BLOOD and SALT
a novel by Barbara Sapergia
...available September, 2012
One of Canada's lost stories.
During World War I, Canada locked up over 8,000 people in camps from British Columbia to Nova Scotia. The majority of them were Ukrainian immigrants.
The government labelled them "enemy aliens" because they'd come from Austrian-ruled territories — and Canada was at war with Austria.
Suddenly, Ukrainian immigrants welcomed to Canada as industrial labourers, or as farmers, were transformed into "the enemy within" and sent to forced-labour camps — without any kind of due process.
These camps have been called "Canada's Gulag."
Blood and Salt imagines the lives of men interned in Banff National Park from 1915 to 1917. Prisoners lived in tents at Castle Mountain in the summer and in bunkhouses in Banff in the winter.
In August, 1915, a young man finds himself on a train bound for Castle Mountain. "What have I done wrong?" he wonders. "Why am I here?"
Taras Kalyna sits turned to the window. Nothing to see but his reflection. Ashy skin, tangled black hair, eyes staring into the dark. A see-through man...
He's travelling west to a place he's never heard of. He doesn't understand how he came to lose his freedom...
He came to Canada to be with his love, Halya. Now he doesn't know if he'll ever find her.
Taras does make wonderful friends in the internment camp: Yuriy the optimistic young farmer; Tymko the radical socialist; Myroslav the
scholarly schoolteacher; Ihor the Hutsul; Bohdan the carver. These men help him survive.
In the evening the men tell each other their stories. As Taras talks about his life, his understanding grows; he becomes a storyteller.
Taras's love, Halya, is a strong-willed, passionate, and unsentimental woman, determined to be with the man she chooses, despite her father's objections. Taras thinks of her on the train to Castle Mountain:
In the darkness he sees his old village, where he could catch a glimpse of Halya almost every day. He imagines her light brown hair flecked with brassy gold; her steady blue-grey eyes and small, firm mouth that sets into a stubborn line when she's angry. He loves her fierceness, the shadow that can come across her face like a cloud over the sun. If he could be with her, he wouldn't care if she was angry all the time.
Another layer of the story reveals the life of Taras Shevchenko, Ukraine's great poet, artist, and patriot. Taras's friend Myroslav tells stories of Shevchenko's love of Ukrainian culture and his desire for Ukraine to become a free, independent country.
Praise for Blood and Salt
An unforgettable love story embedded in a searing indictment of Canada's First World War internment operations, Blood and Salt, not unlike Joy Kogawa's Obasan before it, will open its readers' eyes and break their hearts. The novel carries us into the human centre of one of this nation's most shameful and well-kept secrets.
- Lisa Grekul, author of Leaving Shadows: Literature in English by Canada's Ukrainians
To buy the book...
If you'd like to buy my book, you can find it at bookstores across Canada, or you can contact my publisher at coteaubooks.com. It is also available as an e-book.
The Camp Logs
If you want to read more about the day-to-day operations of the camp, In the Shadow of the Rockies; Diary of the Castle Mountain Internment Camp, 1915-1917, is a key resource.
Published by the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press in 1991, it presents the camp logs, introduced and annotated by editors Bohdan S. Kordan and Peter Melnycky.
Photographs of the Banff National Park Camp
Blood and Salt's cover photo - and four others which appear in the novel - are from the archives of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.
They are part of a collection probably taken by a camp officer, Sergeant William Buck. They provided information and inspiration for me as I wrote this book.
If you'd like to see more, you can visit the Whyte Museum or go to the InfoUkes website, which presents these photos, taken from the book, In My Charge, The Canadian Internment Photographs of Sergeant William Buck (Kashtan Press, 1997). Reach them at infoukes.com and find other information about the internment.
Photographs from the Crownest Pass Mining Towns
Thomas and Lena Gushul came from Ukraine but married in Canada, when he was twenty-six and she was sixteen. Thomas was a miner himself, until his "hobby" of taking photographs morphed into his occupation.
They set up their first studio in Coleman In 1918 and later built another one in Blairmore, which became their home. Both of them worked full time at taking and developing photographs of life in the mining towns.
Their pictures are simply marvellous, documenting the many cultures and economic backgrounds of the people, and full of life and energy. You can go right to them by Googling "Glenbow Museum Photographic Archives," and when you get there, just enter "Gushul" where it says "Search the Catalogue."
The mountain landscape of Banff National Park provides a compelling backdrop to the main action of the novel.
The grasslands of southern Saskatchewan are also part of the fabric of the story.
Canada's World War I
Despite a law prohibiting "enemy aliens" from joining the army, it is estimated that as many as 10,000 Ukrainian Canadians fought for Canada in World War I.
Filip Konowal served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force and was awarded the Victoria Cross for valour.