by Jonathon Lawless
Ukrainian settlement in the Canadian prairies consisted of long days, hard work, and, for many, prayer. Many established farms across western Canada where amenities such as churches had yet to be established. Countless once-thriving immigrant-built communities have declined but still remain significant. The hamlet of Olha, Manitoba is among these. Olha was originally a meeting place for Ukrainian immigrants in the Olha/Search district near Riding Mountain National Park.
St. Michaels Ukrainian Catholic Church, built in 1904, still stands as a testament to many Ukrainians’ determination, hard work, and pride as settlers in a new land.
The interior of the church shows the immensely detailed architecture and functionality of the building. The placement of the wood stove in the middle of the space keeps worshippers warm during the harsh winter months.
Olha Hall has been used a community space for around 100 years. Locals gather in Olha Hall after church services, and the space is also used for weddings, funerals, harvest suppers, and other community events.
Marion Koltusky, of Ukrainian immigrant descent, is the sole remaining inhabitant of Olha. Over the years, as people moved away from Olha or passed on, Koltusky became the caretaker of both the Ukrainian church and its hall. For her, it is an honour, because of the importance of religion in her life.