A VI­TAL AND EN­DUR­ING PRES­ENCE

Canada's History - - CURRENTS -

One of the de­scen­dants of Ro­mani pioneers in Canada is Michael T. Butch. The pres­i­dent of Toronto’s Roma Com­mu­nity Cen­tre, Butch also heads the rhythm and blues band The Gypsy Rebels and is one of the lead­ers among the Kalderash Roma in Toronto.

His pa­ter­nal great- grand­par­ents, Yorgi and Baba Butchin­ski, mi­grated from Rus­sia in 1906 and en­tered Canada from the United States in 1908. They were from a large group of Rus­sian-Ro­mani mu­si­cians who ar­rived in Canada af­ter spend­ing some time in Western Europe as fugi­tives from the Rus­sian Revo­lu­tion.

As au­thor Ronald Lee tells it, Ro­mani mu­sic, which had been en­joyed by the czarist regime and the aris­toc­racy, was out­lawed as deca­dent and re­ac­tionary. The Butchin­ski fam­ily set­tled in Al­berta when the Cana­dian government at­tracted set­tlers with the in­cen­tive of free farm­land.

Their land had poor soil, though, and they sold it in 1955, un­aware of the oil de­posits be­low the sur­face. Both Butch’s pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther and his ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents even­tu­ally set­tled in Mon­treal. To this day, Butch chuck­les over the fam­ily’s lost op­por­tu­nity to make its for­tune from the oil de­posits on their land. His ex­tended fam­ily now con­sti­tutes one of the largest Cana­dian-Ro­mani clans.

Left: Left to right, sis­ters Boby (Bar­bara), An­nie, and Dolly Evanovitch, Michael T. Butch’s pa­ter­nal grand­mother and great-aunts, pos­si­bly in Ed­mon­ton, circa 1938. Cen­tre: Yorgi (Ge­orge), Butch’s pa­ter­nal great-grand­fa­ther, Ed­mon­ton. Right: Michael T....

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