Bespalko, Mike and Mary

Mike and Mary Bespalko and Family

by Mary

I was born June 10, 1893, in the village of Berlin, municipality of Brody, province of Zolachiw, in the Ukraine. My father's name was Lloyd. He was a farmer and councilman. My mother's name was Youstena (nee Zubach). Mother died of pneumonia in 1894 when I was a year old. Father re-married Maria Koots. I had eleven brothers and sisters: Anne, Tekla, Metro, Nancy, twins Paul and Luther, Bill, Helen, Julia, Sophie and Margaret.

In 1907, at the age of fourteen, I married Micheal Bespalko. He was bom November 15, 1882, in the same village. I lived on a twenty-five acre farm with my husband and in-laws. Lloyd and John were born before World War I and Anne, Kaye and Bill after the war. During World War I, houses in the village were possessed by the army. Living quarters for soldiers were provided in these homes. Our house, 36 x 20 feet, had to accommodate ten to eighteen soldiers, plus a family of eight, at times.

When the cavalry was in the area, eighteen soldiers and their horses moved in and took over. This lasted for over two months.

In the fall of 1916, the front lines were approaching the village. The family was forced to evacuate to another village, approximately fourteen kilometers away. This moving had to take place at night, with bullets flying overhead. We lived there till 1918.

When we returned to our village, all the buildings were destroyed. There were only wires and fox holes left. We lived in fox holes all summer. First, the land had to be leveled in order to build a house on it. There were abandoned stables in the forest. These were taken apart and the lumber used to rebuild.

Under the rule of Emperor Frances Joseph I of Austria, Micheal served in the Langiver Army as lance corporal, Regiment No.35, Company No.9, for three years previous to marriage. After marriage and during peace time while on the farm, every August for four  years he had to go on manouvers. When war broke out in 1914, he served in the same army and was promoted from corporal to sergeant training recruits.

In the fall of 1916 he was at the front lines and was captured by the Russian army and taken prisoner of war till 1918. He escaped after two years, with the help of a secretly organized group of Austrians, which cost him all the money and belongings he had. To get back to Austria, he had to cross the river Volga. One man laid him on the bottom of a motor-driven boat and it was caught by another man on the other side of the river. From there he reported back to army headquarters. He was given one month leave. He returned to join the family, and the war was over.

In 1919, an epidemic swept across the land, which took the life of my daughter, Anne, at the age of sixteen months, also my husband's parents and his brother, Paul.

We lived in the Ukraine till 1927. With the country overpopulated, through correspondence with relatives and friends in Canada and Argentina, we decided to make a move. Plans were being made to migrate to Argentina but, after receiving letters from friends there telling of the problems they were having with the hot climate and the effect it had on the children, we made plans to go to Canada instead.

We sold the land and all our belongings for $1500. The passenger fares were $160.00 for adults, $60.00 for adolescents, and $30.00 for children. All this cost us $600.00.

The family boarded the train in Brody going to the port of Danzig, Poland. On a passenger ship of the Cunard line we sailed to London, which took seven days, arriving on August 23, 1927. We then boarded a Canadian Pacific passenger ship in Britain. Aboard ship, all were seasick except Lloyd and Bill. Bill, at the age of three years, was full of curiosity. He strayed away from the family many times and still remembers spitting into the ocean.

In the middle of the Atlantic during the night, something happened to the ship. Passengers were alarmed, life jackets were put on, and we were to be ready for evacuation. Help from ships came from every direction. Rope ladders were erected to other ships. Divers were sent down to repair the ship, which took approximately ten hours. Then we went on and docked safely in Halifax on September 2, 1927.

We boarded a train to travel from Halifax to Vermilion, which took about one week. From Vermilion, we caught a ride with postmaster C. Algot by truck to Angle Lake Post Office, then to Alec Zayac's.

We bought one quarter -- S.W. 34-55-7-W4 - from Harry Borowsky. We lived at Zayacs till spring, when we built a shack and other buildings on this quarter. All of our logs were cut down right in the yard. Three years later we built a two-room house.

All the boys of the family are now living around Elk Point. My daughter, Kaye, died in 1973. I am now retired and living in Elk Point in my own home. I keep active at gardening and enjoy visits from my children and grandchildren.