St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, Mountain Road, Manitoba (Source: Winnipeg Free Press).
Who knows, maybe my grandparents and my aunt are in this photo ?
My grandfather, Wasyl Nykoluk, worked for the CNR in Sioux Lookout for a number of years between the years 1914 and 1923. He’d hoped to quickly save enough money to bring his family to Canada, but the outbreak of WWI meant the Nykoluk family ended up being separated for nine years. My grandmother and infants Mary and Petro were locked in Eastern Europe for the duration of the war, and sometime after. Canada re-opened it’s borders to Ukrainians in the early 1920’s. My grandparents were finally reunited in Superior Lot, a railway community of mostly Ukrainian workers twenty miles down the line from Sioux Lookout, in 1923.
When May 2023 arrives, one hundred years will have passed since that joyous day!
In my previous blog post, I mentioned that my grandparents, Anne and Wasyl Nykoluk, may have been attracted to the Polonia/ Mountain Road area for two key reasons. Firstly, there were already families in the Mountain Road district originating from their own village beside the Dniester River, Melnytsya Podilska. Many of these families immigrated earlier around the year 1900.
Secondly, my grandmother would have been very interested to learn of the new Saint Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, built in the community of Mountain Road, during the years 1924-1925. Oddly enough, family story indicates that the Nykoluk’s were invited to stay and work with a local Polish family, Gladys and Frank Kasprick, (mostly Polish farmers resided in the area). (Of note: The Kaspricks were the grandparents of the woman my father, John Nykoluk, would eventually marry – Bernice Kasprick).
“Between 1924 and 1925, with the supervision of Father Philip Ruh, a majestic wooden cathedral was built using free lumber and volunteer labor, at a total cost of $18,000. Shaped like a cross with a capacity for several hundred parishioners, 130 stained glass windows, and an interior painted with brightly-colored murals, the building had no pews or electricity. Light was provided by hundreds of candles and parishioners stood during services.” (Source: Manitoba Historical Society)
Traditionally, Ukrainian churches did not have pews, congregants would stand when they attended church services. Thus, for either reasons of economy or tradition, the Saint Mary’s Ukrainian Church did not have pews.
The kinship connections between ancestral villagers was obviously strong, and kinship continued for many years after immigration to Canada took place. In fact, unknown to me at the time, I attended school with descendants of families who immigrated from the same ancestral village as mine!
The industrious families from Melnytsya Podilska must have played a key role in helping to build this amazing church. The cost of the Church speaks indirectly to the success of the Ukrainian farmers in the area.
Family story indicates that after my grandfather passed away in 1947, my grandmother’s son-in-law, Jim Follows, would take her to her church by horse and buggy – a 16-mile return journey from their eventual farm between Birnie and Riding Mountain, Manitoba.
My grandfather Wasyl was buried at the Saint Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in 1947. Long-time family friend, Kost Solovey, had been buried in the next plot earlier in 1945. Unfortunately, my grandmother passed away during a cold January in 1957, and the Mountain Road Cemetery was not physically accessible: faced with this difficult decision, my family decided to inter Anne Nykoluk at the Neepawa Cemetery.
The Saint Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Mountain Road met an unfortunate end on August 19th in 1966, when the church was struck by lightning and burned down. It was replaced by a more modern style church soon after.
Please visit the Manitoba Historical Society link below for more photos of Saint Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church.
My family continues to visit the Mountain Road cemetery and share stories about our ancestors. It is comforting to know that other Ukrainians from their ancestral village were also buried there and that we can visit them.
My curiosity about my family history led me to write a historical fiction novel about their difficult and prolonged immigration to Canada. Heart Stones: A Ukrainian Immigration Story of Love and Hope was released on February 16th, 2023.
Visit my website at www.christinenykoluk.com to learn more about the story line, view recent reviews, and information about where my book can be purchased.
Download a free copy of Chapter One from the Free Chapter page on my website!
Follow me on Facebook at Christine Nykoluk Author
Source: Manitoba Historical Society website downloaded February 26th, 2023 at: