Many Slavic families emigrated to Alberta in the 1920s and ‘30s. Some, like Michał Martyna and Ukrainian born Philip Poloway, found work with the railways. Others worked as labourers in construction or agriculture, but most earned their livelihood from mixed farming. During the early 20th century at least three Polish, three Russian and thirteen Ukrainian families in St. Albert took up mixed farming. In both Ukraine and Poland inheritance of land was complex, so for those with an agricultural background, Canada provided a great opportunity to own land and build a better future.

St. Albert was still a small town and a number of mixed farmers and market gardeners needed to take their produce into Edmonton to sell it. In the 1930s, Marek (Mark) Sebzda made the trip into Edmonton once a week by horse and wagon. He delivered vegetables to the General Hospital and a few hotels. It wasn’t until the mid-1940s that he bought a truck. His wife Katherine contributed to the family income by selling milk and cream to the neighbours and supplying butter to Lamer’s store on Perron Street. The whole family helped with caring for the cows and harvesting the vegetables.

Peter Maruszewski arrived in Canada in 1926 and worked for the Northern Alberta Railway for many years. When the opportunity arose, he bought 17 acres of land and settled in St. Albert. His wife Pollie was a mid-wife who delivered many babies in St. Albert, including Anna Sebzda. Sadly, Peter died when his son John was only 13 and John immediately took over the responsibility of hauling vegetables into Edmonton. He often had to go on foot to collect the orders from restaurants and the King George Hotel, returning later with a wagonload of vegetables. The family also had horses, cows, pigs and chickens and John had to take on the bulk of the farm work. Neighbours had to rely heavily on each other and fortunately many of the Maruszewski’s neighbours helped John with some of the bigger jobs on the farm.

Sebzdas and Popowas. Kasian and Mary Popowa were a Russian couple who lived in St. Albert. Here they are standing with the Sebzda family, Sophie, Anna, their parents Mark and Katherine, and their dog, Sport. Courtesy of Anna Eshpeter.