Ewasiuk Mike

MIKE EWASIUK

by Lavina and Dee Ewasiuk

Mike Ewasiuk came to Canada on a German ship, landing in Halifax. His mother in Strzakowce, Poland, had sold on of her three acres of land to finance the trip to Canada for two of her sons.

Mike, nineteen years old, and his brother, Bill, went to Manitoba where they worked as farm laborers for three years. In 1910 they arrived in Vermilion by train and walked to Mike Stetsko's, where they spent the winter.

In the spring, Mike homesteaded a quarter section seven miles southeast of Elk Point. His brother Bill tried homesteading, but decided to return home, where he was later killed in the Communist Revolution.

In 1911, Mike married Mary Stetsko. They moved into one-room log house with a rail roof covered with sod. In their house, with the aid of her mother, Mary gave birth to nine children in the following fourteen years.

Clearing land was slow. Breaking was done by oxen. For the first few years the family was supported by a large garden, mainly potatoes, which also served as fodder for the pigs, and the income Mike brought home from his job with the railway near Vermilion. He walked home the forty milesdistance each week to be with his family.

Mr and Mrs Mike Ewasiuk.

They later built a larger, two-room house toward the centre of the quarter. It had a board roof and dirt floor.

In 1925, Mary died in childbirth and Mike was left with a young family. In 1928 he sent home for Maria Ewasiuk, his brother George's widow. She left her home August 28, 1928, and, after a month's sea voyage to Montreal, and the long train trip to Elk Point, she arrived October 5 and immediately married Mike.

Work soon began on a new house which was completed in 1931. This house was of sturdier construction, two stories, with a shingled roof. The shingles were purchased at the cost of a truckload of wheat, then worth 18 cents a bushel.

During this time, Vermilion was the most easily reached trading center. Transportation was by oxen. On one trip, as Mike was bringing back a load of flour from the mill, his team of oxen decided to cool off in a slough. He was faced with the job of unloading all the flour onto the roadside and waiting until the oxen came out before he could continue his trip.

Mike and Maria had seven children between 1929 and 1940, all of whom were born in the Elk Point Hospital.

During the depression, when pigs were worth $1.00 each, and eggs were sold for 5 cents a dozen, the older boys were forced to work out, some of them sawing wood in the district. Some of them left home completely in search for work, riding the freight trains, and working in the mines in Yellowiknife. When the war began, four of the boys enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces. All served overseas. Two of the girls enlisted and served in Canada, manufacturing munitions and packing supplies.

Times began to improve gradually. The first fifty acres had been broken by horses, but after 1930, the remainder of the land was broken with a hired steel wheel tractor. Including the land he homesteaded and subsequent quarters he bought, Mike eventually accumulated eight quarters. Until he bought his first tractor in 1945, all work was done with horses. Threshing was done as a community effort, usually involving crews of about eight men. In 1953, Ewasiuks began threshing with their self-propelled combine.

Water was obtained from a shallow hand-dug well, about three hundred feet from the house. Bread was baked, twenty-live loaves at a time, in the outdoor clay oven, which is still standing. The youngsters slept in the two rooms upstairs, heated by an airtight heater. The baby slept in a hand-hewn cradle, which hung over the foot of the parent's bed downstairs. An uneasy baby was lulled to sleep with a gentle nudge on the cradle by father's foot.

Power was produced in a home power plant in 1953. The power line came through in 1955.

Preserving was a full time occupation in the late summer and fall. Some years as many as fifty one-hundred pound bags of potatoes were stored in the cellar. A large portion of the garden was taken up with raspberries. Picking was usually done by the younger children. Extra berries were sold to the hospital and to townspeople for about l0 cents a pound. Blueberries, highbush cranberries and saskatoons added fruit and jam.

Wild mushrooms were preserved by drying. Meat, mainly pork and chicken, was canned. The boys often caught gold-eye and suckers in the river and these were canned. Rabbits ducks and prairie chickens supplemented the diet.

Neither Mike nor Maria had any formal education, but Mike had learned to read and write Ukrainian from his mother. The young children in Canada attended the Willow Range two-room school, walking the distance of two and three-quarters miles.

In the early days, they walked five miles to the Northern Valley Post Office once a week. Later, mail was received at Gratz, which was a mile and a half away, on the way to school.

Later, a trip was made to Elk Point once a week -- team and buggy across by ferry in summer, and team and sleigh across the ice in winter.

The first vehicle was a 1949 Dodge one-ton truck, which soon was in high demand by the boys to attend local dances and weddings.

Mike retired in 1961, after purchasing a house in town. He passed away in July, 1965. Maria, who celebrated her 80th birthday July 26,1976, lives alone in Elk Point. Mike's sixteen children are presently residing in Alberta, B.C., Manitoba and Ontario. There are thirty-six grandchildren