Long Distance Love – The Story of Anna and Wasyl Kuryliw
Larisa Sembaliuk Cheladyn

Letters and photographs from the 1930s bring to life the long-distance courtship between the young and beautiful Anna Zabolotna (nicknamed Nusen’ka/Nusechka/Nusia) and the hard-working and industrious Wasyl Kuryliw (nicknamed Vasia). She was living in Ukraine; he had chosen to seek his fortune in Canada. Their correspondence stretched out over eight years, and led eventually to a strong, 65-year marriage.

It all began in 1928 when, at the age of 18, Wasyl left their home village of Potochyshche, near Horodenka, Ukraine, and boarded the ship The Empress of France, bound for Canada. At that time, although Anna and Wasyl were the same age, and lived within the same area, they knew each other only in passing. Anna and her family lived in town, providing her with greater educational opportunities. She attended gymnasium (high school) in Horodenka, and later a polytechnic school (university) in Lviv, which was in Poland at the time. Wasyl, on the other hand, had to pitch in and to help on the family farm; he only completed the equivalent of Grade 3 schooling. They would have met in town and possibly socialized at youth-related activities in the village, but the difference in their social status kept them from mingling in the same circle of friends. At that time, some felt that Wasyl was not the perfect match for Anna.

Wasyl was motivated to better his situation. He arrived in the New World with $5 in his pocket, a limited education, and a huge supply of optimism and zest for life. He first made his way to Saskatchewan to work as a contract farm labourer. However, the “promised land” soon became less promising. The Depression years were not easy for most Canadians and even less so for new immigrants. Wasyl was one of many young men who rode the rails across the prairies. At some point, he decided to travel back east, and for a time worked in lumber mills as a water boy for five cents a day near Fort William, Ontario. Fortunately, Wasyl was then hired in the early 1930s as a miner for Inco at the Creighton Mine in Sudbury, Ontario.

During those years Anna continued her high school studies in the town of Horodenka and was very active in the local folk art collective and sewing circle in Potochyshche. Sewing circles were first established in the 1920s by the Союз українок (Union of Ukrainian Women). The women worked closely with the Просвіта (Enlightenment), Рідна Школа (Native School), and Сільський господар (Farmer) societies that had been founded to improve lives in the rural communities.

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