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Tracing a Household Immigration Journey Ukraine

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As whitecaps splash throughout the bow of our boat, I clutch the railing and peer via the spray hoping to glimpse my first sighting of Grosse Île via the mist.

Whereas many passengers on this present day cruise are headed to the island to sightsee, hike or pay their respects to the Irish Memorial, I’m retracing the steps of my great-grandmother.

Follow the journey of a family's immigration from Ukraine. Learn about their experiences and challenges in a new country.
View of Grosse Île from the water. (Credit score: Francisco Sanchez)

She spent nearly a month right here together with her 4 younger kids (together with my grandmother) in 1913 when this remoted island in the course of the St. Lawrence River served as a quarantine station for the Port of Québec Metropolis.

Lured by the promise of free, fertile farmland, my ancestors have been a part of a wave of immigrants who got here to Canada between 1868 and 1914 when the western provinces opened for settlement.

Immigration poster at Gross Ile offering free land.
Come to Canada! The lure of “free” land drew many immigrants to Canada.

Why is Grosse Île Vital?In the mid-Nineteenth century, the Port of Québec Metropolis was the first port of entry to Canada for immigrants from many nations together with Eire, Ukraine, Poland, France and Italy.

Following a cholera epidemic that swept via Québec in 1831, all immigrants have been examined for sickness previous to disembarkation.

After inspection by immigration docs, wholesome passengers would journey onward to their locations in Canada.

Window at the quarantine station on Grosse Ile in Quebec.
From 1832 onward, ships certain for the Port of Quebec stopped at Grosse Ile. (Credit score: Michele Peterson)

From 1832-1937, greater than 4 million immigrants handed via this quarantine station on Grosse Île.

Sick passengers have been handled on the island’s hospital or–as many Irish immigrants who arrived through the tragic occasions of 1847–have been buried right here.

Researching Household Roots in Ukraine

My private pilgrimage to this windswept island truly started a number of years earlier after I travelled to Ukraine. I traced the maternal facet of our household ancestry to the small village of Kapustyntsi east of Kyiv.

Based formally in 482 AD, the capital metropolis of Kyiv is positioned on the banks of Dnieper River, the dividing line between east and west Ukraine.

For me–the primary in my instant household to step foot in Ukraine since our ancestors left–the sight of the mighty waterway from the town’s hills was exhilarating.

Aerial view of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra in Ukraine.

Most spectacular was the sight of the UNESCO World Heritage Web site of Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra (also referred to as Kyiv Monastery of the Caves). It rises from a forest of spectacular horse-chestnut timber on a plateau overlooking the Dnieper River.

Set inside fortified partitions, this historical advanced of monastic buildings, museums and church buildings was based by St. Anthony and St. Theodosius in 1051.

Subsequent, we walked to the Nationwide Museum of Ukrainian People Ornamental Artwork, dwelling to greater than 80,000 items of conventional people artwork courting from the fifteenth century.

The hand-drawn ceramics, ornamental Petrykivka portray of properties and home goods, pysanky (egg ornament), weaving and wooden carving are all vital components of conventional Ukrainian tradition and id.

Ukrainian Folk Art Museum collage of decorative items.

Of particular curiosity to me was the embroidery. The patterns and hues maintain symbolic meanings drawn from pagan roots, Slavic mythology and Christianity.

My mom remembers her personal Ukrainian vyshyvanka (conventional shirt) embroidered in a motif of crimson flowers wrapped in vines, representing purity and immortal magnificence.

Like many Ukrainian immigrants, my ancestors have been farmers. To get a way of rural life as it might have been within the late 1800s, I headed to the Pirogovo open-air museum on the outskirts of Kyiv.

This dwelling Museum of People Structure and Lifetime of Ukraine options buildings courting to the sixteenth century.

Collage of Pirogovo open-air museum

It features a domed wood church, windmills for grinding grain, a college and peasant properties set on peaceable fields surrounded by forest.

Getting into the thatched-roof properties was like stepping again in time.

Lots of the strategies Ukrainians used to construct the sod homes have been replicated when settling Canada’s west.

Ukrainian Immigration to Canada

Again in Canada, I hoped to be taught extra about the place my ancestors first set foot on Canadian soil.

I turned on-line to the professionals on the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax for assist.

Along with the museum’s historic artifacts, the Scotiabank Household Historical past Centre provides distant analysis companies.

Pictures of immigrants at the Canadian Museum of Immigration Pier 21.

Situated on the Halifax waterfront, it’s the perfect place to be taught in regards to the immigration expertise.

It’s additionally a well-liked attraction for guests taking a New England Cruise from Boston to Quebec Metropolis or Montreal.

View of the Halifax waterfront in summer..

The museum presents 400 years of immigration historical past in Canada in an evocative manner. It’s crammed with tales of non-public journeys and displays, together with promoting campaigns selling Canada because the “New Homeland” through the peak of Canadian Settlement between 1896 and 1914.

Advertising poster promoting Canadian settlement in the 1900s.

🌟 Professional Tip: You too can search Ship Passenger Lists (1865-1922) on-line at Library and Archives Canada.

Immigration information confirmed that my great-grandfather arrived in Canada in October 1912.

My great-grandmother and kids aged 4, 3, 2 and 1 adopted, travelling by practice and ship throughout Europe to Southampton, England.

From there they journeyed throughout the Atlantic on the SS Ausonia. It was a 7,907 ton ocean liner with lodging for 37 1st class and 1,000 third class passengers.

The Ausonia 1, originally named the Tortona.

In-built 1909 and initially named the Tortona, it was bought to the Cunard Line and sailed a route from Southhampton to Quebec Metropolis and Montreal within the St. Lawrence River.

I can solely think about the challenges she confronted travelling alone with such younger kids in an period with rudimentary comforts.

Based on hospital information, the challenges didn’t finish for my great-grandmother upon arrival in Canada in August 1913.

All 4 kids have been recognized with diphtheria and measles and transferred to the Hospital Sector on Grosse Île within the St. Lawrence River.

There, they spent almost a month in quarantine. 

Grosse Île Historical past and Fashionable Day Standing

Now, I’m arriving on Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial Nationwide Historic Web site of Canada on the identical time of 12 months nearly 110 years later.

Designated a Nationwide Historic Web site in 1974, Grosse Île performed an vital position in Canadian historical past.

Rocky shoreline at Grosse Île.

The quarantine station and hospital which operated from 1832 to 1937 have been established to fight the unfold of lethal infectious ailments, particularly cholera.

Situated 46 kilometres downstream from Quebec Metropolis, it’s one among 21 islands within the Isle-aux-Grues archipelago.

Boats in the water at Croisières Lachance marina on the St. Lawrence River.

At this time, Grosse Ile and the Irish Memorial Nationwide Historic Web site is run by Parks Canada and is open to the general public seasonally.

As a result of it’s accessible solely by boat or airplane, most individuals go to as I’m, on a day journey from the village of Berthier-sur-Mer on the south shore of the St. Lawrence (Google Map).

The tour firm Croisières Lachance provides a narrated round-trip cruise to the island.

As soon as on the island passengers are met by Parks Canada guides who share the historical past of the two.7 km lengthy island on an escorted tour.

Parks Canada reenactors are onsite to bring history alive. © Parks Canada and Jean-François Frenette

Parks Canada Guided Excursions at Grosse Île

Throughout my go to, the solar breaks via the clouds as we strategy Grosse Île. Wave motion from two tides a day have carved deep into its bedrock to create steep cliffs and rocky shores topped by shrubby crimson cedar, oak and maple.

We disembark from the ship, as most immigrants would have, on the western wharf the place we’re met by a Parks Canada information who escorts us first to the Disinfection Constructing.

Waiting room at the disinfection building in the quarantine station at Grosse Ile.

This wood constructing erected in 1892 was the place passengers and their private belongings have been disinfected upon arrival.

The power was a part of a modernization program (that included microbiology, epidemiology, disinfection and vaccination) launched by Dr. Frederick Montizambert, who was the station’s medical director from 1869 to 1899.

Passengers would have been examined for indicators of infectious illness by a station physician. They’d have positioned their clothes and belongings inside quarantine luggage for disinfection.

Then they might have proceeded to the bathe space.

Disinfection showers at Grosse Ile Quebec.

Whereas the lengthy rows of metallic bathe stalls seem grim by right this moment’s requirements, throughout its time it was meant to be comfy with heat working water and electrical energy.

Following a disinfection bathe, passengers would have been transferred to the primary, second and third class resorts on the island to attend out their quarantine.

restored guest room at Grosse Ile in Quebec.

Earlier immigrants, particularly the Irish arriving in 1847 after the Nice Potato Famine, weren’t so lucky.

The Irish Tragedy of 1847-1848

Greater than 5,000 Irish immigrants died within the ocean crossing, affected by typhus and malnutrition. Others arrived in such a weakened state they died awaiting disembarkation and on Grosse Île itself.

Throughout our tour we stroll to the western sector of the island. Right here, the rows of white crosses of the Irish cemetery line a grassy knoll.

White crosses of the Irish cemetery at Grosse Île.

An estimated 5,424 folks died on Grosse Île in 1847-1848. On the peak of the Irish tragedy, the useless have been buried in mass graves.

An evocative memorial created by artist Lucienne Cornet information the names of the Irish, different immigrants and medical workers who misplaced their lives in that lethal interval.

The Memorial by Lucienne Corbet of names commemorates the memory of the Irish and other immigrants who perished on the island and of those who sacrificed their lives to nurse and comfort the sick immigrants.

Rows of Brennans, Briens, McCarthys and McDonalds title whole households worn out by typhus and different diseases.

On the western promontory we come to the stone Celtic Cross, erected in 1909. It soars into the sky, honouring the reminiscence of the Irish who perished.

Visitors sitting near the Celtic Cross.(Credit_ Parks Canada and P. Fauteux)

Reminiscences of the Previous

A shuttle bus then takes us to the japanese level of the island, passing ominous-sounding Cholera Bay and Hospital Bay.

🌟 Professional Tip: Look ahead to distinctive wildlife alongside the way in which. Grosse Île’s vegetation numbers 600 species, 21 of them thought-about uncommon in Québec!

We arrive on the Village Sector, dwelling to a number of well-restored wood-framed buildings together with the physician’s home, college and nurses residence.

The Village Sector’s remoted location was meant to shield station workers from infectious illness by segregation.

Hospital quarters on Grosse Île.
Grosse Île was one of many leaders in understanding the position of segregation and isolation in stopping the unfold of infectious illness. (Credit score: Francisco Sanchez)

The Hospital Sector is situated on the island’s furthermost level. It’s the place sick passengers, corresponding to my grandmother and her siblings, have been handled.

Initially sufferers have been housed in tents after which swiftly constructed shelters in an open discipline.

By 1913, everlasting hospital quarters supplied well-ventilated lodging.

A horse-drawn ambulance in the Hospital Sector.

Sufferers have been transported by a horse-drawn ambulance from the japanese wharf to the hospital the place nurses cared for sufferers.

I stand within the therapy room the place nearly definitely my grandmother and her siblings convalesced.

Michele Peterson at a building within the Hospital Sector.

It’s an eerie place.

In 1913, medical professionals believed daylight was dangerous to sufferers with smallpox. So all of the home windows and lightbulbs have been painted crimson.

The treatment room at Grosse Ile  were bathed in red light as it was believed to be better for patient health.

My great-grandmother, who wasn’t sick, would have stayed in separate dwelling quarters close to the Village Sector.

I think about her visiting the Catholic chapel which nonetheless stands overlooking the desolate waters of the St. Lawrence.

Collage of a Catholic Chapel exterior and interior.

What did she consider as she waited for her kids’s restoration?

What did she consider the St. Lawrence and her first have a look at Canada?

Life in Canada after Quarantine

My ancestors have been lucky to ultimately go away the island. They continued their journey by land throughout Canada to be united with my great-grandfather.

However their hardships continued.

The farmland they obtained in Saskatchewan was poor and the youngest youngster, child Olga, didn’t survive the cruel prairie winters.

Biely Family prior to WW1.
The Biely household in WW1. My grandmother, one of many three surviving kids, is the smallest woman, holding flowers.

By 1916, throughout World Conflict 1, my great-grandfather had enlisted within the forty fourth Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Drive, arriving in France in January 1917.

He could be useless lower than six months later, his title memorialized on the Vimy Ridge Monument.

No hint of his physique was ever discovered.

Photo of Peter Bielly in WWI uniform in front of a helmet and poppies.
My great-grandfather Peter Biely who was killed in World Conflict 1 in France. (Credit score: Nydia Peterson)

After visiting the Canadian Nationwide Vimy Memorial close to Arras, France, I wrote about his position within the battle of La Coulotte, the epicentre of heavy preventing, in One Man’s Sacrifice.

Based on Commonwealth custom, troopers have been buried the place they fell. Greater than 7,000 are buried in 30 cemeteries inside a 16-kilometre radius of the Vimy Memorial.

Some, like my great-grandfather, don’t have any grave stone in any respect. For these 11,285 troopers, the Vimy Monument serves as a memorial and focus for contemplation.

Remaining Ideas on Grosse Île, Québec

The Biely family in Saskatchewan.
The surviving siblings, Katy, Alex and my grandmother Luba, in Saskatchewan.

Though my great-grandfather was killed when he was simply 36, his household was in a position to survive on the dying advantages.

My grandmother (and surviving siblings) grew to maturity, had households and created lives such because the one I take pleasure in right this moment.

4 generations: My grandmother, my mom, me and one among my daughters within the Nineteen Seventies.

As I left Grosse Île, I mirrored that it’s greater than a historic web site.

It’s a dwelling memorial to the person tales of hope, fortitude and hardship of Canada’s immigrants, one which continues to this present day.

Plan a Day Journey to Grosse Île from Québec Metropolis

Québec Metropolis Tourism

Plan your keep, get maps and extra on the official Québec Metropolis Tourism Web site.

Croisières Lachance

Cruises to Grosse Île function from Could 10 to October 8, 2023 with two each day departures.

Croisières Lachance cruise ships depart from the marina at Berthier-sur-Mer (Google Map), a forty five minute drive east of Québec Metropolis. Give your self an hour to seek out the marina and park. Croisières Lachance

Lighthouse at Berthier-sur-Mer on the St. Lawrence River.
Lighthouse at Berthier-sur-Mer on the St. Lawrence River. (Credit score: Francisco Sanchez)

To get to the marina, journey south over the Pierre-Laporte bridge and take Freeway 20 East towards Rivière-du-Loup. Take Exit 364 in direction of Berthier-sur-Mer.

The scenic cruise to Grosse Île takes about 45 minutes. The cruise fare contains admission to the Parks Canada web site. 1-418-259-2140 Toll free: 1-888-476-7734

Ebook tickets on-line prematurely.

🌟 Professional Tip: Pre-order a picnic lunch as there aren’t any restaurant amenities on Grosse Île.

The place to Keep in Quebec Metropolis

View of the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac and boardwalk.
The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is a Quebec landmark set overlooking the St. Lawrence. (Credit score: Francisco Sanchez)

The Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is a world-renowned landmark lodge in Québec Metropolis. It options resort facilities together with a health centre, swimming pool and out of doors terrace. The visitor rooms are exceptionally well-appointed.

Many provide signature views of the town or the St. Lawrence. A luxurious breakfast options locally-sourced elements corresponding to Québec artisanal cheeses and honey harvested from its personal beehives.

Professional Tip: You may even take a guided tour of the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac!

The one-hour excursions, led by an area information deciphering a historic character, start on Dufferin Terrace. You’ll then head inside Le Chateau Frontenac following within the footsteps of dignitaries who’ve stayed right here via the years.

Old Quebec City attractions in the summer.

Situated within the coronary heart of Outdated Québec, it’s additionally conveniently located for a day journey to Grosse Île. There’s easy accessibility to the Pierre Laporte Bridge and rental automobiles in addition to valet parking.

Test for the very best automobile rental charges at

Parks Canada

Plan your journey on the official Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial Nationwide Historic Web site of Canada. The Parks Canada entrance payment is included within the transportation value.

Thanks to Vacation spot Québec cite, Parks Canada, the Canadian Immigration Museum at Pier 21, JC Journey (Ukraine), my mom Nydia Peterson and my sister Lesley Peterson for his or her assist and assist in researching this story.

Different Jap Canada Journey Concepts


Are you able to go to Grosse Île?

The Parks Canada web site of Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial Nationwide Historic Web site could be visited seasonally by boat or by airplane. The admission payment is included within the transportation value.

The place is Grosse Île?

The island of Grosse Île is one among 20 islands that kind the Archipel de L’Isle-aux-Grues, within the St. Lawrence River’s Center Estuary in Quebec, Canada. It’s accessible by Croisières Lachance boat or by airplane.

Why do folks go to Grosse Île right this moment?

Many individuals go to Grosse Île to be taught in regards to the position of the quarantine station in Canada’s immigration historical past and to pay their respects on the Irish Memorial Nationwide Historic Web site. Others come to benefit from the island’s windswept magnificence and hike its scenic paths such because the Mirador Path and Lovers Path.


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