Ilia Kiriak : ” The Struggles of Immigrant Settlers „

 

(Reproduced from Sons of the Soil, Ryerson Press, Toronto, Canada, 1959).

TheLater that evening, just before midnight, it began to rain, and this went on for three days. The immi­grants waited for the rain to stop with gloomy impatience.

God has visited us with his wrath for our sins,” Helena observed on the third day of the downpour. „In the spring the days are numbered: you can’t put off until tomorrow what you should do today; but here we are losing valuable time.”

„Don’t take it so much to heart,” admonished Teklia. „Godknows what he is doing. It’s not for us mortal sinners to question his purposes.”

„We’re not complaining against God”, said Helena. „All I’m saying is that spring is passing and we haven’t planted a single seed. Your situation is not so bad, for there are only the two of you. But as for us, we’ve many mouths to feed. If we don’t put in a crop soon we ‘ll all die of hunger”.

When your husband urged us to come here it seemed we were to live like lords and be richer than Pavlo Dub”, Walker sneered. „Now it seems we’ll be dressed in nothing but the prairie air and eat nothing but the bark of trees. I’ve always had a pre­monition that this would be our fate”.

And now Hrehory Workun recalled all the bad times that he and the other settlers lived through during the first year of their life in the new land. Like a dense fog they had hung heavily over their daily lives, shut­ting out any sign of hope, which had shone, flickered and disappeared in the illusory heaven of their dreams. But he could never forget the mo­ment when, returning home from work, he had noticed by the roadside a large poplar cross and the newly dug grave of Semen Waker and he had halted, doffed his cap, crossed himself and addressed Solowy and Wakar thus: „Well, friends, Canada now for a certainty is becoming our eternal motherland.”

Don’t cram the bags too full! You won’t be able to grab hold of them. They’ll be too heavy to carry”, Poshtar told Workun, who was packing the grain, bumping the bags on the ground.

Workun understood the reason behind Poshtar’s admonition. It meant five cents less profit per bag if the grain were packed too well.

If this bag is to be filled, then let it be filled properly so that it won’t sag in the middle when I am carrying it”, he laughed slyly, „If I sprain a muscle it’ll be worth it with grain like this”.

This was the first time in Canada that Workun hadn’t threshed with a flail. He had grown weary of the slow method and had decided to try Poshtar’s machine for a change. It took three days to thresh all his grain – three hundred bags of wheat, three hundred of oats and one hundred and fifty of barley. His joy knew no bounds; it was greater by far than in days to come when his yield ran into thousands of bushels, all threshed by his own machine. The first threshing remained one of his happiest memo­ries. It filled him with pride that he who in the Old Country never knew where his next meal was coming from could now boast of so much grain that he had to hire threshers to help finish the job for him.

Many years later he used to tell his grandchildren about this, but it didn’t mean a thing to them. What were three hundred bags compared with the countless loads their fathers kept hauling to the big elevators?

How could they understand? They knew nothing of the hardships of pioneering. „We had to do everything by hand, clearing, sowing, reaping, and almost every year there was frost to contend with. If it struck the grain while it was still in the milky stage it would turn black and be useless for flour or feed. Then too there was the transportation problem. Even if we had good grain it scarcely paid us to haul it over bad roads to the eleva­tor. We were lucky if we got a dollar a bag!”

That year we had a bumper crop. The heads were filled and there had been no frost. We tired reaping the crop by hand, but it was too much for us. So we hired Poshtar’s mower and horses and finished the job. We set up so many stooks that there was no room for a wagon to wind through. No, we couldn’t take chances on that crop. Poshtar’s threshing machine was not the kind you now see. If was a small thresher which he bought sec­ond-hand from the Germans. He tight­ened it up with nuts and bolts and it did the job all right. He threshed with a kirat.”

IIlia Kiriak

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