Missed Opportunities: Early Attempts to Obtain Bukovynian Orthodox Clergy for the Ukrainian Pioneers of Alberta


  • Jaroslaw Ihor Balan Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies




Immigration from the Austro-Hungarian crown land of Bukovyna to the Canadian West was initiated in 1897-98, continuing thereafter until the outbreak of the First World War. Comprised mostly of ethnic Ukrainians, but including a small number of Romanians and families of mixed marriages, the peasant farmers from Bukovyna took out homesteads alongside the fledgling colony established northeast of Edmonton a few years earlier by Ukrainians from Galicia. An immediate concern of the settlers was the lack of any priests to serve their pastoral needs and to provide leadership for the communities that they were struggling to establish in challenging circumstances in the New World.  Although itinerant priests dispatched by the Russian Orthodox mission based in San Francisco began visiting the Ukrainian settlers in Alberta beginning in July 1897 at the request of Russophiles among the first Galician homesteaders, the new arrivals from Bukovyna found them to be less than satisfactory because of linguistic and cultural differences. Almost immediately, the Bukovynians began appealing to the Orthodox Church in Bukovyna for clergy who could speak the Bukovynian Ukrainian dialect and “Wallachian,” so that they would not be dependent on priests from the Russian Mission. Despite numerous requests sent to the Metropolitanate of Bukovyna over the course of the next decade and a half—not only from Alberta, but also from other Bukovynian colonies in Canada—no Ukrainian clergy were ever assigned by church officials in Chernivtsi to serve the Orthodox faithful overseas. Drawing on archival sources, press reports and secondary sources, this article reconstructs these efforts by the pioneer era Ukrainian settlers from Bukovyna to obtain Orthodox clergy from their native land, at the same time suggesting reasons for their failure.


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