Alberta’s Ukrainian immigrant history village offers a stimulating family-friendly, senior-friendly visit.
Using the “living history” approach, this Village creates a “time warp” which not only enables the visitor to see, but to fully experience the everyday lifestyle of generations of Ukrainian immigrants to east central Alberta.
Be sure to check out other natural and historic attractions in the neighboring region.
In the 1920s and 30s, the railway became the community link, transporting grain, established settlers and new immigrants.
There can be no better way for all ages to learn about history than the live re-creation of a particular period. One of the best examples of Canada’s colorful immigrant history is Alberta’s Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, www.ukrainianvillage.ca, just 30 minutes drive east of the provincial capital, Edmonton. It is located on a 320-acre site, with 75 to 80 acres devoted to 30 authentic historic structures and landscape, dating from the early 1900s to 1930. Many structures have been transported from their original rural locations to this village, carefully restored and furnished for 40,000 visitors a year to experience.
Early immigrant families built tiny sod huts, dug one-third into the ground to insulate against the bitter winter cold.
Beginning in 1891, the Canadian government launched a serious recruitment mission to find experienced European farmers, particularly to settle the rich, virtually empty farmlands of east central Alberta. Ukrainian immigrants responded in spades! Eighty percent of Ukrainian farm families who journeyed half way across the world over the next 40 years to take up an invitation of 160 acres at a price of $10 left behind farms of less than five acres, but they also faced many pioneering hardships in Alberta. These included a harsher, colder climate and the necessity to clear their land of forests without modern-day tools in order to be able to feed themselves and farm productively.
A young “Ukrainian immigrant” talks about the life he and his wife built together, while introducing visitors to his homestead.
Once making up the largest settlement of Ukrainians outside the Ukraine, today, 10% of Alberta’s population is proudly of Ukrainian descent with numerous programs and activities that keep alive the stories, culture, music and dance for younger generations.
Among the heritage village highlights are three churches transported to the property reflecting different Eastern Rite denominations and a fully-functioning grain elevator (one of only 100 left in Alberta). Visitors may purchase daily-prepared traditional Ukrainian foods and browse a well-stocked gift shop for colorful Ukrainian treasures.
Pamela Trischuk, Head of Education and Interpretation Services, brings immigrant heritage to life on tours.
From mid-May to the first Monday in September, this multi-award-winning historic site is open each day (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), and on weekends thereafter until mid-October. Adult entry is a bargain at CAD$8.00, Seniors $7.00. There is a family pass for $20 and children under 7 years are free. Allow at least three to four hours, though a whole day can easily be consumed if you are up for strolling to all the fascinating buildings, waterways and garden plots along relaxing scenic pathways. Each building is staffed by a costumed storyteller who takes on the persona of a genuine pioneer of the period, sharing information about that family drawn from the historic record. You may also encounter special events and festivals sprinkled throughout the season. Whether five years old or 75, Ukrainian or not, the Village allows visitors to share the experience, the hardships and successes of an earlier era with a “you are there” authenticity.
After facing near extinction in the late 1800s, plains and wood “bison” (correct name for North America’s “buffalo” species) have made a comeback thanks to protected breeding.
Guide and outfitter, Shane Hansen, tells authentic tales of river history and points out wilderness wildlife from his custom-built jet boat.
Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, www.ukrainianvillage.ca.
This cultural heritage attraction is located in the rural zone known as Kalyna Country Tourism, www.kalynacountry.com, which stretches east from the provincial capital, Edmonton, to the Saskatchewan border. The entire region is billed as Canada’s largest “eco-museum” showcasing the wildlife, spectacular scenery and cultural history of Eastern European farming settlements beginning in the 1890s and local native cultures dating back thousands of years around the vast drainage basin of the North Saskatchewan River.
This 20,000 square kilometer eco-museum region encourages visitors to experience historical and natural attractions in their original settings while enjoying modern-day communities which offer comfortable accommodations and meals, ranch stays, and bed & breakfasts along this easy-driving route. Allow several days to a week to explore Kalyna Country effectively.
A great way to experience nature from the water and to learn about the geology of the mighty North Saskatchewan River is to take a full- or half-day jet boat adventure with one-of-a-kind local guide, Shane Hansen. He is also an expert freshwater fishing guide. Iron River Ranch Wildlife Adventures, www.ironriverranch.ca.
Buffalo Adventures, www.buffaloadventures.ca, is another highlight of the Kalyna Country southeast of Edmonton around Wainwright. It offers lively, informative tours which include a face-to-face introduction to the great animal itself, family-friendly and senior-friendly tales of the colorful WWII Prisoner of War history of the area, a taste of genuine ranching history and culture, and a hands-on visit to one of the richest archaeological dig sites in western Canada where you’ll learn about ancient native settlement of the area.
For province-wide tourism information, consult Travel Alberta, www.TravelAlberta.com.
Other Alberta travel articles in our Travel Article Library:
Canada’s annual Badlands Passion Play in Drumheller.
Rosebud’s Historic Theatre and World Class Theatre School.
Alison Gardner is a travel journalist, magazine editor, guidebook author, and consultant. She specializes in researching vacations throughout the world, suitable for people over 50 and for women of all ages. She is also the publisher and editor of Travel with a Challenge Web magazine, www.travelwithachallenge.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org