Six generations ago, my family came to Canada from what is now Ukraine. In 1900, Northern Alberta was not a hospitable place, and it wasn’t what the homesteaders were promised. But my great, great grandparents stuck it out. Literally carved a life out of the earth for themselves and their family.

At 26 years old, my great, great-grandmother, Olena, traveled from Galicia, a region so often invaded and occupied that the people didn’t even have a name for themselves, and came to Canada. She came with her husband Paulo, a widower, and his four children, by way of Hamburg, Germany. I can’t imagine the boat ride. Then to land in Halifax, on the far east coast, and have another 5000 kilometers to travel. My mind reels.

Paulo and Olena had 8 children together, 6 of whom survived. This summer at a family reunion, I looked at their legacy, the lives that flowed from the sweat of their brows, the work of their hands. And I looked at the land. I wondered, did the geography somehow make its way into my genetic makeup? The hills, the lakes, the very earth seemed to resonate a song of homecoming in my heart, so loud and vibrant that it took my breath away.

I am humbled by the sacrifices made by the people who took the Canadian frontier by the throat and wrestled the means of survival from its grasp. And I am grateful for the life that I have because of their labours. I wonder if their hearts broke, leaving the land of their ancestors, my ancestors, to come here, and if I were to go there, would that land cry out to me the same way? I intend to find out. A hundred and ten years isn’t that long, really, not long enough to erase the deepest memories of home embedded in the very essence of a family.


~ by Trillian on 09/16/2010.

One Response to “Homestead”

  1. I enjoyed reading your thoughts about past family and your feelings of home. I believe that genetic memory is very real and I too have felt a tug in my heart after seeing pictures of my ancestral home and the Highlands if Scotland.

    I had an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu, that I know this place and I have been there before. A feeling of peace and of home.

    They say home is where the heart is… all thought my home is here in Canada, it seems my heart belongs to Scotland.

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