The close-knit local Ukrainian community created many memories

“We would invite anyone just to be with us and see what our culture is like. Most people when they get down to it, they like it’

From its beginnings in pioneer times, The Porcupine Camp has attracted immigrants. Political conflicts and the aftermath of the two world wars brought many new Canadians to the North.

He helped the city grow, while creating a mosaic of culture. Ukrainians were one of many ethnic communities drawn to the area.

Orest Lawryniw was born and raised in Timmins, but his parents immigrated from Ukraine. They didn’t come to Timmins by accident. The job skills of immigrants were adapted to their new communities.

“In the case of the group that came to Timmins, they were fleeing war, World War II,” Lawryniw said. “When they came to Canada, they were pretty much predestined to where they would go, based on where they were needed.

“In the case of my parents and many people who came to Timmins, it was because they needed minors. Many moved west because they were farmers. Whatever skills they had at the time.

Life was not easy for the new immigrants. It was important for groups like the Ukrainians to reunite in their new home.

“Because of such a tight-knit Ukrainian community, they pretty much supported each other,” he said. “I remember the term DP, which meant displaced person. It was a pejorative term at the time. So some people would say “you’re a DP, we don’t want you here”. It is a form of racism.

“But they weren’t bothered. They kept doing what they wanted to do.

Ukrainians have proven to be industrious and community-minded.

“They built a church. In Timmins, the men would come home from the mines, eat supper, then go pour the foundations of the church, build pews, etc. said Lawryniw. “That’s how the church started in Timmins.

“One thing about the Ukrainian people is a hard working people. We are a peace-loving nation, but don’t stir the pot.

The June 24, 1948 edition of The Porcupine Advance described the beginning of a new church, while reflecting on the struggles experienced by the Ukrainian community.

“The new Canadians joined the old-timers in a celebratory day-long meeting to meet Bishop Isadore Boreckey of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Eastern Canada,” reads the story. . “Men who were identified a few months ago as displaced in Europe and now called new Canadians joined their Ukrainian brethren in Timmins to rejoice in their newfound freedom and worship in traditional ways. Priests and members of the Knights of Columbus branch of the Roman Catholic Church joined the Greek Catholic Church in celebrating this great occasion.

A two-hour high mass at the Sacred Heart Church kicked off the celebrations. Next, the bishop dedicated the new site of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church on Cedar Street. The procession made its way to the cenotaph, where a wreath was laid by the bishop in commemoration of all war dead. Other activities included a football game at Hollinger Park, a banquet at the McIntyre Community Center and a concert.

Advance reported that a citizen spoke to the crowd about the trip from war-torn Europe.

“Petro Kolosnyk spoke on behalf of new Canadians. Mr. Kolosnyk said he had his family killed by the Reds and spoke bitterly about the massacre of Ukrainians by the Communists. He said, ‘The new crusade of peace and brotherhood will sweep the world.’

Bishop Borecky, a priest for 10 years, had left Ukraine just before the war. He lost two brothers during World War II.

Borecky said he was thrilled with how the entire Timmins community turned out to make the day so memorable.

Lawryniw, a volunteer with the Ukrainian Cultural Group of Timmins, has many memories of growing up in the community.

“We had a Ukrainian hall here at one time here on Fifth Avenue, where a lot of people were congregating,” he said. “We had a religious group. We used to have weekly Sunday picnics after mass in the summer and all the families went out.

“If we weren’t meeting there, I remember having five, six, seven families at our house for an evening of games or cards, or something like that. It’s a very tight-knit community. »

Over the decades, their numbers have dwindled in Timmins.

“A lot of people left Timmins for southern Ontario and so on because the kids grew up and moved on,” he said. “So the population has gone down a lot in Timmins here.

“But with what’s happening and the influx of immigrants, that number will go up.”

Looking through old editions of The Advance, many refer to Ukrainian activities in Timmins. Concerts, choirs, dance performances, picnics, special church services and other events were mentioned on the social pages. In September 1927, the local Ukrainian community started a fundraising project to help flood victims return home.

The May 27, 1926 newspaper included a front-page story about a special concert at the New Empire Theatre. Lily Popovitch, often referred to as the “Ukrainian nightingale”, performed and “music lovers who have heard this gifted singer have described her as marvelous – a beautiful voice, perfectly mastered with a magnificent range and striking sweetness of tone”.

She sang in Ukrainian, Russian, Spanish, Italian, French and English, “every number being a gem”.

Lawryniw said Ukrainians are proud of their heritage.

“We like to show our heritage, but we don’t impose it on anyone,” he explained. “I remember many concerts and receptions at the church, Ukrainian dances, Ukrainian songs, Saint Nicholas on December 18. We invite anyone just to be with us and see what our culture is like. Most people, when they get into it, they like it.

“The perohy (perogies) are the big thing. It’s a national food, that and cabbage rolls. When it comes to the Timmins Multicultural Festival, people line up for an hour before it opens.

In 2013, the local Ukrainian community came together to reinvigorate Kobzar Park, established in 1981. The project included a new statue of Taras H. Shevchenko, a Ukrainian artist and poet.

“It had become quite run down,” Lwaryniw said. “We are proud of our heritage and we didn’t like the way it happened. Someone destroyed the statue. So we had a new statue ordered, made of bronze and bolted down.

“We are a very proud people, a very happy people.

Ukraine is a nation rich in resources and agriculture. Throughout history, its riches have been targeted by others.

“Ukraine dates back to the 4th century,” he said. “He always seems to be attacked by someone. At one time it was Polish domination, then it was free. Then it was Russian domination, then it was free. Then the Russians took it back, and it was free again.

“This 31-year stay that we have had now was probably the longest that Ukraine has been independent. The last 30 years we have a younger community of people in Ukraine. They want their country. They don’t want to let go.

“The elderly have been under Russian domination. The younger ones have been under Ukrainian rule and they don’t want change. They will stand up and fight.

Edward K. Thompson