Ukrainians flocked to Canada

From our January 2014 issue

By Mary (Potorieko) Yawney – Raymond, Alta.

My dad, Nickoli Potorieko, was born in the Ukraine in 1888. He was called to the army when he was 22, and served to the end of the First World War. He said he felt bullets going past his head. My parents’ first child died of starvation during the war.

Thousands of people were heading for Canada after the war ended. Dad came home after the war ended and was surprised to see mom packing her bags and getting ready to move to Canada. Dad said: “I’m not going to Canada. I’m not going into the wilderness of an unknown country.”

Dad loved his country, but mom didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and kept packing her bags so dad had no choice but to follow her. They arrived in Canada with thousands of others and landed in Invermay in east-central Saskatchewan. Dad said the forest was so thick that not even a chicken could run through it.

He cleared some land and built a log cabin. Mom said that the birds sang and she sang right along with them.

Dad said: “I’m building a log cabin but I’m not going to live in it.” When mom asked why he replied, “I’m going to be dead before it’s finished!” (He fooled us all. He died at the age of 94.) One year after the cabin was built, I was born in that log cabin.

At a very young age I helped mom take care of my younger brother and sister. I attended Lock Sloy School for a few years and then asked mom if I could quit. She said I could quit and help them on the farm, but I didn’t stay home. I moved to Lintlaw and got a job as a nanny, taking care of a newborn while her mother took care of their store. The baby’s name was Eugenia Maleschuk.

They had a store in the front and living quarters in the back of the store in the same building. When Eugenia’s mother had to feed her, I took care of the store.

I was only 14 and did all the cooking, cleaning, and washing the flannelette diapers by hand and hanging them outside on the clothesline. It was a joy for me to take care of that little baby. I was pretending that it was my baby. The mother paid me $15 a month and I thought I was so rich.

I bought myself a skirt and blouse, a nice pair of shoes, and the most beautiful hat – and I had some money left over. The dad only came home on the weekends because he was a travelling salesman. They were very nice to me and I took very good care of their baby.

When my job at the Maleschuks was finished I moved to Margo, Sask. where Mrs. and Mrs. Albert Hornfelt were building a house. I had to cook for the men who were building the house for the Hornfelts. By then I was 17 and mother found me a very nice man to marry.

I married Paul Yawney and we lived on the farm north of Rama. We farmed for 20 years then moved to Yorkton. While we lived in Yorkton, I finished high school and became a nurse.