History

The first Ukrainian immigrants immigrated to Canada from Ukraine in 1891. Thousands of Ukrainian immigrants came to Canada between 1896 and 1914 when the Canadian government was offering cheap farmland. During this wave of immigration, Ukrainians were looking for more opportunities.

An Illustrated world map highlights the countries of Canada and Ukraine.

Ukrainian immigrants traveled from Ukraine to Canada.

A map illustration highlights the country of Ukraine but also shows the surrounding countries of Russia, Belarus, Romania, Bulgarian, Turkey, etc.

The country of Ukraine and the surrounding countries.

This man was born in Western Ukraine and came to Canada at 16 years. He became school teacher in the Hafford area. He encouraged his Ukrainian students to stay in touch with their Ukrainian roots, but also adopt new traditions in Canada.

When the First World War broke out in 1914, the Canadian government treated many Ukrainians terribly by putting them in prison because they were originally from a country that was at war with Canada. The Ukrainians were described as ‘enemy aliens’ and were put in prisons, concentration camps, and labour camps, where they were forced to do heavy manual labour. For many years, this shameful treatment of Ukrainian immigrants was not talked about very often until the government finally admitted its wrongdoing in 2005.

An illustrated group of men dressed in overalls and hats stand behind a barbed wire prison fence.

Canada treated Ukrainians that were living here very terribly during the First World War and put them in prisons and concentration camps.

Settlement

There were three waves of settlers to come from Ukraine to Saskatchewan. Some of the first Ukrainian immigrants settled around Rosthern, Hafford, and Krydor. Most of the people who came from Ukraine at this time were peasant farmers, looking for a better life in Canada. The northern parkland area was selected because it provided three important natural resources:

  • Wood used for building and fuel for wood stoves
  • Clean water for humans and animals to drink
  • Land for farming
An Illustrated man chops firewood with an axe.

This man is chopping wood to heat his home with.

The climate and the land in Saskatchewan were similar to that in Ukraine, so the people adapted their farming practices quickly and easily. Many of them became successful grain and animal farmers, and even today continue to contribute greatly to agriculture in Saskatchewan.

Between 1924 and 1929, a second group of Ukrainians came to Saskatchewan. These people were not farmers, but refugees, labourers, and Ukrainian army members who had been involved in the war in Russia.

A couple and their five teenage children pose for a photo in front of their home.

This couple and their five kids moved from Ukraine to Canada in 1929 to escape the hard living conditions.

The third wave of Ukrainian immigration took place from 1947 to 1952. These settlers were mostly people who had been taken from homes in Ukraine to work as slave labourers in Germany during the Second World War. When the war ended, they did not want to return to their homes because of the Russian takeover of their home country. These immigrants included skilled workers, professionals (such as teachers, lawyers, and doctors), scientists, and musicians. This last group mostly settled in the main cities in Saskatchewan.

A Ukrainian family is dressed in traditional outfits and lined up outside a fence by a train station for a photo.

This Ukrainian family immigrated to Canada in 1905 and bought their train ticket to travel to the Prairies.

Culture

Education was extremely important to the first Ukrainian settlers. When they settled, the building of a church and school were next in importance only to improving and clearing their land. Children were encouraged to attend school and receive as much education as they could. As a result, many teachers, lawyers, bankers, doctors, and other professionals in Saskatchewan are Ukrainian.

A wooden tray of homemade, uncooked perogies are shown on a table.

Ukrainian food is very popular in Saskatchewan.

Ukrainian dancing is popular in Saskatchewan. There are many active dance groups in the province. Ukrainian people are well known for their choirs. Ukrainian food is very popular and includes such things as perogies, cabbage rolls, borscht, and kielbasa.

Six women are dressed up in traditional Ukrainian outfits for dancing.

Ukrainians are known for their unique style of dancing and dance outfits.

These men and women are dressed in traditional Ukrainian outfits and dancing.