Community Life

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Belarusans/Madeline Ziniak

Many Belarusan immigrants found it difficult to earn a living in Canada. The early immigrants of 1910 worked in the industrial regions in Timmins and Cochrane, on railway and road construction, and in the mines and lumber camps of northern Ontario and Quebec. The majority of post-1945 immigrants settled in urban areas and became carpenters, plumbers, and painters or entered medicine, engineering, or teaching.

Toronto became the centre for cultural activity; Belarusans in small towns did not have their own community life and had minimal contact with one another. Early post-war immigrants did create small, informal, mutual-aid organizations, which assisted needy compatriots in France and Belgium. Because of limited mutual aid and inadequate institutions, Belarusans depended on the institutions of fellow Slavs – Poles, Russians, and Ukrainians – and in so doing were aided by familiarity and intermarriage with these nationalities. Belarusans frequented stores and restaurants, conducted business, and purchased homes in Slavic areas.

Family ties were strong, and Belarusans of peasant stock or of the intelligentsia emphasized education and extracurricular, cultural activities for both male and female children. Both sexes were encouraged to seek higher education.