In Search of Free­dom

Her grand­par­ents left ev­ery­thing be­hind in the Ukraine to carve out a new life

More of Our Canada - - Contents - by Stella Kor­byck Bar­row

Our ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents Harry Kuz­niak and Paraska Ky­dyk (also spelled Kiedyk) were both born in the small vil­lage of Krymedor (Kriem­dur) in Stanislav (Ivano-Frankivsk) in Ukraine.

As re­spect­ful Ukraini­ans, we called our grand­mother “Babba” and our grand­fa­ther “Guido.” Harry was born March 20, 1886, and Paraska, known as “Pansy,” was born June 15, 1891. They were mar­ried in their na­tive vil­lage in 1910. Two years later, they ex­changed po­lit­i­cal op­pres­sion for free­dom and im­mi­grated to Canada, car­ry­ing only a few per­sonal pos­ses­sions and very lit­tle money. They boarded the daunt­ing pas­sen­ger ship with mixed emo­tions, leav­ing be­hind the love and sup­port of fam­ily and friends, bravely re­al­iz­ing they might never see loved ones nor set foot on birth soil again.

Visions of pros­per­ity in the new land helped them en­dure the stormy seas, sea­sick­ness and un­fa­mil­iar faces. Ar­riv­ing at the Que­bec har­bour on July 15, 1912, they stepped off the ship, alone in a strange coun­try, to a lan­guage they could nei­ther speak nor un­der­stand.

They jour­neyed west to Olha, Man., where Babba’s fa­ther (my great-grand­fa­ther) Onophrius Ky­dyk had set­tled among other Ukraini­ans. He had im­mi­grated to Canada in 1898 to es­tab­lish him­self fi­nan­cially in order to spon­sor his wife and two daugh­ters, Paraska and Frances, who had been left be­hind in the Ukraine. Disem­bark­ing the

ship in Hal­i­fax, he had made his way to On­tario and on to Win­nipeg, trav­el­ling by train to Strath­clair, Man., and then walk­ing to Olha, about 20 miles north­east. Two years later, he was killed while hay­ing on the farm where he worked in Olha. The team of horses pulling the hay rake he was op­er­at­ing stepped on a hor­net’s nest in the field. The horses were stung, caus­ing them to rear and gal­lop away, pin­ning Ge­orge in the hay rake, where he lost his bal­ance and fell.

Fol­low­ing her fa­ther’s route, Babba and Guido boarded a Cana­dian Pa­cific train to Win­nipeg and trav­elled on to Oak­burn, Man., where they set­tled on a large plot of land near Olha. With perseverance, they laboured through­out day­light hours, en­dur­ing harsh el­e­ments and hordes of mos­qui­toes, to clear the thick bush and even­tu­ally sow fur­rowed soil. Fi­nally, some fi­nan­cial gain re­al­ized from the sale of their first harvest helped them to pur­chase horses and build a small house.


Life and work were hard but re­ward­ing. The fam­ily grew in 1914 when a daugh- ter, Mary, was born. Trag­i­cally, at age 6, she was killed by a kick from a bronco. In 1915, a son, John, was born, but he lived only four weeks, dy­ing due to lack of med­i­cal care at birth un­der such prim­i­tive, re­mote con­di­tions.

In 1916, an­other son, Peter, was born. He con­tracted po­lio as a child, and Babba mas­saged and ex­er­cised his legs daily, thus less­en­ing se­vere paral­y­sis. The resid­ual limp negated his en­list­ment in the forces dur­ing the war. In 1917, Michael was born.

By 1919, the thin soil fi­nally ex­hausted, my grand­par­ents sold the farm in Oak­burn and moved to An­gusville, 30 miles away, in search of more fer­tile land. That same year, they tried a co­op­er­a­tive dairy busi­ness, col­lect­ing milk from var­i­ous lo­cal own­ers of cows, and then sell­ing and de­liv­er­ing it to a dairy. Times were hard and money scarce.

In 1920, a daugh­ter, Lena—our mother— was born, and in 1921, an­other son, William, came along. Back­break­ing work and poverty were de­press­ingly con­stant. In the spring, when cash had been de­pleted over a long, cold win­ter, house­hold sta­ples such as cof­fee, flour and su­gar—as well as oats for an­i­mal fod­der and seed for plant­ing—were pur­chased “on ac­count” at the lo­cal sup­ply out­let and then paid for in the fall with pro­ceeds from the an­nual harvest.

Guido’s dis­tant cousin, a black­smith, lived in Fort William, Ont. Hop­ing for fam­ily moral sup­port and per­haps a job ref­er­ence, in 1922, with four sur­viv­ing chil­dren—peter, Michael, Lena and William—the fam­ily boarded a train to Fort William.


Liv­ing mainly alone, in the bush, without close neigh­bours from whom to learn, Babba and Guido’s English was bru­tally lim­ited. Seek­ing com­fort and se­cu­rity de­rived from a com­mon lan­guage and fa­mil­iar cus­toms, they set­tled among Ukraini­ans in the area known as the “coal docks” (now In­ter­city Thun­der Bay). Here, in 1923, their son John Ivan was born.

How­ever, op­por­tu­nity and gain­ful em­ploy­ment were scarce even in larger com­mu­ni­ties with di­verse com­merce, and in the fall of that year Grand­fa­ther was

forced to leave home and find work in log­ging bush camps to sup­port his wife and five chil­dren.

In the spring of 1924, he re­turned from camp. Early one morn­ing, with trees bud­ding and wild­flow­ers fra­grantly in blos­som, Guido and Babba packed their chil­dren and house- hold goods into their horse-drawn wagon and rode into the coun­try about six or eight miles along a dirt trail, now Daw­son Road in Thun­der Bay.

Lo­cat­ing and rent­ing dwellings, they resided in this farm­ing area for about three years be­fore pur­chas­ing prop­erty and mov­ing to nearby Gov­ern­ment Road, where they lived for an­other six years, work­ing their land and oth­ers for pay. Their youngest child, Ros­alia, was born here in 1929.

Even­tu­ally, our grand­par­ents ac­quired 100 acres of pulp­wood and rich farm­land bor­der­ing a river, on the cor­ner of Kivikoski Road (now known as Dog Lake Road) and High­way #17A/ Daw­son Road in Mcin­tyre Town­ship. Bright and early ev­ery day, the sons and daugh­ters old enough to work would travel by horse and wagon from Gov­ern­ment Road about three miles to this plot on Kivikoski Road. Again, clear­ing the land for farm­ing was very dif­fi­cult due to rough, rocky ter­rain and crude im­ple­ments pulled by horse team and man­u­ally ma- noeu­vered. The large trees were felled, de-limbed and used for cooking and heat­ing. The stumps, rooted firmly into earth’s crust, were re­moved with winch and horses, burned and left to re­main on the soil as fer­til­izer.

On this prop­erty, our grand­fa­ther and his sons built a sev­en­room, two-storey home, and the fam­ily soon moved in. With all hands help­ing, the soil was tilled, seeded and nour­ished, and pro­duce mar­keted. Fenc­ing was raised for for­ag­ing cows, horses, chick­ens and hogs, and var­i­ous barns, sheds and shel­ters were added to the steadily grow­ing farm.


In 1936, a fire de­stroyed the home, and the fam­ily was forced to live in a small garage next to the ashes. Logs from the prop­erty were har­vested and planed into lum­ber, and the house was re­built. It still stands to­day, sur­rounded by a few acres of farm­land cur­rently mor­phed into a large golf course, and serves as its club­house/of­fices.

From 1931 to 1950, our grand­par­ents and their fam­ily lived, worked and slowly

pros­pered on the farm on Kivikoski Road, un­til their grown chil­dren found dif­fer­ent oc­cu­pa­tions.

In 1950, Guido and Babba moved to Port Arthur to be closer to their chil­dren, build­ing an 11-room white stucco house on Pine Street. They lived in it for two years, but be­ing ac­cus­tomed to coun­try life and toil­ing the earth, they sold it, re­turn­ing to Gov­ern­ment Road where they first be­gan.

They lived in a large, drafty old log house while they built a small four-room house set back in the trees. A well was drilled and a hand pump in­stalled to draw potable wa­ter. Later, a small barn was con­structed to pro­tect farm equip­ment.

In our grand­par­ents’ de­clin­ing years, my mother cared for them at her home in Thun­der Bay un­til they were even­tu­ally ad­mit­ted to a lo­cal care fa­cil­ity. My grand­fa­ther died at age 85 of heart fail­ure on Jan­uary 22, 1971, in Thun­der Bay. My grand­mother was 83 when she died of com­pli­ca­tions due to di­a­betes, on Au­gust 25, 1974; sadly, my mother was away work­ing on a freighter some­where on the Great Lakes that day.

Still, after so many years of back­break­ing labour, dis­ap­point­ments, heart­break, sick­ness, per­sonal de­pri­va­tion and de­pressed econ­omy, Guido and Babba did fi­nally en­joy a few years of leisurely, pen­sioned life sur­rounded by the love of four gen­er­a­tions. ■

Stella’s grand­par­ents Harry and Paraska (Pansy).

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