Let me begin with a story:

Steve Halabura’s great-grandparents. Kyrylo Halabura came to Canada in 1900. Photo courtesy Steve Halabura

 

In 1900 my great-grandfather Kyrylo Halabura came from Torhowice, Horodenka district, near the present-day Ivano-Frankivsk in the western Ukraine. He came as part of the great Ukrainian diaspora initiated by the prime minister of the time, Sir Wilfred Laurier, who sought families wanting a new beginning and who would act as hard-working farmers in what is now Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta.

Halabura immigration documentation

Why did he come? The yoke of the Austro-Hungarian empire made any sort of meaningful future impossible, and when he was called to do his mandatory seven-year conscription in the Army, he decided “Enough!” Within months, he took up Laurier’s offer and made plans to come to Canada.

When Kyrylo and his family came to Fish Creek, Saskatchewan, my grandfather Stefan was 10 years old.  At the age of 17 he and two brothers left Kyrylo’s homestead and made their way to Meacham, Saskatchewan, where they were granted their own homestead lands. He was joined by my grandmother, Maria, a year later. They married and raised a family, my father being the youngest of eight children.

Halabura homestead

 

I spent much of my early years with “Baba Halabura” in Meacham as my parents worked to establish their own home and farm at Cudworth, some 40 kilometres to the north. Growing up during this time I learned much about the struggles and the oppression my forefathers endured during their time in the Ukraine, and why the sacrifice was worth it.

By being welcomed in a land that honored initiative, hard work, and freedom, Kyrylo and his descendants (me included) contributed to what Saskatchewan is today.

This is not a story unique to the Halaburas. It can be repeated by families in every part of Saskatchewan.  I am grateful for the bravery my great-grandfather showed when on that spring day in May, 1900, he loaded up his family and left a life he knew he was saying goodbye to forever. I am thankful to God for giving him the strength and courage to do this.

Nor is this story unique to those in Saskatchewan with Ukrainian roots. Except for our Indigenous brothers and sisters, we have all come from somewhere else – we are all immigrants, refugees, and settlers.

In many cases, we came as refugees fleeing some sort of oppression. From the Doukhobors in the 1890s, the Ukrainians at the turn of the 20th century, to the Afghan families of 2021, we came for the opportunity to make a life. Now in 2022 we are watching the unfolding of the worst humanitarian crisis ever in Europe’s recent history. The UN estimates up to five million Ukrainians could be displaced by Putin’s brutal and inhumane invasion. And sadly, the story is far from over.

Why should we care?  Over the past months I’ve silently listened to many of my colleagues in the business community raise their voices about the state of freedom in Canada. The horrific events in the Ukraine demonstrate that nevertheless, our freedom knows no bounds, compared to what others are suffering. We now have an opportunity to act and to truly show what freedom means. Here’s how:

  1. Will you join my family in asking our Premier Scott Moe to publicly declare that “Saskatchewan Is Open” to Ukrainian families fleeing the fighting, and commit to doing whatever the provincial government can do to help (Twitter – @PremierScottMoe)?
  2. Will you join my family in asking our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to expedite the process of bringing Ukrainian refugee families wishing to relocate to Canada, including recognizing displaced Ukrainians as refugees and offer to facilitate their transportation to Canada (Twitter –@CanadianPM and @JustinTrudeau)?
  3. Will you join my family in offering to accept and sponsor one refugee family if the governments of Canada and Saskatchewan get them to a Saskatchewan airport (steveh@conceptforge.ca)?

This sounds like an idealistic notion, and I recognize that a commitment such as this is not without its challenges and will require the support of our governments, but there is a federal program to do exactly this, the “Group of Five” program – go to https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/refugees/help-outside-canada/private-sponsorship-program.html

It is as simple as this:  Will you join our family and offer to sponsor a Ukrainian family the safety and security that Saskatchewan has always offered oppressed people?

 

Steve Halabura is a professional geologist whose work over the years includes potash, oil, natural gas and helium. He can be found on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/steve-halabura-a715461b/ and reached at steveh@conceptforge.ca.

 

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