JOHN AND MARIA STETSKO
by Helen, Anne and Lilly
John Stetsko, son of Mike Stetsko, and Maria Bycyk were married in 1907 in Austria, now Ukraine. They immigrated to Canada in 1908 at the age of twenty four. They settled on a homestead N.E. 6-56-6-W4 in Northern Valley.
Their reason for coming was seeking better living conditions and getting away from big landlords. One example, we remember Mom saying they used to cut grain with a scythe --ten sheaves for the landlord and one sheaf for yourself as your payment. They worked from sunrise till sunset.
Our parents built themselves a log house with a sod roof and mud plastered walls, ceiling and floors. The mud plaster was made from clay, water and dry grass. They used to tramp the mixture with their feet to make it of the right consistencey for spreading, then applied it by hand over the logs. When this dried, the house was quite warm.
They had no money. In fact, Mom said they only had a nickel, so they wrote a letter to Mom's parents and just had enough for a stamp. Dad went out working for the winter months for a few years in order to be able to buy a few necessities such as salt and flour. In the meantime, Mom took care of the firstborn and cut wood for winter and cleared some land for a garden. In the summer they both cleared land by hand and ploughed by oxen and a walking plow.
They dug a well by hand and pulled the water by rope and bucket. In the winter, when the water supply was low, Mom melted snow for washing clothes and even for the cow that Dad managed to buy. We took our baths in a wash tub.
The house was heated with a wood stove and a heater. When Dad was out working, Mom brought in the firewood from the bush on her back, then sawed it up with a bucksaw. The house was lighted with coal oil lamps.
Our most common meat was partridge and rabbits. We had our own vegetables, picked lots of mushrooms, ate them fresh in summer and dried them for winter use. We picked wild fruit -- strawberries, raspberries, black currants, and saskatoons. We baked our own bread from 4X flour in an outdoor oven. A lot of our clothes were made by hand from these flour bags.
The main crop was wheat. It was hauled by sleigh and oxen, in bags, to Vermilion to be made into flour. Some was sold. Several neighbors went at the same time to help each other. The round trip took about five days.
On one of these trips in 1918 our father died and Mom was left with six children, the oldest nine years and the youngest two and a half months -- Helen Gusnowski, Anne Buck and Lilly Sass of Elk Point, Harry Stetsko of Lamont and Dorothy Kossey of Grand Centre. We lost one brother, Micheal, at the age of twelve. He died of a ruptured appendix in Dr. Miller's house, which was used as a hospital then.
In 1918 the flu epidemic hit. We were all very sick, except for the oldest child, Helen. The only remedy we had was red liniment, the good old garlic and some homebrew supplied by the neighbors. For a laxative Mom made tea from dried wild rose petals, also a herb called "rumyanok". Diphtheria hit our district a few years later, but we were fortunate not to get it. Most of the homes were quarantined, but, in spite of that, Mom went to help the sick neighbors. One time she hid under the bed when the doctor came to see the sick family.