The majority of Slavic settlers who came to Alberta had roots in what was once known as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which included parts of modern day Poland, Ukraine and Belarus. The division of this empire began in 1772 and resulted in the creation of three ‘Partitions’, the Austro-Hungarian Partition, the Prussian Partition and the Russian Partition. These new political divisions didn’t reflect the ethnic make-up of the regions, resulting in groups of people being separated from parts of their own ethic communities or being grouped with populations of different backgrounds.

Of the many immigrants to arrive in Alberta before the First World War, most came from an area in the Austro-Hungarian Partition called Galicia. In the west of Galicia, Polish speakers made up 80 percent of the population, while in the eastern districts Ukrainian speakers were in the majority. A small number of families from Galicia settled in St. Albert.

Within the Prussian Partition, Poles were the minority in a largely German speaking population. The Russian Government made it difficult to leave the Russian Partition, setting up strict controls on emigration in an attempt to increase the population of Siberia. Not as many settlers from the Prussian and Russian Partitions settled in Alberta.

Galician immigrants having arrived in Quebec, 1911. Library and Archives Canada, PA-010401