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Section title: Ukrainians
Introduction | History | Daily Life | Culture | References


History

Nightmare At Sea

Dmytro Romanchych, one of the earliest settlers, described his voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to Canada in 1897:

… one and a half thousand Ukrainian emigrants were loaded onto a very old but not very large ship, the Arcadia…. Under the top deck there were about a dozen passenger cabins where the 'city-coated gentlemen' travelled. Under the second deck were the galleys and the dining room. Below water level, under the third and fourth decks, there were no cabins, only one big space with rows of iron bedsteads, three or four storeys high. In the lower beds, the women and children slept, and in the upper beds, the men and boys….

 
Postage stamp showing a group of emigrants on the deck of a ship, based on painting by William Kurelek   Young Galician (Ukrainian) immigrant girl, May 1905

Probably no Ukrainian emigrant ever experienced such a dreadful ocean crossing as we did on our Arcadia. When we … entered the open sea, the weather was beautiful for the first few days. The sun was shining all day, the sea was calm, and it was a pleasure to travel…. When about half-way across the Atlantic, the weather suddenly changed one evening and a storm broke out, a real hurricane accompanied by a deluge of rain. In no time the sea was transformed into high mountains with white tops…. People were holding on tightly to their iron bedsteads, and many started to pray, until all became seasick.

The storm lasted three days without a break, and somehow we survived it. Only two persons died, an old man and a child. On the fourth day the storm stopped as suddenly as it had started. People breathed in relief and all went to sleep exhausted. Suddenly during the night, a loud blast and a shock which rattled our bedsteads woke us up…. [The] boat was surrounded by ice. The crew was patching up a hole below, pumps were throbbing, and our boat was trying to free itself from the icy embrace…. We were ordered, when the whistle blew, to run from one side of the boat to the other as fast as we could, and back again. We repeated this many times. The boat began to sway, broke the ice which was surrounding it, and began to move forward slowly.

We wrestled with the ice floes for three days…. [We] finally reached Quebec and Canada. We had been at sea twenty-one days….

(Kaye, 1964, p. 192-193)

More than 630 people on Dmytro's nightmare voyage set off for the Canadian West.

Galician (Ukrainian) immigrants, circa 1911

Glossary

emigrants: people who leave their home country to settle elsewhere

galley: ship's kitchen

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