Alberta’s 13th premier says he was ecstatic to see his grandparents’ former home receive a new lease on life.
“The family was kind of emotionally moved as a result of the completion of the house, especially today when we walked in and saw all the artifacts,” Ed Stelmach said. “It is like someone is living there full-time.”
Back in 2012, the Stelmachs donated the long-empty family home to the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village. It was a project initiated by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Alberta Provincial Council and the goal was to move it from its location near Andrew to the heritage village and restore it to how it appeared in 1918.
Although the building was unveiled back in 2016, on Sunday, Aug. 19, the bright-yellow home was officially opened as the Stelmach House Learning Centre, a new interactive addition to the heritage village. The house is now furnished with a number of exhibits featuring the Stelmach family and the Ukrainian settlers as well as some historically accurate furniture.
Stelmach said he only has a few memories of the old family home as his grandmother or baba died in 1958. He did recall one fond memory; it was when he would visit his baba and they would head into the pasture. It was here they would pick wild sorrel for her potato soup.
He called it the best memory of his baba.
“If we don’t keep telling (our) stories we’ll lose our history,” he said. “(This is) celebrating the first pioneers. It is important to celebrate the perseverance, the determination and faith that they brought to Canada. Leaving the country in 1898, you have no telecommunications. You didn’t have an iPhone. They took the risk but they knew life would be better someplace (else).”
David Makowsky, a director with the heritage village, said the house is to celebrate the 125h anniversary of Ukrainian settlement in Canada. It also serves as a means for visitors to learn more about Ukrainian culture and the history of Alberta, he said.
“As a learning centre, it will allow us to tell a broader story not just about the Stelmach family and the Hon. Ed Stelmach, the first premier of Ukrainian descent (in Alberta), but it will also tell a broader community story about their work ethic, their faith and their values,” he said. “Over the last six years, the house has been restored and we had an opening of the building’s restored state in 2016 and ultimately, the exhibit and furnishings of the learning centre today.”