You may call them perogies, we know them as pyrohy. Also called varenyky by many Ukrainians, these delicious dumplings have transformed from an ethnic peasant food to a staple in catering menus across western Canada. In fact, did you know that one Edmonton-based company (Heritage Frozen Foods Ltd.) can make up to 3 million pyrohy every day? (If you’ve never made pyrohy before, check out this exclusive, online cooking lesson from the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village).
How Ukrainian culture became woven into the fabric of Canada
As we approach Ukrainian Day on Aug. 7, and the celebration of the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian settlement in Canada, we reflect on how Ukrainian culture and heritage in Alberta is much, much more than just delicious food.
Pyrohy are, however, an example of how Ukrainian culture and heritage has evolved in Canada over the last 125 years to become a part of Alberta’s multicultural identity — a good example of this can be seen by taking a stroll down the frozen food section of your grocery store to see many varieties of pyrohy for sale. Today, Edmonton has the largest population of Ukrainians of any city in Canada! Across the province, we have the outstanding dance and performing groups performing across the globe, Ukrainian bilingual programs in schools, churches, charities, museums and institutions that celebrate Ukrainian culture and history in Alberta. Many of these Albertans of Ukrainian ancestry can trace their roots back the earliest pioneers that arrived to Canada prior to the First World War.
History of Ukrainian settlement in Canada
Iwan Pylyow and Wasyl Eleniak arrived on Sept.7, 1891. They were from the village of Nebyliv, Galicia and they had come to Canada on the promise of vast tracks of land being made available to settlers to homestead in Western Canada. The Canadian Government was in fact offering free 160-acres homesteads to every male settler who, with his family, could own this land after breaking and cultivating the land, residing on it (at least 6 months of the year) and filing a homestead application complete with a $10 processing fee. This presented an immense opportunity (think lotto big) for the average peasant farm in Galicia or Bukovyna, which was typically less than 10 acres in size.
At the end of the 19th century, the regions of Galicia and Bukovyna (now part of western Ukraine), were the most economically impoverished regions of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The arrival of these two villagers from Nebyliv to Alberta, and who then went on to share stories of free land and no landlords in Canada, helped initiate the mass immigration of Ukrainians to Canada prior to the First World War. The beginning of the 20th century saw numerous bloc settlements across Western Canada (Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta). However, none was larger than the Ukrainian bloc settlement in east central Alberta. In 2016, Ukrainians across Canada are paying tribute to these earliest pioneers with celebrations to mark the quasquicentennial anniversary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada.
Celebrate with UCHV: It’s a big party and you’re invited!
On Sunday, August 7, the celebration of 125 years of Ukrainian immigration to Canada will be highlighted at the annual Ukrainian Day special event at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village (UCHV) from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Whether you are celebrating your family’s history, or you want to help celebrate the rich and vibrant Ukrainian culture in Alberta today, you are invited to attend Ukrainian Day to celebrate all things Ukrainian and to kick-start 125th anniversary celebrations in Alberta! Ukrainian Day is co-hosted with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress-Alberta Provincial Council (UCC-APC).
Event highlights on Ukrainian Day 2016 include:
- Church services that begin at 9:15 a.m.
- A sneak preview of the Stelmach House Learning Centre (not currently open to the public) that will formally open on 2017. This legacy project was initiated by the UCC-APC to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada.
- Recognition of many of east central Alberta’s early pioneers at the centennial monument.
- A concert beginning at 2 p.m. that will feature traditional Ukrainian song and dance performances. Confirmed concert performers include: Foma from Ukrainian supergroup Mandry, Cheremosh Ukrainian Dance Company (Edmonton), Suzirya Ukrainian Dance Theatre (Calgary), Axios Men’s Ensemble (Edmonton choir), Tanya Onyshenko (Calgary singer), Euphoria Band (Edmonton).
- Visit to the historical village to see costumed role-players portray real pioneers from the region. Activities include free wagon rides, spelling bee and schoolyard games, horseshoe toss, Morse telegraph demonstrations, butter churning demonstrations and more!
- Delicious food starting with a strawberry and whipped cream pancake breakfast available prior to 11 a.m., and mouth-watering pyrohy, borshch and other Ukrainian food available after 11 a.m.