Kule Centre for Ukrainian and Canadian Folklore

Love Letters from the Past: Courtship, Companionship, and Family in the Ukrainian Canadian Community

A woman with a letterLove, courtship and family are essential parts of every culture and every community. Each love story, however, is unique.

 

For Ukrainians in Canada, the search for love manifested itself in many different ways. Some chose to leave their loved ones – wives and fiancées – in the Old Country, so that they could build a new life in Canada and earn enough money to later reunite with family. Others, including eligible bachelors from the Ukrainian Canadian community, wrote back home in search of prospective wives in Ukraine. And eligible young Ukrainian women, who dreamed of immigrating to Canada, often forwarded their photographs to family and friends, hoping to find a suitor in the New World. Another reality was to return to Ukraine in search of happiness, although, not always finding it. 

 

Through all these trials and tribulations, affection, courtship and companionship was most often communicated by mail. Private correspondence played an important role in the lives of Ukrainian Canadians, as well as the post office itself. This exhibit explores love and courtship culture as it was shaping up in the Ukrainian Canadian community. Through actual letters, memoirs, family photographs, and various publications, we learn how personal relationships evolved, and how this new culture flourished in both urban and rural environments.  We also explore this new cultural phenomenon by showcasing “how-to” Ukrainian publications, such as “How to Write Letters”, as well as real and satirical fictional letters that were published in newspapers. The story of the first Ukrainian post master and the first Ukrainian post office in Wostok, AB, brings it all together by touching upon the role of Canada Post as an institution which sparked the beginning of many romantic relationships while also shaping Ukrainian identity in Canada. 

 

Love Letters from the Past will be touring across Canada in 2018/19. It is trilingual – written in English, Ukrainian, and French, and will appeal to a multi-generational audience. This modular display system will be shown at festivals, in museums, and other cultural institutions throughout the year. The exhibit is supported by a website and full colour exhibit catalogue. For more details, or to book the display for your community, please contact the Project Manager:  Lynnien Pawluk - lynnien.pawluk@ualberta.ca    or at 780.492-6906.

 

Image credit: United Church Archives, PR1975.0387.0342.0001