May 1st and 2nd was Jane’s Walk weekend and what a weekend it was. It rained, snowed, blew from every direction and was really pleasant, for about half and hour. The weather wasn’t ideal but the conversation, stories and sights made up for the damp and chilly conditions.
The first walk I attended and the first of the weekend was about Ukrainian settlement in Regina, specifically in the Germantown Neighbourhood.
We met at the Ukrainian National Federation (UNF) building on St. John Street. The walk’s first hour was held inside the hall, where guide Lara Zaluski and other UNF members exhibited pictures and shared the histories of different Ukrainian groups and people. Unfortunately, by time the walking portion of the program began I had to jaunt off to another walk.
What I took from the first hour was how subjective places and histories can be. Reflecting on some material from the City of Regina regarding Germantown and its residents, Lara spoke about the disconnect that existed between the official record and the experiences of UNF members and Germantown residents . For example, you might read that Germantown was dilapidated and without services when it was being developed, with one reason being low home ownership. On the contrary, Lara points to around 90 Ukrainian home owners by 1922 in the area, which shows a commitment to anchor the community.
Another way Lara described the disconnect between Anglo Regina and Ukrainian immigrants came with some of Regina’s great events chronicled in the city’s pictures and stories. For immigrant Ukrainian and other Germantown ethnic groups, the boundaries of their neighbourhood were often adhered to and there was little social interaction with other Reginans.
The guides spoke about some of the divisions in the early Ukrainian immigrant populations due to political, regional and religious differences. Unlike the Anglo-Reginan homogeneous view of Ukrainians or Polish or just Germantown in the early 20th century, there were different groups who congregated in different social hubs and attended different churches.
I found the UNF hall interesting for its role as a ‘secret’ (to me) theatre. There is a stage but also a projection booth on the second story. Although the movie programing days are over, in the 40s and 50s this hall, built in 1931 for $20,000, included film among its varied programing. Importantly, the physical infrastructure for film viewing exists in this space.
Finally, the UNF group continues to integrate new Ukrainian immigrants into Regina today: They provide a space for meeting with other recent immigrants. English language classes for new comers and provide accredited immigrants to teach Ukrainian classes to English speakers. With a the aid of a federal government job program, 300 Ukrainians have moved here in the last 3 years. Often it is the husband who has some English and has come for work, with wives and children lacking English.
I enjoyed reflecting on how strong ethnic communities in this city are and the important role they play in attracting and supporting new comers to the city. I was familiar with some of the older waves of immigration but to have a current wave following the path, as it were, laid over the last 100 years wasn’t something I expected.