Today I went down to Bloor West Village with my son, Nicolas, to check out the Toronto Ukranian Festival. I have wanted to go ever since it started 14 years ago. Now it’s the largest Ukranian festival in North America!
It was so great to be among the large crowds of Ukranians. To hear their language and music and to see their traditional dances and signature embroidery felt really nostalgic to me. And the food!!! When I mentioned to Nicolas that he could get his own Ukrainian shirt his face lit right up. That's my boy!
My grandparents came here from the Ukraine in the 1920’s. Although my uncle was born in the Ukraine, my dad was born here. I'm proud of my Ukrainian background but must confess that I don't know too much about it. I can mumble a few words in Ukrainian and I enjoy eating cabbage rolls but that's about it. Now that Nicolas is showing an interest in his roots, it has lit a fire in me to learn more about the Procenko family history as well.
I was more interested in my heritage when my grandmother was alive. I had a strong connection to her and spent a lot of time with her while growing up. Even though her english wasn't very good we never had a problem understanding each other. Like many of your grandparents, mine came here 90 years ago with next to nothing. They purchased a small piece of land in Unionville for $500.
My grandmother told me the first winter they spent in Canada they basically lived in a cardboard shack until they could afford to build a proper house. My grandfather worked for CN Rail. He had to walk down Kennedy Road from where the 407 is now down to Finch Avenue each day to ride the bus to work. Recently, my mom gave me some old papers from my grandparent's farm. There was a notice from a collection agency in the 1930’s for back taxes that they couldn’t pay. What really gave me the shivers was that the amount owing was less than a dollar! It must have been hard times back then.
To think that my family was so close to losing their farm. Ten years ago, my father and uncle sold it to BMW Corporation for over a million dollars. I handled the transaction, of course! I consider myself so blessed with the life I have. I am very lucky that my grandparents had the courage to leave the Ukraine and come to Canada. And being at the festival today rekindled that old connection I once had. I can't wait to learn more about my Ukrainian heritage, for me and for my sons! Гарного дня (translation: "Have a nice day!" in Ukrainian)