St. Paul sits on the edge of the “borsch belt” of early Ukrainian block settlement. While touring the local People’s Museum as a newly retired resident, I was surprised to see how little Ukrainian content there was in it, given the ethnic mix of the community. It struck me that something of great value was about to be lost. 

I so vividly remember the family stories told to me about the hardships on the homestead, and then realized that my children have no idea about what our Ukrainian people, those that came before us, endured. This mini-epiphany would be the seed of “Hard Work and God’s Help”, a permanent exhibit I have championed with the St. Paul & District Ukrainian Cultural Society. 

Creatively celebrating the experiences of the early Ukrainian immigrants, 1891-1920, it consists of local photographs, text, and artifacts. It attempts to capture the challenges, hardships, and character of those first families that “shackled their souls to this soil.” 

We wanted to honour their memory and acknowledge the remarkable contributions they made, but perhaps more importantly, we wanted to connect the children of baba’s children to their roots; and in so doing, deepen their understanding of, and appreciation for, who they are and where they came from.

Hard Work and God’s Help was officially opened on Saturday, August 14.

The People’s Museum of St. Paul and District is located at 5409 50 Avenue, and is open seven days a week until the end of August. Fall and winter hours are Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10:00am to 4:00pm; private after-hours tours can be arranged.

A special family-friendly afternoon is being planned on Saturday, September 11 in conjunction with the 120th anniversary of the first Ukrainians coming to Alberta.

Traditional bread, hand-milled flour, and a homestead hearth are among the exhibits. JEFF GAYE
Live traditional music was a highlight of the opening reception August 14. JEFF GAYE
This sheepskin coat is typical of those worn by Ukrainian settlers in the harsh winters.JEFF GAYE