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.
“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.
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 Mary – Myrnam, 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 Mary – SK
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
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