A black-and-white view over a field with mountain in the background.
A view of the Coldstream Ranch in the 1930s.

The Holodomor

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

 

 

 

 

Two women seated smiling at the camera. The woman on the white is wearing a white shirt and a pink coverall dress. Next to here is a woman in a white dress with blue and green flowers on it.
Joan Heriot (right) with friend Sveva Caetani circa 1990.

Canada History Week

Nov. 20 to 26 is Canada History Week, and this year’s theme is Arts, Culture, and Creators.

Although the name of her close friend, Sveva Caetani, might be more well-known, Joan Heriot was also a talented artist whose gift to Vernon was a series of beautiful creations.

Joan Heriot was born in Vernon on January 7, 1911, and lived with her parents Allan and Jessie in Coldstream. Allan worked as an entomologist, but both he and Jessie were also amateur artists. Joan was fascinated with her father’s work, and decided to pursue her own career as an entomologist when she was only six-years-old.

Entomologist by trade, artist by passion

Joan went on to complete a science degree at UBC, but was told she would never find employment as a female entomologist in Canada, and so departed for England. She completed a Master’s degree at the University of Liverpool, and then taught as a lecturer at the Brighton Technical College for around 30 years.

After her retirement in 1966, Joan returned to Coldstream. With a renewed reminder of the beauty of the Okanagan’s scenery, Joan decided she wanted to start painting again, a hobby she had not indulged since her childhood. She tracked down her former art teacher, Miss Topham Brown, who was then in her nineties, and took a series of art classes with her, but it was in working with pastels that Joan found her calling.

She went on to create a series of beautiful pastel landscapes, and was particularly fascinated with trying to capture light and form. Her artwork was in high-demand, and although she did not paint on commission, she did have a waiting list of people to whom she would offer her new creations.

A Lasting Legacy

 

Joan Heriot’s circa 1930 watercolour depiction of Miss Topham Brown’s drawing camp near Killiney Beach on Okanagan Lake.

Joan was also an active community member and supporter of several local organizations, including the

Allan Brooks Nature Centre

and the North Okanagan Naturalists Club. She maintained an interest in biology, geology and archeology throughout her life, and was always ready for an adventure; when she was in her 70s, Joan went white-water rafting for the first time. 

Joan passed away on July 29, 2012, but her legacy lives on. The Joan Heriot Studio at the Caetani Centre and the Joan Heriot Centre for Environmental Studies at the Mackie Lake House serve as reminders of her dedication to both organizations. The Vernon Public Art Gallery has exhibited her artwork on several occasions, and a series of her personal records are held at the Vernon Archives. A tree was also planted in her memory at the Bishop Wild Bird Sanctuary.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator