Photo credit Lynda Lawrence collection.
I think the above photo was taken in the late 1930’s, based on the young boy’s age. The boy was my late father John Nykoluk. From left to right, the others are: my Aunt Mary (born in Ukraine in 1914, just a month before my grandfather departed for Canada), grandmother Annie, grandfather Wasyl, and my aunt Vi. The older man on the right side of the photo is Kost Solovey.
Both my father and Aunt Vi were born in Canada (in 1930 and 1928 respectively) after my grandparents reunited in Sioux Lookout, Ontario. Missing from this photo is my uncle Petro, he was my grandparent’s oldest child, born in 1912. Sadly, Church records indicated that he died from typhus in my grandparent’s home village, Melnytsya Podilska, on April 26th, 1920, shortly after WWI ended.
Annie and Wasyl Nykoluk were reunited after nine years of separation. My grandfather had immigrated to Canada in spring 1914, just months before WWI was declared. Canada closed its doors to immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian Empire soon after.
As indicated on their Declaration of Passenger to Canada document, Annie and Mary finally arrived from the Ukraine to meet Wasyl in May, 1923. Annie had $41.62 in her possession. The document listed her nearest relative in Ukraine as her mother Marja Bartycuik. (Note: Bartycuik was Marja’s maiden name, her married name was Kowalchuk).
That’s 100 years ago!
I’ve often wondered what was my grandparents’ reunification was like after such a long separation. I imagine it must have been very emotional, and that they’d all felt a great deal of anticipation and relief.
The older man in the photo wearing the tie is Kost Solovey, an important family friend who helped keep the Nykoluk family together in Eastern Europe during the war.
Who was Kost? We were told that he was Slovakian or Czech, and that my grandmother and my Aunt Mary met him in one of the nine war camps they lived in during WWI.
Apparently, Kost did not accompany Annie and Mary in 1923 when they arrived in Canada. However, he was listed on an Election List for the Rural Municipality of Rosedale, Manitoba in the late 1930's. Did my grandfather pay his passenger fare to Canada?
Kost died on my grandparent’s farm in 1945 at the age of 79 years. He was buried next to my grandfather in the Mountain Road Ukrainian Church cemetery in Manitoba. This is a testament to how important Kost was to the Nykoluk family.
You can read a fictional account of my grandparent's amazing story (and more about the character of Kost) in my recently released book Heart Stones: A Ukrainian Immigration Story of Love and Hope, published in 2023.
Visit my website for more details about Heart Stones, read book reviews and visit my bookstore, listen to CBC media interviews, and read more blog posts. While there, you can download Chapter One from my book, it’s absolutely free!
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