In early November, I went with my dad and my daughter Mary on a drive to Invermay, Saskatchewan. We wanted to visit different buildings and locations in that area that had some connection to our family’s history.
We were fortunate that winter was late in coming this year and so there was only a small skiff of snow on the ground. Still, there was a chill in the air that left our noses and cheeks a rosy hue before too long.
One of the buildings that we visited was the Holy Eucharist Greek Catholic Church located 7 ½ miles north of Invermay. It was known affectionately by its former parishioners as Kulikiw after the community in Ukraine from which many of them had emigrated. These early immigrants included Ivan and Maria Peshko, who donated two acres of land on which to build the church and cemetery.
Though it has been 81 years since construction on the church was completed in 1935 and many years since any service has been held here, the building itself is in remarkably good shape. It speaks both to the craftsmanship of the area’s early settlers and to their religious devotion – clearly, only the best materials were purchased for its construction. The entire cost of building the church was $800, a significant amount during the Depression Years.
Apart from its solid construction, the first thing that caught our attention when we walked through the doors was the painted ceiling. Still brilliant after all these years, its golden stars and blue sky are like a joyous blanket enfolding everything and everyone within. The only other decoration that remains are some brown crosses painted on the walls.
In front of the church stands the bell tower, a beacon of the prairie past. In the back, down a short trail, lies the cemetery. Its graves tell tales of the hardships of pioneer life – women who died in childbirth, children who died from a myriad of diseases in an era before vaccines, Medicare and community doctors. Some of the tombstones have been replaced recently or bear gifts of flowers, showing that even though the cemetery is no longer in use, the people buried here are still remembered fondly by their loved ones.
The Kulikiw Church was in regular use for less than 30 years, from 1935-1962.