Reflections: Stories of Ukrainian Canadian Ancestors

This article appeared in the Bowen Island Undercurrent, October 2023.

Artist Statement

My work in this exhibit was a reflection on photographs taken by my Ukrainian uncle in 1940’s Manitoba. I found these photos in the attic of the abandoned family farmhouse on a visit with my father and daughter over seventy years later. 

My grandparents came to Canada from Ukraine at the turn of the century. Many of their children left the farms to work in the orchards, mines, and railways of Western Canada. There was so much hardship, but these images show them still in the embrace of home and community. Their individual stories are mostly lost to time but these moments remain for our reflection. We each will tell our own stories about what we see. 

My art has an element of nostalgia, which has been described as the ache that arises from the consciousness of lost connection. Recent studies have shown that nostalgia also serves a positive function, increasing a sense of social connectedness, and reminding us of a social web that extends across people—and across time. 

As I spent time with these images I also reflected the current situation in Ukraine. I am grateful to my ancestors for choosing Canada as our home. Settler history is complex, and I respectfully acknowledge and am thankful to live, learn, and work on the territory of the Coast Salish people, specifically the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) Nation.