immigrating to Canada.

The armistice that ended the war was signed on November 11, 1918. The last internment camp was not shut down until February 24, 1920, releasing the last of the Austrian internees. One of the camps remaining open until 1920 was located in Vernon, B.C.

Anti-immigrant sentiment was strong among veterans returning from Europe and was instrumental in declaring 12 "enemy" language publications, including Ukrainian language newspapers and organizations illegal. All meetings in Finnish, Russian and Ukrainian were banned.

Following the War, Ukrainians struggled to regain family and community connections. My father was born in 1921, at a time when men were leaving the farms to find employment.  When his father was unable to put food on the table for his family,my father and his sister were left in an orphanage with the request that they be unavailable for adoption. His father obviously hoped to return for them when things improved. During his years in the orphanage he suffered abuse at the hands of not only the Catholic sisters of the orphanage, but also at the farms where he was sent to work as a young boy during the summer months. His name told everyone the story of his heritage. Distrust of immigrants was very prevalent throughout his boyhood. At the age of 14, he ran away, travelling the rails and surviving as best he could.

As soon as enlistment was possible, he joined the Canadian military to serve overseas in WWII. The discrimination did not abate. He was harassed by superior officers, given reduced rations and called names. Despite serving in one of the most dangerous positions, as a dispatcher to the front lines, he survived seven years in a Canadian uniform, serving the country that had done a major disservice to his family.

Following my research, I finally understood why, in 1946, my father had his last name anglicized to Kay. 

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Graduation String Quartet

Sweet notes of celebration
from the string quartet
dance through the air
filling our hearts
and lifting us high
for Lucy's graduation.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Home again

We're home! Thanks to our dear friend Karen for keeping the outdoor plants alive and well nourished!

John is being weaned from prednazone over the next week and then we hope to get him on a daily dosage drug that will eliminate any future bouts of gout. I have heard people complain about gout in a big toe. It is impossible to imagine what it was like for him to suffer with painful swellings in feet, ankles, knees and wrist!!
A knee replacement is in his future as the knee is seriously affected by arthritis.

Thanks to Tara for dropping everything when I needed a shoulder and an ear; to Heather, Chris & Augie for daily hospital visits; to family and friends for hospital visits, phone calls and emails.

Special thanks to the speedy and efficient response from a pair of wonderful paramedics who arrived on the heels of the Burnaby Fire Department.

The drive home in our new car was a dream...smooth
sailing on the Coaquihalla.