My Life in Canada

By Andrew Dutko


This is some of my life story.

In 1910, I was born in the town of Kurylowka to Nicholas Dutko and Anna Cwikla. I was one of ten children. Altogether I had five brothers and four sisters. Two of my brothers died in infancy.

When I started school in Poland, Eastern Poland had formerly been Ukrainian land that was now ruled by the Polish Government. My life was the same as many other Ukrainian boys and girls living at that time. I was thrown out of school because I was Ukrainian. The Polish school authorities always found reasons to do that.

When I finished Public School, I wanted to go higher. So I had to have an exam to go to the fourth grade of Gymnasium. After I did the exam, the rule was that the father or mother had to sign for their son or daughter. When my Father was waiting there and my name came up, he overheard the comment in Polish made by a professor to the priest and to the Director. He said that I was Russian and that I was there. They flipped the page over and made my Father wait for a long time. Finally they told my Father that they didn’t have a bench for me. When my Father offered to buy a bench, they told him that there was no room to put it.

In Public School, I was a top student. On my Diploma was written, just once, from top to bottom, “Very Good”. When I talked to some Polish classmates, they told me that they had been accepted to the Gymnasium. I was very disappointed because I knew that they had hardly made their grades.

Some of the Ukrainian students who were not accepted went to Przemysl Ukrainian School Gymnasium. My Father could not afford to send me there because it was far away and more costly. At that time, when all this was going on, there was a big fire in my village of Kurylowka. It was in the fall when our crops were already in the barn. Everything was gutted by fire.

When I was still in public school, we Ukrainian students used to go to the Ukrainian Club, Prosvita, and to the Ukrainian Church. We liked that because everything was done in our Ukrainian tradition. Polish school authorities did not like that. They would rather see us singing in the Polish church choir and they asked us to do just that.

I started to think about my future. My older brother George was already in Canada by this time. I asked him if it were possible for him to bring me into Canada. He was able to do that with the help of a Canadian farmer.

It was November 30, 1929 when I left my home. My Mother, Father, two brothers, four sisters, Grandmother and my Mother’s sister and my many good friends came to say good bye. It wasn’t easy to part with them. I cried and they cried.

It took me almost a whole month and on two ships to travel from my home to Saskatoon, Canada. I traveled by train to Wejherowo [just north of Gdansk]. I traveled on one small ship from Wejherowo to London, England. Then I went from London to Southampton by rail. I then sailed on a big ship from Southampton to Halifax, Canada. The final leg of my journey to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was by rail. There my brother George and cousin, Mike, met me.

At that time in Canada, it was the worst time. The Depression. It was a big crisis. There was a lot of unemployment. At that time, my brother and cousin worked just three months a year during the summer. During the winter, the three of us lived rent-free in a C.N.R. bunkhouse by the railroad in Donavon, Saskatchewan. To keep warm and cook our meals we burned old railway ties.

My first winter in Canada was very lonely. My brother had a friend who had an accordion. He knew I loved accordion music. He offered to lend it to me. My time with the accordion did not last very long. I played it so much that it began to bother the others and eventually the friend asked to have it back. At least, that is what I was told.

Sometime in May, I got a job on the railway gang. The job was very easy because I had to sit on an iron bar holding down railway ties while two guys pounded spikes into it with two big hammers. I don’t really know how I got this job. Maybe it was because I was such a young and skinny boy. I guess the foreman had mercy on me or maybe, and most likely, it was because the foreman had a girl friend at the house where I was living at that time. Sometime he gave a note for me to pass on to her.

When the harvest was coming, my sister Olga was immigrating to Canada. I quit my job in July because I thought that I would make more money working on the harvest. I worked there to the end of harvest and earned $45.00, which, at that time, was not too bad. We did not work in Saskatoon during the winter. There were no jobs to be had. In late May, I got a job in a restaurant. By this time, my sister Olga was in Toronto. She worked as a chambermaid. She was asking me to come to Toronto because it would be easier to get a job there. So, in late October, I did just that. I hopped the train to Toronto and I went to where my sister Olga lived. She could not recognize me at first because I was so dirty and black from the train smoke and soot.

I first lived on Grange and then on Murray St.

In Toronto, it was not easy to find a job either. In time, I found a job in a restaurant. Until that time, my sister was helping me out here and there. During this time, I took a course in Communication to learn Morse Code. I didn’t finish this course since the war broke out.

My life in Toronto was much happier. I joined a young people’s club (at U.N.O.) where we had sports like boxing. We also learned Ukrainian dancing and I sang in the choir. Almost every Sunday I took part in plays on the stage.

Then one day, I noticed that a beautiful young girl was watching me. I did not pay much attention at first. She even pretended that she was a grown up lady. (Amen) It looked like she was my Good Luck (shining star). Her name was Rose. We married in 1940 and had a beautiful life together. We had a beautiful wedding on March 2, 1940. There were one hundred guests. Our reception was held at the home of Rose’s parents. Our wedding reception went on for two days and we had two bands.

After we were married, we lived with Rose’s parents for a short time. We then moved on to different places. We usually had one room and shared the kitchen with different roomers. Rose would say how lucky she would be if only she could have her own kitchen. Our room usually had a bed, table, and a couple of chairs. We used an orange crate as an end table. We also had a trunk which I had given Rose as her wedding gift. That trunk came in handy when we moved. We would pack everything we owned into it.

About 1943, we were able to buy a house together with my sister Olga and her husband John on St. Clarens Ave. It was a semi-detached house. They had the downstairs and we lived upstairs. Our life was happier there. This is where we were living when our beautiful daughter was born.

We were always busy as we belonged to the UNF, sang in choirs and played a lot on the stage and taught Ukrainian dancing.

We then thought that we should have our own house. So, my sister and her husband bought our share of the house and we bought a place of our own. In 1947, we moved to Delaware Ave. in Toronto. It was our first detached house. It made Rose really happy to call a home her own. At first, we rented some of our rooms. It was a little hard on Rose as she cleaned the rooms and did all the bedding. That gave us extra money to pay our mortgage.

Years later, I surprised Rose and our daughter. On my birthday I bought my first car. After that, we did not have to sit on the steps and watch as people packed their lunches for picnics. How beautiful it was when we were able to do the same.

About 1961, we were able to buy a small bungalow in Islington on Lloyd Manor Rd. We could now live alone. No more roomers. It was beautiful.

I have had four businesses. The first one was a restaurant on Yonge St. in Toronto. I sold that a few years later. Then I had a grocery store for about a year and a half near Ossington Ave.

After the grocery store, I had a number of jobs. I worked at Holiday Restaurant at Bloor and Bay as a cook’s helper and dishwasher. Then I went to cooking school. My teacher chose me and another fellow to work with him at a summer resort in Huntsville. Later I worked at Stoodleigh Restaurant at King and Bay Streets in Toronto. I started out as a pot washer and worked my way up to vegetable cook.

I then worked at Acme Screw and Gear in the C.N.I.B. cafeteria. I was a chef there for eleven years. After that I worked at the C.N.I.B. in the wholesale shipping room.

A couple of winters I was not working at all, so as not to waste time, I went to school and took acetylene and electric welding. I completed the course and was given a diploma.

Later, I went on to work for the C.P.R. loading and unloading freight cars. Then I went on to Swift’s, cleaning up the floors; the Avenmore Hotel on Jarvis, as a waiter; the Brunswick House on Bloor St. as a waiter; the Hollywood Hotel on The Queensway as a bartender; and finally, in 1960 to my own hotel, the Pig and Whistle Inn in Burlington which I bought with three partners.

I also owned a cottage resort in Honey Harbour, Ontario for a short time.

Later we moved to Burlington since driving back and forth was getting harder. We lived on Donna Court, down the street from our daughter her husband and our two grandchildren. Our life was beautiful as we had a wonderful house and lived alone.

After owning the hotel for thirty years, we sold it in 1988. I was finally able to retire at the age of 75. It had been hard work dealing with the public and alcohol.

There was another great joy much later in our lives. We were able to see our grandson marry a beautiful girl from Sudbury, whom we love dearly. They later added to our family by presenting us with three beautiful granddaughters.

My life was quite an adventure.