Hardships of Immigrants

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For too long Ukrainian voices have been muffled and gagged.

My last name left no doubt as to my background. I lived in a very 'English' area of British Columbia. The prejudice was great toward anyone who was even thought to be Ukrainian. I had rocks hurled at me, neighbourhood kids broke our windows, my cousins and I were repeatedly beaten up, and even the police would do nothing about it.

I should mention that I was born in Saskatchewan and started school in Prince Albert (the last place you'd expect to find people who hate Ukes as many living there are Ukes). At one point in the late 60's my dad built a home in the area of the city where the 'upper crust' of doctors and lawyers lived. This is where I first learned of prejudice. One particular family who were so fresh from England that their young children all had strong accents, gave us a lot of grief. They would throw their bulldog's droppings over the fence into our yard, throw carrots at our windows (yes - carrots), and my mom had to often walk me home from school to save me from having my hair pulled by these kids.

In 1969 we moved to British Columbia and things were bad right from the start. In fact, because of the taunting, I decided to wear a button that said "Proud to be Ukrainian". I figured that it would cause things to stop, thinking that if I showed I wasn't ashamed of who I was, they'd leave me alone. Once I reached junior high school things were fine.

My cousins experienced similar things. Even though their lasts names are different than mine, they still have Ukrainian last names. Children can be so mean - but they learn it at home.

I am an adult now, all grown up and no longer bothered by the pettiness and stupidity of ignorant ones. But I must shake my head in disgust and dismay when I see that such prejudice has not gone away. In our enlightened age one should no longer see signs of this anymore. I am now blessed with the most wonderful husband a woman could ever want. We've been married 11 years and he has made up for all of the bad things my ex did to me. I may have lost things, some of which can't be replaced - but I gained the greatest gift of all, a good Christian husband that treats me like a queen.
Penny Reynolds

Penny, thank you for sharing your experiences, unpleasant though they were. It's an uncomfortable topic that Ukrainians seem to often have difficulty expressing. Nevertheless, as Ukrainians discover more about their genealogies and the factors affecting their families and ancestors, unfortunately racism and bigotry are often included. My parents were slave labourers under the Nazis. So were about 10 million others. It's part of the reason and history of why so many immigrated to Canada and other countries after WWll. I recently came across a reference to the Nazi plan to use famine to annihilate an estimated 65 percent of the Ukrainian population, so-called "superfluous eaters" [ see reference below ]. And of course the Ukrainian Famine Genocides carried out by the Soviet Communists killed perhaps more than 10 million.

And as you have experienced yourself, there was and is prejudice in Canada as well. By checking Infoukes genealogy archives [ http://www.infoukes.com/lists/genealogy/ ] one may find other examples, such as the internment of Ukrainians during 1914-1920 into concentration camps in Canada. For more information, see

Because of that little-known history (and its suppression by the Canadian government) and such discrimination, many Ukrainians, even as citizens of Canada, felt compelled to change their names to an Anlgicized variant. (Yet another reason why some Ukrainians spell their names the way they do).
Stefan Lemieszewski

Dear Penny,

My maiden name had been Anglicized Even so, because of my parents accent - and my own - (I spoke and understood a number of languages when I entered school). I obviously stood out as different than the children of English, Irish, Scotish and French families.

We never had the experience that you did as far as rocks being thrown, but I did go well out of my way to school and back to avoid taunting and beatings.

At my first birthday party while I was in primary school, of all the children invited only two children attended: a girl of Irish/English descent, who remains my dearest friend, and another who was of English (and silently Ukrainian) descent (who later turned out to be the niece of my husband's first wife - we were destined). Others were not allowed to come to my house to play and I was not allowed to visit their homes. One of the reasons: we cooked strange food.???? Later one of these mothers would ask my mother for some of her "specialties" and would come for dinner when her husband was not at home.

In the first school that I attended, I was accepted. Twin Chinese boys and a Portuguese boy were targets. I cried for them. They became friends and were always welcome in our home till our families moved in different directions and we lost track of one another.

In the second school (still in 1st grade) I was one of the minority, along with a Polish boy who sat behind me. Both of us had accented English, were considered not to bright, however, we proved differently being in the top three. Still, there was a certain name that the teachers would use in reference to us: "Those two B- - - - k children." Of course we didn't know that this was an insult, only that we were different.

When I asked my stepfather, his comment to me: "Yes, that is what people called us" - my mother etc. He did not make this seem like a bad thing, just that we were different. I returned to school feeling very special. Father did not want me to feel that there was something wrong or that I should feel uncomfortable. As one gets a little bit older, we felt the pain and I became very shy, even among some cousins who tried very hard not to be what they were born to be.

Father respected teachers greatly, especially since he had never had the opportunity to go to school. I later learned that he had come to my school (at a time when many parents didn't) met with the teachers involved and the Principal.

Kenny and I never heard any remarks about our ethnicity but there was much pressure to speak unaccented English.

My first employer while I was in school thought that I was English. I didn't loose an accent - I gained one, much to the annoyance of aunts and uncles who now had an English person in their midst.

I am an adult now (although I don't really feel that I am) - I am still bothered by the pettiness and ignorance that we see in this world. We will never be able to solve this in our lifetimes, but we can help by not contributing to the situations that lead to conflict.
Cheers, Stella Stanger

Dear Olga,
I'm neither Ukrainian, nor Polish, nor Russian, nor Swiss but a mixture of all this. My father was born in Switzerland, I was born in Switzerland, and both of us suffered from racism only because of our surname (my father shortened it).

Greetings, Dominique Tcherdyne (tseva)

Hi Olga,
I live in Manchester, NH and our "claim to fame" is that, at the turn of the century, the Amoskeag, Stark and Coolidge Mills were the largest textile producing mills in the world. Most immigrants who came to Manchester worked in the mills and many were actively recruited from Europe (both as well paid, skilled weavers and also, for many, "cheap labor"). Poles and Ukrainians were regarded with some suspicion as many people in Manchester probably never heard of either, not to mention, Poland did not exist on a map then!

One of the items to survive the mills is the employee records, During the course of my research I have come across a few examples of Poles being accused of stealing cloth and - there are a few "nasty" letters written to the files by supervisors regarding these people.

From a mill record regarding a Ukrainian who owed money to the company for a small loan (?) he took out. Note the reference to him as a Pole - many Ukrainians were regarded as Poles because of the way they spelled their last names (i.e. using Polish orthography). This dates from about 1930.

"Employee is just an ignorant Pole who does not like to pay and thinks he has to, only as he pleases. He owes the bill and is able to pay. I had difficulty in making him understand (where) the matter lies. I believe I succeeded and that I helped him."

This next piece has to do with a case of mistaken identity. It seems a John Chrycak was in need of a work pass which he obtained from a relation, a Mr. Petrychkovych. Little did he know, that the work pass of John Barton, was an employee who was fired just weeks earlier for a fight he had with another employee. Since John Chrycak showed up with J. Barton's work pass, they assumed it was John Barton and fired him again! This is Iwan Hrycak's reply in his own hand - dated, I believe, to about 1932. I have kept the spelling and grammar as he wrote it. It is a short letter written in pencil:

John Chrycak

"Dear Sir,
I would like to know why don't you give me a card to work.

For I came from another city it makes about five weeks ago. But I have worked in the Manchester Mill here about two years ago down stairs. But my name is not like you tell me only my right name is - John Ryczak.

So please if you have a job so please give it to him."

Note that he spells his surname two different ways here - the top is correct, the one in the body of the letter, more how it was pronounced in English.

Another note in an employee's record, this one from the record of Maria Jajesnica (nee Bozek) dated 26.JAN.1918:

"Walked out on account of a warp. (Sabotage) Deliberately damaged a warp" Maria was a weaver in the Loom section of the mills.

There are numerous accounts of Poles "sabotaging" the looms, etc., because supposedly, they did not feel like working on a particular day, etc.

Another note found in the record of a Jan Zdon dating to 1915:

"John Zdon and a friend Peter Zwiecak have a cave around Lake Massabesic and have stolen goods. Zdon was prosecuted in 1915 and Zwiecak let off". It does not go on to say if he was actually found "guilty" or not - presumably the "goods" were from the mills.

Lastly there is a note in the file of a Mr. & Mrs. Kiszka - seems they found a great deal of "Amoskeag cloth" at their home - Mrs. Kiszka indicated it was not stolen, but because the ones who found it were Coolidge Mill people, they didn't seem overly concerned - the case was not prosecuted. I'm not sure by what authority their house was searched for stolen cloth from the mills, but the only thing I can think of is that some of the housing was owned by the mills - perhaps if they lived at in mill-owned housing, they were subject to intermittent searches of their homes from time to time for "stolen goods".

Many comments were also made when people left the mills with respect to being hired again - most answers were "no" followed by some negative comment, "Too lazy, just does what he pleases", "Too damn independent!" and the like.

Well, that's about it -

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