Ukrainian Churches in the Canadian Prairies

Approximately 170,000 Ukrainians from the Austro-Hungarian crownlands of Galicia and Bukovina (Bukovyna) arrived in Canada from September 1891 to August 1914. The vast majority settled in the prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, where they obtained land to farm.

Few of the early immigrants would have called themselves Ukrainian, but rather identified themselves as Galicians, Ruthenians, Hutsuls, Lemkos, or Bukovynians. Most Ukrainians from Galicia, including Ruthenians, Hutsuls, and Lemkos, were Greek Catholic, while those from Bukovyna were Greek Orthodox. 

The first Ukrainian church built by these early settlers was St. Michael’s Orthodox church in Gardenton, Manitoba, in 1897. The following year in Star, Alberta, the first Ukrainian Greek Catholic church was built.

Old St. Michael’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church (October 2015). Source: Gordon Goldsborough

“While the first Ukrainian parishes built similar structures regardless of whether they were Catholic or Orthodox, the churches in Canada began to differ from those in the old country from the beginning. Building materials were not always the same. The styles of the local Roman Catholic and Protestant churches influenced Ukrainian church designs. The Canadian climate required some architectural adjustment. Few Ukrainian immigrants had significant experience in church building and few understood the theological significance of church architecture. But the immigrants were eager to have churches and many were built well before a priest was available.” (Ukrainian Churches of Canada)

As a result, many of the early churches, even though aspiring to the designs of Ukraine’s wooden churches, were basically log cabins with few decorations. Only later did churches become more decorative, especially those built in the “prairie cathedral” style of Father Philip Ruh, which combined Byzantine and Western influences.

On the whole, no one particular style of Ukrainian church architecture emerged in Canada; instead, there are many styles, which themselves tend to be hybrid varieties.

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Today, hundreds of Ukrainian churches dot the Canadian prairies. Some are still functioning, but many are abandoned.

Fortunately, especially for those who don’t live in the region, there are Facebook groups devoted to documenting this vanishing architectural heritage, such as the group Ukrainian & Other Unique Prairie Churches. There is also a wonderful online resource about the history and architecture of Ukrainian Churches in Canada. Also worth mentioning is The Sanctuary Project, which aims to document Byzantine rite, primarily Ukrainian, sacral culture on the Canadian prairies.

Below is a small collection of these churches:

Churches in Alberta

Photographs by Glen Bowe

Ukrainian Catholic Church Assumption of Blessed Virgin MaryMyrnam, AB

The church was built in 1919 and in 1947 it was moved a few kilometers from the cemetery to the present location. Sam Hryniw built the little model church in 1967.

Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church – AB

This area south of Holden in Alberta was settled by immigrants from the Chortkiv region in the early 1900s. A plaque on the church says 1907, but construction of this church was started in 1917. The cemetery was established in 1907.

Churches in Saskatchewan

Photographs by Glen Bowe

Holy Ascension Ukrainian Orthodox Church – SK

Ukrainian Orthodox Church – SK

Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of St. Elia (1953) – Wroxton, SK

Ukrainian Catholic Church – Peterson, SK

Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin MarySK

Churches in Manitoba

Photographs by Ron Olynick from the Facebook group Ukrainian & Other Unique Prairie Churches

Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church – Rhodes, MB

St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church Ozerna, MB

Holy Spirit Ukrainian Orthodox Church Sifton, MB

Assumption of the Virgin Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church Glen Elmo, MB

St. Demetrious Ukrainian Catholic Church Drifting River, MB

St. Michael’s Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church – Olha, MB

Built in 1904 by Peter Kawtucki, consecrated in 1907.

By Areta Kovalska
Photographs: Glen Bowe and Ron Olynick

Sources:
Ukrainian Churches of Canada
Basil Rotoff, Stella Hryniuk, Roman Yereniuk. Monuments to Faith: Ukrainian Churches in Manitoba. 1990.
Ukrainian Canadians, Wikipedia
The Virtual Museum of Canada
The Canadian Encyclopedia

13 thoughts on “Ukrainian Churches in the Canadian Prairies

  1. Just wondering why the Catholic Church in Chipman is not featured, as it was established by the first Ukrainian to arrive in Canada..he is buried in the cemetery which is right beside the church ,along with his siblings and children

    1. Why don’t you take the pictures and submit to document and share with the world. That way we could all enjoy and see what you see.

  2. Omg! Loved your post. So extremely informative. I couldn’t stop reading. Would live further information or a copy of this.

    1. Beautiful Churches with thousands of stories past! I can only imagine the lives lived and lost over the years. I also wonder if there is a funding site , to help donate and restore these Churches that one could donate too?
      Would love to see more, learn more and have then restored to their original build . History kept alive !

  3. Thank you Areta for including 6 of my photos of Manitoba, Canada churches in “Forgotten Galicia”. And especially a big thank you for including my name and a link to my Facebook group site. I am very honoured indeed. Please feel free to use any of my other photographs that I have taken of Manitoba and Saskatchewan churches. Thus far, I have visited and photographed 149 Ukrainian Catholic (1 more to go) and 70 Ukrainian Orthodox churches in Manitoba alone. In closing, the last photograph you used was not the Olha, MB – St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church but of the Ozerna, MB – St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church (already posted). Дякую!

  4. Hei, Areta!
    It was very interesting. Thank you. Only one thing: Galicia is the province in Spain. Galizia is the district in Ukraine.

  5. It is interesting as My Grand Father and My Father and Brother came from Galicia.
    Today I still have my Grand Fathers and Fathers pass ports and some information where they came from and where they settled in Manitoba.

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