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Sudbury’s Ukrainian Labour Temple

Association of United Ukrainian Canadians, Sudbury Branch #40 closed in 2012. The branch played a role in the city’s progressive history. The Jubilee Centre, formerly the Ukrainian Labour Temple, closed in 2013.

History professor Dr. Stacey Zembrzycki was inspired by her Baba to tell the story of Sudbury’s Ukrainian-Canadian community. Her book, Sharing Authority with Baba: Wrestling with Memories of Community, is published by University of British Columbia Press. Much of the research she did as well as recordings of her oral histories can be accessed at www.sudburyukrainians.ca.

Zembrzycki tells the story without prejudice in her recording of the history of Sudbury’s Ukrainian-Canadian community.

“Sudbury’s Ukrainian-Canadian began to arrive in the Sudbury region shortly after the turn of the 20th century. Although a number of women were among these early settlers, the bulk of those who came to the area were migrant male labourers. In search of a decent and reliable wage, these Ukrainians tended to settle in the outlying multi-ethnic company towns that surrounded Sudbury, living close to the nickel mines where they formed heavily masculine and highly transient communities that helped them endure the difficult and dangerous conditions of mining,” writes Zembrzycki.

“This Ukrainian community experienced significant demographic growth during the 1920s. As more Ukrainians came to the region, they began to move out of the outlying districts and into Sudbury, Coniston, and Levack, where they formed family-focused communities within the neighbourhoods being built within these towns. Although more women began to settle in these places, taking on gendered roles within their households, these communities remained largely masculine and therefore quite transient in nature. Subject to the whims of the local mining companies, migrant male labourers tended to move from town to town, searching for employment opportunities and ultimately stability.”

In Sudbury, as it the case in most large Canadian cities, the Ukrainian-Canadian community is not one happy homogenized group. Although they share the love of the same poet Taras Shevchenko, as well as the same music, dancing, and folk arts, the community for many years was split on political and religion grounds.

The members of the AUUC were secular and not members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox Church. These immigrants held socialist views and were pro-union.

As Ukrainian-Canadians began to drop the hyphen as part of their identity, the divisions are disappearing and almost gone except in the history books. It is interesting to note, however, that Sudbury Association of United Ukrainian Canadian members were not asked to contribute to a monument to the 100th anniversary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada in 1991. Nor were they asked to attend the unveiling ceremony of the Hnatyshyn Memorial Sculpture, named for the 24th Governor General of Canada, Ray Hnatyshyn, and officially unveiled by him in 1994.

The AUUC began as The Ukrainian Labour and Farmers’ Temple Association (ULFTA),and was founded in Winnipeg, in 1918. It had 167 branches across Canada, including Sudbury (Branch 40) and nearby Coniston, by 1928. In Sudbury, the Ukrainian Labour Farmer Temple, later to be known as Ukrainian Labour Temple, then the Ukrainian Canadian Cultural Centre, opened at 189 Spruce St. (later renamed Applegrove St.) on Nov. 1, 1925.

The halls were a place for social exchanges as well as educational and cultural centre for Ukrainian immigrants and their children. They offered a wide range of activities such as music, dance and language classes.

Progressive Ukrainian men began meeting in 1913 in Copper Cliff, calling themselves the Federation of Ukrainian Social Democrats (FUSD), then the Ukrainian Social Democratic Party (USDP) in 1914, the Ukrainian Labour Temple Association (ULTA) in 1918 and finally, the Ukrainian Labour Farmer Temple Association (ULFTA) in 1924.

In 1924 the Sudbury Ukrainian Labour Farmer Temple Association purchased a double lot on Spruce St. The next year, at a cost of $8,500, the Sudbury hall was built on one of those lots. Dmytro Slobodian, Ivan Kyfiuk and Myron Kostaniuk were volunteer builders.

In his memoirs, Myron Kostaniuk tells how the funds to build the hall were raised by drama groups and volunteer labour. In 1928 the mortgage was paid off.

 

In the 1930s, Branch 40 members did their part to help men and women on relief. The men who rode the trains often got a hot meal at the hall. In 1935, the participants of the On To Ottawa Trek, stopped in Sudbury and slept on the floor in the hall, remembers Oryst Sawchuk, whose mother, Sophia, was an active member in the early years until her death in 1983.

Sawchuk also remembers attending hall meetings listening to men speak ad raise money for the Spanish Civil War. Years later, he designed the national monument to Canadian Spanish Civil War veterans, in Ottawa paid for in part with generous contributions from the AUUC.

The ULFTA appears in Sudbury’s history books because members took part in a demonstration during the early 1930s. “A demonstration on May Day 1930 began at the Ukrainian Labour Temple, moved on to a scuffle with police and ended with a rally in Bell Park attended by 1,000 people,” writes historian C. W. Wallace in the book Sudbury: Rail Town to Regional Capital.

Further Wallace notes that a group of “parading Communists” disrupted a city council meeting in 1931 and ended up in jail. The next May, Michael Kostaniuk, and 17 others were arrested after a “riot” at the hall on Spuce St. The headline in the newspaper was “Spectators Attack Communists When Union Jack Ignored. Stones Clubs and Fists Fly.”

In 1938 after their hall had burned down, the progressive Finnish community turned to their Ukrainian comrades. The Finns purchased the vacant lot next door to 189 Spruce and soon after built a new hall

Due to its association with the Communist Party of Canada, the ULFTA was outlawed by the Canadian government in 1940. The Spruce St. hall was closed but the music and dance programs continued in a rented space, remembers Sawchuk.

 

During this time, the Ukrainian mandolin orchestra was invited to play during the intermission of Balalaika is an American musical romance film with Nelson Eddy and Ilona Massey at the Capitol Theatre before the feature.

In 1942 when the Soviet Union became allied with the West in the Second World War, the hall reopened.  The ULFTA became the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians in the 1946.

Members of the AUUC did not work for Inco. “Could not” would be a more appropriate.  Sawchuk, who was president of the AUUC from the early 1990s up until the Sudbury branch closed in 2012, says Ukrainian-Canadian men had to get a letter from their priest as to their good standing in the community.  “The company was cautious about people they considered as union sympathizers and trouble-makers,” he said.

Since ULFTA members were not associated with the Catholic or Orthodox churches, they could not get letters from their priests.

Zembrzycki found a copy of a priest’s letter in the national archives and included it in your book.

Many of the Branch pioneers’ children, now in middle age, formed the Jubilee Club, on the occasion of the branch’s 50th anniversary in 1976 with an eye to renovating branch life. Eventually the idea of a daycare arose, and a funding application was made to the Ontario government to help with the renovations.

 

With funds raised by the Jubilee Club by hosting bingos at the Mine Mill Hall, the branch purchased the Finnish Hall next door, and included it in the renovations. Although provincial funding was secured for the project, it was withdrawn and many of the members believed it was caused by political interference.

The AUUC branch was able to secure a federal grant of $100,000, and with the Jubilee Club assistance, completed a partial renovation.

At about the same time, the Sudbury Women’s Centre, a dynamic group that initiated a toy lending library found a home in the AUUC hall. In 1987 the Jubilee Family Resources Centre was formed. The group purchased the original labour temple building and obtained a $1.1 million grant and completed the necessary renovations.

The original hall became the daycare centre, while the branch took over and renovated the former Finnish Hall. It was christened the Jubilee Centre.

On the eve of its 60th anniversary, in 1985, Branch 40 purchased and renovated the Finnish hall. This achievement that was made possible in large message by the enormous effort of the Jubilee Club, second-generation members who helped to revitalize the centre.

At a celebration of the 60th anniversary,  AUUC member Oryst Sawchuk said, “The Jubilee Club has helped to undertake initiatives in the cultural and social sphere that reflects the spirit and courage demonstrated by the earlier pioneers in their time.”

 Sudbury Jubilee Folk Ensemble has roots dating back four generations to the first Branch 40 orchestra in the 1920s. It is a non-profit community-based musical group that contributes to Greater Sudbury’s progressive, bilingual, multicultural life. From its Ukrainian immigrant beginnings, the Jubilee Folk Ensemble enters the new millennium with Canadians from numerous cultural backgrounds. The orchestra follows the tradition of folk music-music originating from ordinary people around the world.

The Jubilee Folk Ensemble has roots which can be traced back four generations to various Ukrainian mandolin ensembles which existed in Sudbury in the 1920s and 1930s. The name, Jubilee Folk Ensemble, however, was not formally adopted until 1977. (The ensemble getting its name from its landlord, the Jubilee Centre). Stella Billings was the founding conductor, subsequently Eve Kremyr, and currently Oryst Sawchuk.

From its humble Ukrainian immigrant beginnings, the ensemble now boasts a membership of Sudburians from numerous cultural backgrounds.

The JFE gratefully acknowledges the past financial support of the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians and the benefits it has enjoyed as a result of this association; including the generous use of the Jubilee Centre for rehearsals, the musical repertoire of the AUUC’s national network of orchestras, as well as use of the AUUC’s own unique local library of music from Eastern and Central Europe.

The JFE’s collection of sheet music, archived at the Jubilee Centre, actually represents the largest collection of Eastern European folk music in Ontario north of Toronto. This collection includes many rare out-of-print manuscripts and handwritten arrangements, often donated from different sources, and which are difficult to find elsewhere

In past years, the JFE had the honour of participating in a number of music festivals and conferences held out-of-town, such as in Toronto in 1991 and Edmonton in 2000

The ensemble also performs for free each year at various local senior citizens’ residences. On Nov. 13, 2005, it participated in the Tsunami Rx Benefit Concert held at the Sudbury Community Arena. This concert helped to raise funds to build a school in Sri Lanka.

During the Canada Day in 2007, celebrations, the JFE  played to over 3,000 folks in the Sudbury Arena In June of 2008, the ensemble played an outdoor concert at the Via Rail station to help commemorate the City’s 125th anniversary.

In 2010 Oryst Sawchuk was recipient of the Community Builders Award of Excellence in the Arts partly because of his association with the Jubilee Folk Ensemble.

Also in 2010, Jubilee Folk Ensemble produced a celebration of Four Poets Who Changed the World (Robert Burns, Pablo Neruda, Taras Shevchenko and Walt Whitman). More than 100 people attended this successful event.

The Jubilee Folk Ensemble’s presentation of Bread and Roses,(March 4, 2012) a Celebration for International Women’s Day, an afternoon of music and poetry, was consistent with the history of performances that the Jubilee Folk Ensemble has been involved in for 37 years.  These include Bukovian Wedding 1976; Kaleidoscope. a celebration of the City of Sudbury’s centenary in 1983. Let No Man Call Me Foreigner in Toronto and Sudbury in 1993, A Flower for Peace in 1994, Millennium Cabaret in 2000, and Four Poets Who Changed the World.

 

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