Ukrainian Heritage Day to be Celebrated in Lakeland Friday

On Friday, Alberta celebrates the second annual Ukrainian Canadian Heritage Day, and locally the town and M.D. are getting involved.

The Municipal District of Bonnyville will raise a Ukrainian flag on Friday morning at 10am.

Reeve Greg Sawchuk will then read a list of names of Ukrainian settlers who settled in the area. The M.D. has asked people on Facebook to comment names of settlers, and get the biggest number of them represented.

“It’s a recognition within the M.D. that awful lot of Ukrainian settlers overcame hardships coming from a different land, and settled in our community. It was quite an undertaking in 1909 or 1910 to travel,” said Sawchuk.

Genia Leskiw is an executive member of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council an umbrella organization that acts as a voice for Ukrainian organizations. She encouraged the local municipalities to raise the flag on Friday morning.

“The response has been positive. It’s an acknowledgement that our communities are multicultural. We have a strong francophone community in our area, we have a strong Ukrainian community in our area, we have a strong Indigenous community, and you should honour them. They helped build the town,” said Leskiw.

“They came in the early days and built it. It’s sort of a small way of honouring them.”

Leskiw is first generation Ukrainian, and her husband’s grandparents came before the First World War. The former MLA sees the importance Ukrainians have had in Bonnyville politically.

“We’ve had four Ukrainian mayors from way back who’ve been involved in the community, both politically and just in the community….there’s sign of Ukrainian life all around us,” said Leskiw.

“Thank you to our municipalities for embracing this idea and coming on board for honouring the Ukrainian settlers.”

Also marking the day, a new Consulate General of Ukraine is being opened in Edmonton on Friday. This will be for Ukrainian residents who are still citizens of Ukraine, and also proves the growing relationship of strong commerce between the countries.

In 2016, the bill marking Sept. 7 as Ukrainian Canadian Heritage Day was passed unanimously in the legislature.

That day marks the anniversary of when the first documented Ukrainian settlers, Ivan Pylypiw and Vasyl Eleniak, arrived in Alberta in 1891.