Day 5 Oregon – Family History

babaLet me set the stage. A long drive to the cheese factory in Tillamook. In the Rav 4, me, driving, the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world, navigating, the Oldest and Youngest in the back seat, and Baba jammed between them.

It could have been a titanic disaster, but no, instead it turned into one of my great memories of our time down in Oregon.

You see, we got to hear some family history. We got to hear how Baba’s parents came to our country to start a new life. It was quite a while ago, when ordinary people did extraordinary things.

Like travel from the Ukraine to Canada,

Imagine for a moment, being given a piece of land for free. Not a free donut at Bob’s Used Cars and Tractors. Free. Land.

Hard to imagine in our world where no land is free and in Vancouver, you’re paying over a million dollars for a 1950’s house.

pic-B-R-Brandt Jozef Cossack CampBut this is what lured Baba’s parents from the old country. That, and the fear of being constantly murdered by Russians or Cossacks or overbearing landowners.

Free land.

All they had to do was farm it.

So they packed up everything they had, found passage to their new country and made their way to the prairies. When you think about it, it makes sense they’d give free prairie land away. I’ve driven the prairies. The land seems endless.

That journey alone would have made an amazing story. Hey, I consider it a great journey if I go to the Save-on grocery 4 blocks away. I consider it a day well spent, a life well-lived.

But, again, imagine a time where people could leave one country and settle in a new one. Start a new life. Get away from oppression and misery.

And that country was Canada.

Ok, so all fair and fine, right? Free land. Pretty cool.

Until Baba reminded us that they had no house to live in. No shelter at all. No machines to work the land. Hell, no animals to work the land. They had only the seeds they carried from the Motherland and a work ethic that is, frankly, largely extinct in our western world.

I will try and get Baba to share any pictures she has, but in the meantime, yeah, this is what it was like

I will try and get Baba to share any pictures she has, but in the meantime, yeah, this is what it was like

I explained it to the Oldest, later, as real life minecraft. You have to make a home. You had to plant seeds to grow crops and from that, sell some to get enough money to buy (in Baba’s story), an ox. Then you could plow more, grow more, sell more, get another ox, maybe some wood for a house, maybe a pig or two. Or a unicorn. (I’m not sure that they farmed.)

Imagine living in a hole in the ground for a year. Imagine the cold. The dirt. The bugs! But for their new life, Baba’s parents were willing to take on that herculean task of transforming the land. Little by little, they built up their farm, grew more crops, bought and tended more animals, and made a life for themselves.

They were simple peasants in their own country, but here, HERE, they became prosperous. I’m not talking Rockefeller prosperous, but they clawed and hoed their way into our middle class.

Such was the story we heard on the way to Tillamook. An amazing story of how her family had come to Canada. We heard more about how she had grown up, first on the farm, then in the city.

I kind of wish the drive had been longer. There was so much of her life I wanted to know.

She told me she had written down much of it, and I can’t wait to read all about it because it struck me how important it is to hear those stories. There are many like it, but they’re all unique in some way and listening to Baba talk about her family’s history, made that journey interesting, educational and not a little heartwarming.

It’s something we tend to ignore in our race to play Clash of Clans on our iphones or surf 3000 channels of TV or race around in our blue mustangs.

We are where we are because of the blood, sweat and tears of our ancestors.

We owe it to them to at least remember their history.

Am I right?

About Joe Cummings

Aquarius. Traveler. Gamer. Writer. A New Parent. 4 of these things are easy. One is not. But the journey is that much better for the new people in my life. A life I want to share with others, to help them, maybe, to make them feel less alone, sure, to connect with the greater world, absolutely.
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