Celebrating our Ukrainian heritage

Canada is a cultural mosaic. To understand the stories of many of our cultural segments is to understand the story of Canada.
Back on Oct. 12, I was honoured to host the Thunder Bay-Rainy River Liberal Riding Association’s first-annual “Proud to be Canadian” community feast paying tribute to Ukrainian culture in Fort Frances.
During the last two centuries, four waves of Ukrainian immigrants have found a new homeland in Canada. Together with other ethnic groups, including our First Nations, they have made a tremendous contribution to building one of the most successful democracies in the world.
In Rainy River District today, more than 2,400 residents consider themselves to be of Ukrainian descent.
The men and women of the Fort Frances Ukrainian Literary Society were gracious hosts for the evening. For the past 78 years, members have been dedicated to preserving Ukrainian culture in the community through food, cultural performances, and fellowship.
Through the guidance of 99-year-old Walter Andrusco, the Society and community have benefited from his wisdom, and instruction in Ukrainian dance, language, song, and instrument.
The theme of building community, region, and country was reflected in the personal stories of Bill Gushulak, whose grandparents came to Canada in 1906 helping to transform wilderness into productive fields.
“It was cultivatable land, you just had to get rid of the trees and bushes and rocks first,” Gushulak joked.
Peter Sas’ family endured the harsh reality of both parents being among Ukraine’s young and strong who were deported to the work camps of Germany during World War II.
The family left behind in the Ukraine suffered beatings, torture, and murder.
Sas’ family survived World War II, coming to Canada in 1948 with the third wave of Ukrainian immigrants.
Through hard work and dedication, they built a life for themselves and their young children.
Today, the story continues, as Canada continues to forge its ties with an independent Ukraine. Adding to the evening’s tributes, my parliamentary colleague, Borys Wrzesnewskyj, shared his own experiences.
As a third-generation Ukrainian Canadian, he has dedicated himself to ensuring a transparent electoral process in Ukraine.
Why is it so important to share these experiences? It is important because understanding the past helps us to appreciate this great Canadian cultural mosaic.
As one of the evening’s speakers noted, “We are thankful for those ancestors and the decisions they made years ago as they ventured into the unknown land of Canada, a land we call home.”
After sharing this evening, we have a better appreciation for the different cultures that make Northwestern Ontario such a great place to live.

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