An Illustrated History of Slavic Misery: Joseph Oleskiw

Posted on August 20, 2013


Born in September 1860 to a family of priests, the name Joseph Oleskiw won’t mean too much to you. Heck, it didn’t mean much to me a few days ago, and for two good reasons: One, I’m not Ukrainian and two, I’m not Canadian. Read on, young child.

In the late 19th century, Ukrainians were in a pretty desperate position in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Well, most Slavs were, but there we go. For reasons I cannot explain, there had been a mass migration of Ukrainians to Brazil. Whether it was for the rum or work, I have no idea. Either way, they were being treated pretty horrifically there, mostly as hard labour slaves, so something needed to be done. Our man Oleskiw was sent to find out if a better solution could be found, and it was to Canada that he would go. He was at the time the Imperial and Royal Professor at the Teacher’s Seminary in Lviv, and was on the way to Canada on business. Whilst your there, see if it would be a good chance for Ukrainian immigration mate. He arrived in Quebec City on April 30th, 1896,

It was Edmonton (home of the Edmontosaurus) that would be the centre of his work. He saw the land, decreed it similar to Ukraine, and his mind was made. Canada, and Edmonton in particular, would be the perfect place for some immigration, to make the most of the agricultural potential there. He quickly wrote two pamphlets (‘About Free Lands’ and ‘On Emigration’), and his literature was quickly spread. Within 20 years, there would be 170,000 Ukrainians in the country. They would become the largest Slavic group in all of Canada.

And that’s about it really. Just a short one.