Mun­son part of doc­u­men­tary on Ukrainian in­tern­ment camps

The Drumheller Mail - - NEWS - Pa­trick Ko­lafa The Drumheller Mail

A new doc­u­men­tary that is pre­mier­ing across the coun­try tells the tragic story of the thou­sands of Ukrainian men, women, and chil­dren dur­ing World War I, and a small chap­ter of that his­tory took place near Mun­son from Oc­to­ber 13, 1918, to March 21, 1919.

Ryan Boyko has writ­ten and di­rected “That Never Hap­pened,” tak­ing on the sub­ject of the in­tern­ment. The name of the film comes from a con­ver­sa­tion he had with a teacher, who, when ques­tioned about the pe­riod of his­tory, the teacher re­sponded with what has be­come the moniker of the movie. His film hopes to tell the story to a wider au­di­ence.

“I think it is a pretty in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to get this story out to the world. It is a piece of his­tory that was for- got­ten,” said Boyko. “It was sys­tem­i­cally wiped out of his­tory. This year, Septem­ber 20, this doc­u­men­tary screened at the United Na­tions and it was the per­ma­nent mis­sion of Canada’s of­fi­cial se­lec­tion as part of the 70th an­niver­sary of the Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Hu­man Rights. That tells us how far we have come as a county.”

While thou­sands were de­tained, it is true there is very lit­tle known about the 24 camps across the coun­try. In fact, the Cana­dian Govern­ment or­dered the de­struc­tion of records of the in­tern­ment in 1954. Part of the le­gacy of th­ese camps is some of the projects the pris­on­ers worked on, such as parts of Banff Na­tional Park. In Mun­son, it was the rail­way.

“There was a Mun­son line that went from Mun­son to Ea­ton, Saskatchewan, just out­side of Saska­toon. That was a rail line they were build­ing,” said Bokyo.

A scan of The Drumheller Mail ar­chives re­veals only a cou­ple of ref­er­ences to the in­tern­ment. Th­ese were small para­graphs de­scrib­ing the work be­ing done by the pris­on­ers, un­der the guard of vet­er­ans of The Great War.

The Mun­son camp came into ex­is­tence at the tail end of the war. About 65 were sent to Mun­son. They were housed in rail­way cars and worked on the rail­way. The Span­ish Flu out­break and dis­ci­plinary is­sues forced the re­lo­ca­tion of the camp, and pris­on­ers were moved to The Ea­ton In­tern­ment Camp in Saskatchewan. There is noth­ing left in Mun­son that shows any sign of the camp, even the rail­way has since been de­com­mis­sioned and re­moved. A mon­u­ment was un­veiled at the Bad­lands His­tor­i­cal Cen­tre in 2002 by the Ukrainian Cana­dian Civil Lib­er­ties As­so­ci­a­tion. The doc­u­men­tary in­cludes archived video of this ded­i­ca­tion.

“The Bri­tish govern­ment and the Amer­i­can Govern­ment at the time said th­ese are ‘friendly aliens, th­ese are not enemy aliens, they are the King’s sub­jects and they must be treated as such,’ but the Cana­dian Govern­ment didn’t feel the same,” said Boyko.

The film’s pre­miere in Cal­gary was sold out on Oc­to­ber 23, the sec­ond day of the the­atri­cal re­lease of “That Never Hap­pened.”

He says while Canada has come a long way, to­day, many of the un­der­ly­ing is­sues per­sist.

I think it is a pretty in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to get this story out to the world. It is a piece of his­tory that was for­got­ten.” Ryan Boyko film writer, di­rec­tor

“One of the things when we started mak­ing this doc­u­men­tary, we thought we were cre­at­ing some­thing from a niche com­mu­nity, it was prob­a­bly go­ing to play in church base­ments and have a very short shelf life. The film re­ally took on a life of its own with the in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics that are hap­pen­ing to­day, the in­ter­est, the fact it was sys­tem­at­i­cally wiped out,” he said. “The way it re­ally maps on to so­cial jus­tice, th­ese are ma­jor top­ics be­ing talked about by govern­ments all over the world.”

ailphoto by Pa­trick Ko­lafa

A mon­u­ment at the Bad­lands His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety to re­mem­ber the in­tern­ment of Ukraini­ans near Mun­son dur­ing World War I. A new doc­u­men­tary tells the story of this dark time in his­tory

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