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Ukrainian Canadians celebrate their roots in Montreal
MONTREAL - Saint Michaels Ukrainian Catholic Church is a lot like the community it serves: venerable, sturdy and downright admirable.
The church services one of five Ukrainian-Catholic parishes on the island. It's also the oldest, built in 1917.
Saint Michaels is considered a home-base of the 30,000 Ukrainian Quebecers which is celebrating 120 years in the province.
Many, like Bohdanna Monzczak are grateful for their lives in Canada which offered refuge from Eastern Europe where warring Russians and Germans had brought destruction to their land. Many were imprisoned or killed in the conflict between Communism and Nazism, transforming the fertile lands - known as the breadbasket of Europe - into a war-torn territory.
"Right after the war, this was really paradise and I still think this is paradise," she said. "The church was full of people with a beautiful choir. Everybody was welcoming. We could have freedom and we could have whatever we wanted here," said Monzczak.
Ihor Ostash, the Ambassador of Ukraine, visited the oldest Ukrainian church in Quebec this week as part of a cross-Canada tour of Ukrainian communities. "It's a great opportunity talk about our joint Ukrainian-Canadian history," he said.
The one low point in relations was when 1,200 Ukrainian immigrants were interned during World War I at a camp 600 kilometers north of Montreal. The Canadian government apologized for the internment.
But that has been long forgiven and the current events are looking at appreciating local Ukrainian roots.
"The goal of this celebration is to renew our spirituality and especially to search our roots here," said Ihor Oshchipko, reverend at the church.