The Ukrainian community is an integral part of Canada’s multicultural society. Through the last 125 years our community has experienced different periods of growth. When our immigrant forefathers fought to make a living they did not forget their language, songs, culture and church. With this rich heritage we are now in the 21st Century.
Numerous secular and church-led organizations have met the needs of our community. With time there arose a necessity to take care of social needs in our community. The combination of integral societal issues and general changes in Canada created the urgent need for the establishment of an organization whose goals would be to deliver services.
Ukrainian Canadian Social Services has its roots in the Ukrainian Canadian Relief Fund, which was founded in 1945 by the Ukrainian Canadian Committee (now the Ukrainian Canadian Congress). The Relief Fund was established to help post-war refugees. In 1950 the Relief Fund was reorganized and a new organization was formed – Ukrainian Canadian Social Services. The headquarters was initially located in Winnipeg, then moved to Thunder Bay, and from 1970, to Toronto. Over time branches of UCSS were formed in other parts of Canada.
In Edmonton, through the efforts of a group of energetic and hard-working people, a branch of UCSS was incorporated on October 14, 1977. The Incorporation Act was signed between the Government of Alberta and UCSS. Dr. Roman Petryshyn, Anna Sirman, Yaroslav Skrypnyk, Ihor Broda, Khrystia Yendyk (Kohut) and Lilea Wolanska signed on behalf of UCSS (Edmonton).
From then on UCSS started to provide social services to new immigrants, seniors and for others who required help.
From the beginning, the work of the organization was dependent on volunteer commitments. In time, a permanent office location was required as well as a trained staff. The organization was not only known among members of the community, but among other social and government organizations.
Initially, the office was located in Alex Taylor School for several years. In 1983 the office moved to 10852 97 St. After this building was sold in 1996, another location was found at 11666 95 St. Subsequently, the Board of Directors decided to purchase a building at 11717 97 St., where the office is currently located.
Through to the end of the 1970s and the 1980s, UCSS, together with other community organizations, sponsored several dozen families emigrating from Poland. The next large group of immigrants arrived between 1984 to 1989. With the end of the 1980s and the collapse of the Soviet Union a new wave of immigration from Ukraine and other countries of the former Communist bloc began to immigrate to Edmonton and area.
As a result of the war in the former Yugoslavia there was an urgent need to help Ukrainians who were in refugee camps. A number of the refugees were sponsored by the Canadian government and by Ukrainian organizations.
An immigration commission was formed in order to look for sponsors, raise funds, and help new refugees and immigrants search for accommodations, jobs and other matters. Eventually, an employee with experience in immigration services took over this commission.
The last decade has produced a large wave of economic immigrants. An influx of temporary workers, mainly from Ukraine and from other countries where Ukrainians live, created new challenges. For many of these immigrants UCSS was the place where they could receive help and information.
As time changes, so do the needs of our community. UCSS tracks these changes and tries to adapt services in order to provide needed help. In all of its years of existence, the immigration program has evolved the most. It provides information about social security, immigration, and settlement in Canada. Another important part is to provide pension and benefit information for senior citizens and also services for the disabled, sick, and infirmed.
The need for human and financial resources is a key factor in order to provide services. We have been challenged in obtaining resources. Thanks to our leaders and the continued support of the community, UCSS has been able to carry on its work. In 1987-88 UCSS turned to Ukrainian Credit Union for a loan. Again, through the tireless efforts of the executive and members, a solid base was established. Community fundraising, government grants, bingos and casinos provide funds for the operation of the office and the services provided.
In order to better coordinate and create a more efficient and effective office, the administrative structure was changed. In 1980 a position of executive director was created, which was later eliminated and replaced by a new position called the Coordinator of Community Services. Members of the executive and board support the daily activities of the office.
From the beginning, our branch worked in collaboration with the Pomich Ukraini Fund, which was set up to help Ukrainian dissidents. After Ukraine’s declaration of independence, this fund continued to help Ukrainians in Ukraine and in the Diaspora.
UCSS was established by the community and works for the community. Our success is success for all. Through the generosity of our donors, volunteers, and support of the Ukrainian community, UCSS continues its work and looks forward to its fifth decade with optimism.