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As mentioned previously, grandpa Nykola Winowicz, was born on February 12, 1888 in Podhajczyki, Kołomyja, Galicia and he sailed from Triest, Austria on April 25, 1913 arriving in Canada at the port of Quebec on May 14.

Map of Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria

Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria. 1 The red arrow points to roughly where Podhajczyki is located.

But, what of the years before he left the “old country?” What would prompt him to leave his family and all that he knew for a life of uncertainty on a new continent? As he is not here to answer that question, examining events of the time might provide some insight.

Note that the following is not intended to be an exhaustive essay on the history of Galicia. It is merely meant to highlight a few factors that might lead to emigration.

A little about the village of Podhajczyki …

A wonderful resource for learning about villages in Galicia (amongst other places) is a Polish publication titled, Słownik Geograficzny Kólestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich [Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and other Slavic Countries]. This 15-volume dictionary was published in Warsaw between 1880 and 1902 and provides descriptions of innumerable places. The entry below is from page 389 in volume 8 and is available online here.

Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego entry for Podhajczyki in the admin district of Kołomyja (Galicia)

Screenshot of the Slownik entry for the village of Podhajczyki 2

William F. Hoffman, a colleague at the East European Genealogical Society, has kindly provided the following translation of the entry for Podhajczyki. The bold emphasis is mine.

2. Podhajczyki [Pidhaichyky], Kołomyja county, 8.44 km northeast of Kołomyja, on the highway from Kołomyja through Gwoździec [Hvizdets’] to Horodenka. The stream Turka flows through the middle of the village from northwest to southeast. It borders on Gwoździec to the east, Zahajpol [Zahaipil’] and Cieniawa [Tseniava] to the south, Turka to the west, and Pruchniszcze [Prykmyshche] to the north. The manorial grounds have an area of 1,326 morgi, the peasant properties have 2,136 morgi. In 1870, there were 1,533 inhabitants; in 1880, there were 1,581 in the gmina, and 102 on the manorial grounds. There were 194 Roman Catholics, [served by the] parish in Kołomyja, and 1,470 Greek Catholics, with their parish in the village, deanery of Kołomyja. There is a school with one teacher paid by the state, and a gmina loan association with capital of 3,565 gulden. The owners of the manorial estate are Rozalia Prunkuł and the heirs of Ignacy Lukasiewicz. — [B. R. {Bolesław Rozwadowski}, Vol. VIII, page 389.] 3

Note that morgi (plural of mórg or morga) is a unit of land measure equal to 1.422 acres. 4 A gmina is an administrative sub-district similar to a municipality.

Life in late 19th century Galicia …

As the above entry alludes, the majority of Podhajczyki inhabitants were peasants. This was the case throughout Galicia. Until serfdom was abolished in 1848, peasants generally lived a life of servitude working on the manorial estates owned by the upper class with little property of their own.

Presuming that the “…1581 in the gmina …” in 1880 were peasants, that there are 10 people in a family (these are Catholic families!), and that everyone had the same amount of land (a big presumption), the math works out to roughly 13.5 morgi (19.2 acres) per peasant family. Given that the property would be divided amongst surviving children, it isn’t hard to see that property sizes would rapidly dwindle over time.

What many may not realize is that the properties in question are not the square sections we are accustomed to in western Canada. Instead, they are long, thin strips of land that are not apt to be contiguous for any given owner. As property is divided through inheritance, the pieces of property one person owns may well be scattered. This makes farm management rather difficult.

The cadastral map image below, though not of Podhajczyki, shows these thin strips of land around the village of Narol Stary – another village in Galicia. Unfortunately, I do not (yet) have such maps for Podhajczyki.

Cadastral map for the village of Narol Stary in the admin district of Cieszanów (Galicia)

Portion of a cadastral map for the village of Narol stary, Galicia 5

The late 19th century was a tumultuous time in Galicia as indicated here, here, and here. Famine and poverty were a harsh reality and peasants were often illiterate. Consider the Słownik entry above. There were 1683 inhabitants of Podhajczyki in 1880. As Catholic families tended to be large, a good proportion of those inhabitants were likely children. Though there was a school in Podhajczyki, there was only one teacher – or at least one paid teacher. It seems probable then that many children in this village may not have received much in the way of formal education.

Austrian military obligations …

The requirement to serve in the Austro-Hungarian military was a distinct possibility for all men at the end of the 19th century. In anticipation of recruitment, each man was required to submit to examination after his 19th birthday to determine his eligibility for conscription. 6 This means grandpa would have had to report after February 1907.

Between 1868 and 1914, the age of induction into the military was between 20 – 23 years and soldiers had an obligation to serve 12 years. Of those years, three years were on active duty and nine years were in the reserves. 7 Grandpa potentially could have been inducted between 1908 and 1911 and have completed his activity duty before emigrating in 1913. This is an area that still requires more research on my part.

If grandpa was indeed in the military, was there any inkling that a major world war was brewing and that he should high-tail it out of there? Given that he left in 1913, one can only wonder.

Canada comes calling …

Around the same time that Galicia was in the throes of change, Canada was actively recruiting immigrants to help open and settle the west. Minister of the Interior, Clifford Sifton has been quoted as saying,

I think a stalwart peasant in a sheep-skin coat, born on the soil, whose forefathers had been farmers for ten generations, with a stout wife and a half dozen children is good quality. 8

The offer for prospective settlers was 160 acres of land for $10. So much land for so little money! What sweet enticement for those facing hardship in their homeland. To put the cost into perspective, Grandpa made entry to his homestead in 1926 9 so that entry fee of $10 would be the equivalent of $142.16 today.

Posters such as the two shown below were distributed far and wide to lure newcomers to Canada. Note that the English poster contains the name of a steamship line. Both steamship lines and railways companies had a stake in aiding the recruitment of immigrants as it meant business for them transporting the immigrants from the ‘old country’ to their new homes in the west.

A poster created by the Canadian Department of the Interior to promote immigration to western Canada.

Free Farms for the Million recruiting poster created by the Canadian Government (Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1996-63 (Copyright: Expired))

A poster created by the North Atlantic Trading Company to promote immigration to western Canada.

Recruiting poster created by the North Atlantic Trading Company, 1900-1905 (Credit: Library and Archives Canada (Copyright: Expired))

The above Cyrillic poster translates roughly as:

  • 160 acres = 130 Austrian morgi free land (upper left)
  • 200 million acres of arable land in western Canada (banner)
  • For every settler (lower right)

The stars align …

With little land, little education, the hardships of everyday life, and the requirement to serve in the military, it would take little impetus for our ancestors to leave their homeland.

Was this the case for grandpa? We will never know but it certainly seems like a distinct possibility!

Sources and Notes:

1. See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich. T. 8 [Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and Other Slavic Countries. Book 8], (Warsaw: Filip Sulimierski and Władysław Walewski), 389 ; digital images, Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich (http://dir.icm.edu.pl/Slownik_geograficzny/Tom_VIII/ : February 22, 2017).

3. William F. Hoffman, Houston, Texas [E-ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] to Chris Bukoski, e-mail, 19 February 2017, “Translation from SGKP for Podhajczyki, Kołomyia, Galicia;” privately held by Chris Bukoski, [E-ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE] Winnipeg, Manitoba.

4. William F. Hoffman, trans., “From the Słownik geograficny Królestwa Polskiego:Borszczów Powiat Extractions.” East European Genealogist 18 (Fall 2009): 25

5. Cadastral Map Nro 153 (1854). Narol Stary mit der Ortschaft Zagrody in Galizien [Mapa wsi Narol Stary z miejscowością Zagrody w Galicji] [Map of the village of Narol Stary with the village of Zagroda in Galicia] (1854); Archiwum Państwowe w Przemyślu [State Archive of Przemysl], images, Archiwum Geodezyjne  [Geodetic Archives] (http://www.skany.przemysl.ap.gov.pl/show.php?zesp=126&cd=0&ser=0&syg=1111M, image 5 (skan: 7/9) : accessed 22 Feb 2017). Given the date of the map, this is a Stabile Cadastre map. Per Brian J. Lenius’ Genealogical Gazetteer of Galicia, Narol Stary belonged to the Cadastral Community of the same page. 

6. Karen Hobbs, “Recruiting Rules of the Austrian Army,” East European Genealogist 11 (Winter 2002): p. 17

7. Ibid, p. 12, specifically, Table 2

8. Valerie Knowles, “The Arrival of the Europeans – Immigrants in sheepskin coats: the Ukrainians,” Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Forging Our Legacy: Canadian Citizenship and Immigration, 1900–1977, (Citizenship and Immigration Canada, 2000); online version, Government of Canada (http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/publications/legacy/index.asp: 23 February 2017)

9. Homestead file for Nieck Winowich for SE 18-42-6-W2, 1926–1933; Post-1930 Homestead File, S 43; Saskatchewan Archives Board, Saskatoon, SK <– Updated 13 Jul 2017

9. Nieck Winowich homestead file for SE-18-42-6-W2, final grant no. 3948, Prince Albert, SK Land Titles Office, 1926–1933; Post-1930 Homestead File, S 43; Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK. <— Updated 13 Jul 2017