The Ukrainian Heritage Center

and Village Reproduction

Edmonton, Alberta

August 19th, 2000

On a warm sunny day, we drove east to the Ukrainian village living museum. I'm a sucker for the living museums as I love to watch Laura get into the act and play along with the actors. But before we actually went into the Village, we were afforded a rare opportunity

We started our visit in the egg room where we reviewed the most recognizable product from the Ukraine. The very sparkling, brightly decorated egg. Within this room were gathered more decorated eggs then I had ever seen in one place. Above each display, attached to the wall, was a picture of the design and an explanation as to its history. A product, started hundreds of years ago, when the people had little in the way of producing gifts. Chicken eggs would be sucked empty and then carefully painted in great detail with a variety of brightly colored paints and wax. It is an art form that was taken to its pinnacle by a Russian craftsman named Faberge when he encrusted diamonds and other precious stones into his designs which were presented to the Czars before the Revolution. The museum has quite a large collection of eggs, some out of wood or stone, which were painted in the traditional patterns from various parts of the Ukraine. The patterns are not haphazard, but come from ancient religious influence. They can be broken into six different design groups. Christian, Solar, Animal, Plant, Geometric, and Meandering (an unbroken line). This last group often employs a design called "gypsy road." It was legend that the devil while visiting the house, looking for victims, would wander down the never ending road, and thus lose his opportunity to take a soul. A kind of good luck charm sometimes found in a basket by the door.
Soon we were off to the center of a re-created 1928 farm town, with actors
milling about doing what Ukrainians would be doing on an August afternoon. A model T Ford lumbered by, kicking up dust in its path. Near the railroad tracks stood one of the most common sights in central Canada. A grain elevator. These three or four story windowless, square, monolith-like structures dot the horizons as seen from roads within sight of any railroad tracks. With brightly colored names painted in huge letters, high on their sides, they often stand alone without movement or activities.
On many a drive across Canada I had wondered what went on inside these staid buildings and now had a chance to find out. As we walked in, a young man with a defined accent to his English, explained that the grain elevator was only used during the short harvesting season. Wagons loaded with grain would pull into the weigh station attached to the side of the elevator building. The wagons would be weighed, then the grain would be dumped into a basement room through a door in the floor at the back of the weighing platform. The wagon would be weighed empty, and the farmer would be paid the difference in weight. A scoop elevator on a continuous belt, powered by a one cylinder gas engine, would lift the grain from the basement, to the top of the elevator tower room and dump it. When the room was sufficiently filled with grain, a box car would stop and the grain would be gravity-fed down a funnel into the car.

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