NP-UN Western Bureau.
Members of the Ukrainian National Federation, and the Ukrainian Women’s Organization, Edmonton Branch, took a weekend trip to Jasper National Park, February 2-4.
Over 50 members, most of whom came in a chartered bus, but some drove their own cars, participated.
The UNF and UWO’s traditional yearly bus tours in Alberta have been organized since the 1980s and have a dual educational and social purpose.
On the social level, this gives members an opportunity to relate to each other on a personal level through singing and conversation.
On the educational level they provide an opportunity to learn about the history of Alberta, in particular the Ukrainian Canadian experience in that province.
This year’s educational objective was to visit the site of the internment camp at Old Fort Point on the Athabasca River where 200, mostly Ukrainian, men were interned for seven months in 1916.
This was one of 24 camps throughout Canada where 8,000 “enemy aliens”, of which more than 5,000 were Ukrainians, who were originally citizens of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, were interned between 1914 and 1920 under the War Measures Act.
According to the Jasper Fitzhugh website the work of the men included digging the water main in Jasper, hauling water and chopping firewood within the camp, sawing wood, clearing around the camp, digging a large ditch in Jasper, building a fence and a gate to the camp, cutting fence posts, working on a pipe line in Jasper and constructing the Athabasca River bridge. They were also tasked with removing ice that gathered around the piers in the frigid winter air.
The Fitzhugh also wrote that at one point the men refused to work.
“It was the first time a camp had experienced a strike, and the Parks authorities were unimpressed. Major General Sir William Otter, director of Internment Operations for the Government of Canada, responded by saying the guards were unable to force the men to work. All they were allowed to do was cut back their rations and encourage the men to get back to work. The superintendent of the Jasper National Park unsuccessfully tried to convince the men that the work was for their own well-being, but the men were undeterred given the circumstances,” stated a February 10, 2011 article.
Three men attempted to escape but were caught and by August 1916, the camp was shut down.
The UNF members were unable to visit the site as a heavy snowfall that weekend made the road to it impassable.
They did, however, manage to visit scenic Athabasaca Falls.
The trip was organized by Mykola Vorotilenko, President UNF Edmonton, Slava Yopyk, Past President of UWO Edmonton and Sasha Vorotilenko, UNF Secretary.
While in Jasper, the UNF members stayed at the Maligne Inn, run by the Ukrainian Canadian company Decore Hotels, whose President Karyn Decore, is the niece of the late Laurence Decore, former Mayor of Edmonton and leader of the Alberta Liberals. In the past she also served as a contributor to Ukrainian News.