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George Wyrostok and
Paraska Andreaschuk Wyrostok

Our Treasured Heritage
A History of Coalhurst and District
Pages 602-604

George Wyrostok was born in 1880 in the Village of Beleluja Galicia then under Austro - Hungary Frenz Joseph, in a peasant family of 8 - Michael, the oldest, a half brother, George, Peter, Kalyna, Varvara and Irena. He was fortunate to have five grades of Village school and hoped to be a surveyor or some trade where mathematics was concerned, but his parents wanted him to be a priest, "because how can you measure any more land, when already you can't even turn around with a wagon? No priests, no surveyor, no school!" So at fifteen he herded the village sheep.

But the urge to do better stayed in his mind, but being denied here, the thought that beyond the ocean was the answer. So plans were made. They dared not sell any land for the fare because they could never buy it back, so managed to borrow money to be paid back from Canada. So he left for Canada in March of 1907.

Paraska Wyrostok was Andreaschuk, came from a family of seven; George, Michael, Katrusia, Paraska and Andrew. She and Andrew were the youngest. Their father died when she was ten and their mother when she was fourteen, and the two of them were cared for by the oldest brother until she married in 1904 and went to live with her husband and in-laws.

That was the custom. As a daughter-in-law she had to bear the brunt for being an orphan without a dowry and being another mouth to feed in an already large household. But there was no immediate solution. In the meantime, the first child was still born.

George sailed on the steamship "Lake Michigan", which took 15 days to reach Quebec. From there he went to Edmonton, his destination, where some of his country-men were living. There he got a job on a waterworks project. - mostly digging ditches for sewers, but there were frequent lay-offs and each time to get back on the job he had to pay $1.00. He couldn't see how he was going to earn money enough at that rate to pay off his fare and bring his wife over, so a few of them walked to Strathcona and stumbled on an employment office where they were told men were needed in British Columbia on an extra gang. The pay was very low, the hours long and after dockage for food and other essentials very little was left. He heard rumors of work in the Crow's Nest Pass in the coal mines where pay was good, but found out you had to "buy" a job just like in Edmonton, so a few of them went to Femie instead. He came there after the big Femie fire that wiped out the town in 1908. Every able bodied person was called upon to help rebuild and he got a job in the building of Triteswood store. Later he went to Cranbrook to work in the forest, later back to Crow's Nest Pass and finally in 1910 to Lethbridge to work on the track with the car department of the C.P.R.

In 1911 Paraska and a daughter sailed on the ship "Montreal" to St. John on April 3 to Canada to join George in Lethbridge to a home on lst Avenue, North. In February 1912, a second daughter was born A two roomed house was being built so that by the end of 1912 the family lived in their first Canadian home.

In the spring of 1913 - a son was born. Because wages in the mine were higher, George became a coal miner at the No. 6 mine in Hardieville. In January, 1918 another son was born. In 1919 George became involved in the cause for better wages and working conditions for his fellow miners. In order to attain this, strike action was taken and due to George's union activities he was placed on a black list which barred him from further work as a miner in Lethbridge, so resulted in plans to move to Coalhurst.

In August of 1919 another son was born.. So at the end of September, 1919 the family took up residence in Coalhurst in the area known as Hamburg, and later acquiring the house in Wigan. George resumed his mining career in the Coalhurst mine and because of his previous work with the C. P.R. became track layer in the mine.

In October, 1920 another son was born. Getting acquainted with life in a mining town he found many diversions for people that ridded them of their hard earned money as fast as they got it. He was more concerned with people of his own nationality so went out of his way to get them together to read good books, learn English, brush up on their own language, Ukrainian, because many had no schooling in the old country and some just managed to write their names for necessary signatures. In 1920 in a part of an old store, the first Ukrainian school was started and the teacher was someone who could read and write best. This started a need for other social gatherings, but was far too small so a house was rented nearby (Bertamini's) and gatherings were for school as well as group singing, practice for plays, comedies, dramas, some of which were staged in the Majestic Theatre in Lethbridge, smaller ones in Coalhurst. All this activity was the formation of the first educational and cultural Ukrainian organization. Later the Miner's Hall was the centre of activity where young and old participated even in playing instruments and an orchestra was formed. English classes were held for adults and Ukrainian for old as well as young. Similar branches sprung up in every town, city and village from coast to coast.

In the course of his work as a miner he found that the family required more income to supplement the family needs so started a shoe repairing project, renting a small building from Pavan but later continued at home. Many times he came from work with a number of pairs of miners' boots to be fixed that night to be ready for next morning to give to the owners. Off and on some chickens, ducks, geese and a cow or two were kept to help feed the family, and some milk was sold to residents in the area.

In the late twenties there was a drastic drop in the demand for coal and working in the mines became part-time, laying off from early March till September. This situation had a bearing on the family income so it was decided to venture into farming. In 1927, George purchased 40 acres of land and later added 5.76 acres adjacent to it. In 1930 there was a further expansion of the farming with the purchase of S.W. and N. W. quarters from Sam Wilkinson in the West Lethbridge district (and actually just across the road from the 45 acres). This property was purchased in partnership with Plaraska's brother Andrew, so shortly after, the family moved to the West Lethbridge property from Wigan, with the retention of the property in Wigan.

Deliveries of milk from the new location to the residents of Coalhurst continued. With the country in the grip of the depression, most people had no jobs and had to go on relief, and since there was no money available most of the customers traded groceries they could spare in exchange for milk. With the farm product prices failing, this affected the ability of the partnership to make the payments on the Wilkinson property so the land reverted to the owner.

in 1933 another son was born. In 1938 the partnership was forced to dissolve, requiring George and family to move to--the 45 acre site, and Andrew and family to Lethbridge.

In 1952, George Sr., Paraska and son moved from the farm to Lethbridge to the former residence on 12 Street A, North.

George Sr., passed away on January 9, 1978 at the age of 97. Paraska passed away on January 16, 1980 - at the age of 93.

There are seven of the family as named, eighteen grandchildren, twenty-three great grandchildren and four great great grandchildren.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup