Since 2019, B.C. has officially recognized Ukrainian Holodomor Memorial Day on the fourth Saturday of each November. The Holodomor, also known as the Great Famine, occurred in Soviet Ukraine from 1932 to 1933, and resulted in the death of millions of Ukrainians.
Meanwhile, during the same time period, thirty-five Ukrainian families in Coldstream were receiving government assistance as a result of the ongoing Great Depression, a situation which was made worse by a taxation dispute between the municipality and the Coldstream Ranch.
The Great Depression
Ukrainian immigrants first began arriving in Vernon in 1914. By the 1920s, 16 families who had journey from the Prairies had settled on land purchased from, and adjacent to, the Coldstream Ranch. This community continued to grow in the following years.
Coldstream’s Ukrainian population was particularly vulnerable during the Great Depression, and by 1932 their situation had become dire. Government relief had arrived in Vernon in 1931, but the available funds were so limited that sometimes families were only granted $5 for an entire month.
The situation was made worse by the fact that in 1930, responding to pressure from apple growers, the District of Coldstream had introduced a by-law to exempt fruit trees from taxation. As a result, the Coldstream Ranch had seen an increase in its agricultural land taxes, to which manager W. C. Ricardo was much opposed. In retaliation, the Ranch defaulted on its 1932 property tax bill.
A culture of resilience
The whole population of Coldstream experienced an increase in property taxes as a result of this dispute, and this was particularly felt by the already-impoverish Ukrainian community. By the winter of 1932, the small amount of relief money was barely enough to keep a family fed.
The dispute ultimately went to court, and in 1934 a decision came out in favour of the District of Coldstream. Thankfully, the District and the Ranch were able to reach a settlement in 1936, and the municipality managed to limp its way out of the recession by the end of the decade.
Despite the years of scarcity, Coldstream’s Ukrainian community continued to practice its languages, dances, and customs. Like the ongoing invasion of their country has demonstrated, Ukrainian people have an admirable capacity for resilience.
To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!
Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator