‘Ancestors in the Attic’ aired tonight on Global an episode about a man trying to look up his Ukrainian roots at the WWI internment camp in Spirit Lake, Quebec:
Growing up as a Ukranian-Canadian, Jerry Bayrak always faced prejudice. But he also heard whispers that his family dealt with even worse when they first arrived in Canada. No one would ever tell him anything about those early days. All Jerry’s Mom would reveal was that she grew up in a small town called Spirit Lake, near Montreal. But it wasn’t until Jerry began digging that he discovered that Spirit Lake was actually a World War I internment camp. Now, with the help of Ancestors in the Attic, Jerry begins a dramatic search to discover the truth about Spirit Lake and about one of the darkest chapters in Canadian history.
The Ukrainian Canadian internment was part of the confinement of “enemy aliens” in Canada during and for 2 years after the end of World War I, lasting from 1914 to 1920. About 5,000 Ukrainian men of Austro-Hungarian citizenship were kept in twenty-four internment camps and related work sites, also known, at the time, as concentration camps. Another 80,000 were registered as “enemy aliens” and obliged to regularly report to the police. Those interned had whatever little wealth they owned confiscated.
Last year, the government announced it will provide a grant of $10 million to the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko to establish an endowment fund to support initiatives related to the First World War internment experience that predominantly affected the Ukrainian and other East European ethnic communities in Canada.