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21 Strands represents Ukranian-Canadian history

A monument to acknowledge and remember an often forgotten part of Canadian history that affected the lives of many Ukrainian-Canadians during the First World War was unveiled at Lagasse Park on Sept. 28.
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RUSHANTHI KESUNATHAN

A monument to acknowledge and remember an often forgotten part of Canadian history that affected the lives of many Ukrainian-Canadians during the First World War was unveiled at Lagasse Park on Sept. 28.

The new exhibit, 21 Strands, is a recreation of a photo taken during the war at one of four interment camps in Alberta. Cool temperatures didn’t stop locals from gathering to remember their ancestors and their history as close to 100 people came together for the event Saturday morning.

Dwayne Ternovoy, president of the All Saints Ukraininan Orthodox Church, and who is of Ukrainian descent, says his grandparents and forefathers were in the same predicament as those affected back during the war.

“It’s touching to see that something that has been forgotten, has been rediscovered and is openly presented in our town,” Ternovoy said.

The prisoners, primarily Ukrainians, in Canadian Internment Camps came to the country as peaceful emigrants only to be unjustly interned as enemy aliens from 1914 to 1920 under the War Measures Act.

Another local resident, Rosemarie Smilar, says she was very proud to be Ukrainian. She attended the unveiling curious to learn more about her heritage.

Lloyd Yaremko joined the event with this wife, Emilia Yaremko. They say this part of their heritage has been hidden from the public for many years and as result the unjust done to these people went unrecognized.

Emilia says Saturday's event was emotional for her.

“My grandparents worked hard, and to see this, that it happened in history – it’s difficult,” she said.

But on Saturday the group gathered to remember, and the memorial will ensure the trials are not forgotten and the memory will continue.

The Yaremkos' daughter, Lloyanne Yaremko-Galas says it’s important to remember this part of Canadian history as people move forward and carry better intentions for more thoughtful and decent actions towards each other.

Following an opening remark by Caroline Yewchin, a consecration of the monument took place as Rev. Fr. Peter Haugen of the All Saints Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Fr. Andrij Nykyforuk of Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church performed prayers.

The name, 21 Strands, was chosen because of the 21 strands of barbwire used to intern the prisoners in the camps. Amil Shapka, of the All Saints Ukrainian Orthodox Church, collaborated with the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation (UCCLF), the Town of St. Paul, and others to create the exhibit now on display at the east end of the park.

Town of St. Paul Mayor Maureen Miller was also present, giving remarks and thanking the community, followed by comments from Champions for Change Chairperson Penny Fox, and Borys Sydoruk of Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Foundation. The laying of wreaths from the Town of St. Paul, Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Royal Canadian Legion, All Saints Ukrainian Orthodox Church and affected communities followed.

After a complimentary lunch, Prof. Lubmyr Luciuk of Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., spoke about “Why we need to remember Canada’s first national internment operations,” the same afternoon at the All Saints Orthodox Church.



Rushanthi Kesunathan

About the Author: Rushanthi Kesunathan

Rushanthi Kesunathan joined the St. Paul Journal in 2019. She writes general news and features. She is a Tamil-Canadian from Markham, Ont. who has also written for the Globe & Mail and the Toronto Star.
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