Thursday, 18 October 2012

Where is Calgary's Internee Plaque?

Calgary's first Ukrainian church rang its bells in 1912, in what is currently Tuxedo area.  Local Calgarians of Ukrainian ethnicity, coal miners, labourers, farmers and ranchers joined in prayer together - celebrating their ancestral faith.  However, this high moment was short lived.  The many men, women and children who celebrated the liturgy together, were soon engulfed in another tragedy - the WW1 war time internment of "enemy aliens".

Newly minted Canadians, people of Ukrainian ethnicity from the breadbasket of Europe, holding a variety of citizenship papers including those of Austro-Hungary (WW1 enemies of the British Empire) were declared enemy aliens. During World War 1, these people were gathered in 24 internment camps across Canada, and some of them were, if not locals, then itinerant workers in the Calgary area.  Who were they? What are their names? What became of them?

The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association has been a leader in the Ukrainian Canadian struggle for government ackowledgement of what happened to Ukrainians and other East Europeans during Canada's first national internment operations of 1914-1920.  With over twenty years of service to the community the UCCLA has gained public attention, but only recently, in 2008, did the signing of a technical document establish a $10 million dollar endowment fund within the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko.  With these funds, UCCLA has been instrumental, with the Canadian government, in establishing memorial sites, and permanent markers at the various sites across Canada to pay tribute to those internees.  One such site is at the Castle Mountain Internment Camp site near Calgary, but most recently another marker was unveiled and blessed in the Whitney Pier district of Sydney, Nova Scotia. 

Like Calgary's 1912 establishment of its first Ukrainian church, the ethnically Ukrainian congregation at Whitney Pier in Sydney, Nova Scotia celebrated its church's first Divine Liturgy in 1912.  Sydney was grievously affected by the internment operations, and now there is a monument to acknowledge that fact, thanks to UCCLA and the local community.

Calgary's Ukrainian community suffered too.  During the First World War, many people were interned, leading to the closing of the first Ukrainian church in Calgary.  The community life of Ukrainians here in Western Canada was forever changed.  Some say that even after nearly a hundred years have passed, this event still resonates in the minds and hearts of families and friends here..  Could it be that this trauma led to immediate assimilation, and intentional loss of ancestral culture, language and family ties?

In defence of the human rights and civil liberties of the entire Ukrainian community here in Canada, but specifically Calgary, I wonder where in the city of Calgary there is such a place of honor? 

For more information, check THE NEW PATHYWAY, Thursday, October 11, 2012 page 6 for two more articles.  Also check
And CAPE BRETON POST, 21 September, 2012

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