The Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is a short distance east of Elk Island National Park on the historical Yellowhead Highway (Hwy 16) east of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. There is an admission charge for most visitors. Special events are hosted throughout each summer but Mel and I are here on a quiet, warm Monday afternoon. The village is one of Alberta’s Provincial Historic Sites which represents the significant contribution Ukrainian immigrants made to the development of Western Canada in the late 1800′s and early twentieth century. There are guided tours which provide broader access and information than Mel and I will achieve on our informal walk around this fascinating historical complex.
From the Admissions Booth, Mel parks in the shaded parking area and we make our way past a beautifully preserveded dwelling called ‘Muster Point’, which I find a bit odd.
Entrance to the Visitor Reception Centre is via wooden-covered walkway past the courtyard containing a 1980 Leo Mol bronze sculpture titled, ‘Pioneer Family’. At the reception desk an attractive young woman in historical pioneer clothing provides Mel and I with an interpretive map and information about guided tours. Following a brief foray in the adjacent gift shop, we make our way to the Visitor Reception Centre exit and walk along the Causeway, through a forest tunnel, which crosses the marsh-lined shores of Goose Lake.
The views from each side of the Causeway, across the strikingly beautiful, marsh-lined shores of Goose Lake, provide a hint of the pioneer building structures which are spread over a fairly large area. All the pioneer buildings has been relocated to this site, acquired by the Alberta Government in 1975. The representative, early-settlement buildings, acquired from a vast area of east and central Alberta, are arranged by chronological periods of pioneer development and structural types. It will make more sense when you get there. In hindsight, I would recommend one of the guided tours included in the price of admission. During our afternoon visit there are people on walking and horse-drawn wagon tours. Apparently, if you place a child on a horse-drawn wagon, there is a good possibility of a mile-wide smile. On our right the Bellis Home Grain Company Elevator (circa 1925-1930) soars into the sky.
Past the Causeway and over the railroad tracks, the Townsite (1925-1930) commercial or community support structures dominate the landscape. Mel and I hang a left past the old Alberta Lumber Company Office to observe work underway in the Demchuk Blacksmith Shop. At the high point above surrounding building is the visually striking Saint Vladimir’s Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church. There are four functional churches on the property. Escorted entry may be provided on guided tours.
At the Demchuk Blacksmith Shop, a young man is forging a large closed ring for one of the harness structures on the horse drawn carriages. The shop is well equipped with all tools of the trade for the era. The pungent, pleasant odor of the superheated forge, fed by hand operated, mechanical bellows, permeates the shop. Behind the blacksmith’s shop, which serves the real needs of this pioneer community, is the similarly functional Woodworking Shop where another live demonstration is underway using completely authentic and manual woodworking tools. Buildings to the south of the blacksmith’s shop are either under construction or locked, except for guided tours, so Mel and I walk past the Demchuk House towards the impressive St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church at the top of the hill.
The Wostock Hardware Store is across the street from the north facing entrance to St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church. Further up the road at the west perimeter of the village, Hewko House is under development near the Chernochan Machine Shed and the Kitt Threshing Machine Shed. The photographic potential here is huge. South sun into the camera compromises my attempt at capturing a horse-drawn plow tilling soil in front of false-fronted Kew Hall. All the good light is on the other side of the horses. Mel and I continue north on the road past the Luzan Grocery, (store at the front, dwelling at the back), and the Luzan Post Office to the predominantly Farmstead section featuring pioneer structures circa 1900 to 1919.
Right away we encounter the pigsty with the Slemko Barn behind. Near the Slemko Barn there is a tall, unusual cross at roadside which puzzles us. It appears to be a normal cross with an extra slanted cross beam added at a lower level. It is the only feature I do not photograph. Later, I discover it is a roadside shrine. It would be interesting to hear the story behind it. I have titled the following building names as accurately as possible but my confidence is less than 100%. Apologies, if necessary. The experience is fascinating. It is like travelling back a hundred years in time. All the sights, sounds and odors belong to rural pioneer life.
A working clay oven (traditional pich) is an interesting feature among the relocated and restored pioneer buildings. It is amazing to time travel like this on a gorgeous day with a light breeze to buffer the warmth of the sun. On the return side of the loop through the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, we encounter a burdei beside a large, immaculate, vegetable garden with sporadically placed flowers, probably sympathetic partners to reduce disease and infestation naturally. I have a feeling the people who look after this garden have forgotten more about horticulture than I will ever know. A burdei is a shelter with half of the structure beneath ground level and a roof above ground. This one has plants growing tall in the sod roof. A metal stovepipe sticks out from the top.
Cool, sheltered forest trail leads from the burdei, used by newly arrived immigrants (circa 1900), to the back of the St. Nicholas Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The pristine church resides in a field of tall grass competing with densely populated wildflowers. A short walk down the church entrance road reveals the other side of the Bellis Home Grain Company Elevator which greeted the beginning of our walk. Across the road from the grain elevator is the Andrew Alberta Provincial Police Post.
Walking towards the Bellis Canadian National Railway Station, there is an excellent view uphill to the Hilliard Hotel. Walking along the railroad tracks provides an excellent look at the detail of the Bellis Canadian National Railway Station. All the buildings are kept true to their original décor and furnishings. A lot of dedicated people have done a good job of creating and maintaining this special historical village.
As Mel and I leave the Visitor Reception Area for ice cream at Food Services in the ‘Silska Domiwka’ Hospitality Centre, I notice two buildings we missed on the way in. Mel proceeds to ice cream while I check out the overlooked properties. The first is Yurko House and the second larger property is Hawreliak House which hosts a large, fenced chicken coop. As I approach, all the chickens race over to the corner closest to me. I feel badly I have no chicken feed to share with them. Fond memories of Scoudouc in New Brunswick. On my way to join Mel for ice cream, I pass the bust of Dr. Jósef Olesków and the Centennial Pioneer Monument. Really focussed on ice cream now, I pass by the formidable structure first seen at arrival. Just for the record, I made a little joke about it being called `Muster Point`. It is Pylypow House, and it is the muster point for groups to meet for activities.
On this visit, Mel and I did not get it all done. On a subsequent visit there are other buildings and features to explore. I would be inclined to take a guided tour for background and history. There is an excellent Online Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village Guided Tour in English and Ukrainian for those who might be interested. For information on special events, reference Ukrainian Village and for other upcoming events reference Friends of the Ukrainian Village.
The Ukrainian people have made a significant contribution to the development of Canada and, for that, they deserve a lot of credit and appreciation. I would be remiss if I did not mention there is also evidence of poor treatment towards some Ukrainian people. A historic marker for the Castle Mountain World War 1 Internment Camp can be found at a memorial along Highway 1a west of Castle Junction in Banff National Park and another internment camp is documented on interpretive panels at Natural Bridge in Yoho National Park.
Photographs for this post about the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village were captured on Monday, July 14, 2014 east of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.