Gadacz family photos and immigration documents from the personal collection of Dr. Ihor Gadacz.
TORONTO – In celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, the Ukrainian Museum of Canada, Ontario Branch, has curated a very special exhibit that has been in the works for almost three years. Opening on April 29, “Trunk Tales: Leaving home… finding home” will tell some of the many poignant stories of Ukrainian immigration to Canada beginning in the late 1800s.
The exhibit revolves around four trunks brought by Ukrainians over four major periods of immigration. Each trunk has its own fascinating history of hardship, loss and ultimately great hope and joy found in a new home in Canada.
Also in the exhibit are a fascinating variety of cherished items that immigrants chose to bring with them. Visitors can meet some of the immigrants through their passports, visas and personal letters to and from the “Old Country,” and hear their compelling stories in their own voices (or those of their relatives) in intimate video taped interviews.
The Ukrainian Museum of Canada, Ontario Branch, expressed gratitude for the support received for this exhibit from the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Young Canada Works – Building Careers in Heritage Internship program and from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship, Immigration and International Trade through the Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat Seniors’ Community Grant program.
This financial assistance allowed the museum to hire Alyssa Lake, who holds a master’s degree in museum studies. She has been the driving force behind “Trunk Tales: Leaving home… finding home.” Her research and understanding of the political forces in play during the last 150 years in Canada and around the world gives the exhibit a deep historical perspective.
Ms. Lake commented:
“Working on this project has been a true adventure. Growing up, I was lucky enough to have a Ukrainian ‘baba’ (grandmother). While an undergraduate at university, I studied a myriad of Eastern European history and political science courses but nothing would prepare me for the amount I have learned while working on ‘Trunk Tales: Leaving home… finding home.’
“In addition to learning about the various contexts in which Ukrainians left their homes and those they entered in Canada, I have been enlightened to so many forms of Ukrainian material and intangible culture that have persisted to today.
“ ‘Trunk Tales: Leaving home… finding home’ features stories from Canada’s Ukrainian community and from the museum’s own collection. While doing a bit of back research on the donors whose items will be featured in the exhibit, I discovered a connection that resulted in a beautiful reunion between a museum volunteer and an artifact. With this particular donor’s name in our records, I found an obituary of a relative that made reference to someone who I recognized as one of the museum’s newer volunteers. When I contacted Lesia, she informed me the donor was her grandfather and was surprised to learn that he had donated a number of items to the museum back in the 1970s.
“Lesia’s reunion with her grandfather’s sheepskin coat, which he took with him from Volyn, Ukraine, to Alberta in 1937, brought me to tears. The discovery not only brought a museum volunteer in contact with a piece of her family’s history, it brought the details of that family history into the museum’s collection. Since this reunion, Lesia has provided the museum with a detailed family history and has loaned a number of photographs, a dictionary and even a journal her grandfather kept during his immigration and early life in Canada for the exhibit. Moments like these have made working on ‘Trunk Tales: Leaving home… finding home’ a truly special and unforgettable experience, and every day I wish I could share these stories with my baba.”
The exhibit’s wine-and-cheese opening reception will be held on Saturday, April 29, at 7 p.m. at 620 Spadina Ave., Toronto, Ontario M5S 2H4. (The museum is located inside St. Vladimir Institute.) The reception will feature Dr. Oksana Kuryliw, who will screen brief clips from her new documentary “Chapters & Verses: Action Bill’s Walk Through Life” and speak about her experiences researching and making the film.
“Chapters & Verses” is a loving tribute to a father and an important documentation of a Ukrainian immigrant who arrived in Canada in 1928 at the age of 18, settled in a remote part of northern Ontario, and then became a force of influence in the mainstream social, commercial and political arenas of his adopted city as well – all the while promoting the traditions and culture of his beloved Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Museum of Canada, Ontario Branch, cited the continued support of the SUS Foundation of Canada, Shevchenko Foundation, St. Volodymyr Foundation, Ukrainian Women’s Association, Kniahynia Olha and Sophia Rusova branches, and its newest benefactor, BCU Foundation, which enables the museum us to share the stories of “Trunk Tales: Leaving home… finding home” and many others with the Ukrainian community and all Canadians.
An ancillary program of lectures, workshops and a gala dinner and show, “Song of Leaving,” has been developed in support of the exhibit and will take place throughout the year.
Kicking off the lecture series, “Heroes of Their Day: Canada’s Ukrainians in War” by Prof. Lubomyr Luciuk will be presented in the theater at St. Vladimir Institute on Wednesday, June 28, at 7 p.m. Dr. Luciuk is a professor of political geography at The Royal Military College of Canada, in Kingston. Ontario. A fellow of the Chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Toronto, and the author, editor or co-editor of 30 publications, Dr. Luciuk is also a prolific writer, who has published almost 300 opinion pieces in major Canadian newspapers.
“Trunk Tales: Leaving home… finding home” runs until March 31, 2018. Museum hours for this exhibit are: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; and Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
For more information about the Ukrainian Museum of Canada, Ontario Branch, readers may go to the website www.umcontario.com and to the museum’s Facebook page. To book a school or group tour, call 416-923-3318, ext.105.