In The Shadow Of The Rockies

© Maria Dunn, 2001

Growing up in Alberta with the Rockies as a favourite holiday destination, I only learned about the WWI internment of Ukrainian Canadians in the national parks on a trip to Jasper in Spring 2000.  There, I came across Bill Waiser’s book, Park Prisoners.  Shortly afterwards, I read In the Shadow of the Rockies: Diary of the Castle Mountain Internment Camp, 1915-1917 by Bodhan Kordan & Peter Melnycky.  When war broke out in 1914, Galicia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Ukrainian immigrants (often referred to as “Galicians” in the early 1900s) became “enemy aliens” in Canada, the very place that had actively encouraged their immigration.  Ironically, most of them viewed their former Austro-Hungarian rulers not with loyalty, but as occupiers and exploiters of their Ukrainian homeland.  Ethnomusicologist and musician Brian Cherwick chose the traditional Ukrainian tune that follows the song.  “As I Walk Through Canada” is taken from a field recording made by Robert B. Klymasz of a song sung by Mrs. M. Baraensky, Mrs. G. Kuprowsky and Mrs. S. Stjaharj in Sheho, Saskatchewan, 1964. It was published in Klymasz’s An Introduction to the Ukrainian-Canadian Immigrant Folksong Cycle, Folklore Series 8. Ottawa: National Museum of Canada. A full English translation of the lyrics can be found below. Thanks Brian!

In the Shadow of the Rockies / As I walk Through Canada

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Young stranger, as you walk these trails of beauty
And you feel the mountain air caress your face
As you play in the shadow of the Rockies
Remember who toiled in this place
Please, remember who toiled in this place

They courted our labour and called us to settle
The Great Canadian Plains
But how fickle the love of a fair young Alberta
For her “enemy aliens”

Oh pity the young man in 1914
Who hadn’t a job or a trade
And doubly so the man from Galicia
For he was soon detained

Our invisible hands worked in nature’s cathedral
For the pleasure of tourist and town
Six days a week at slavery’s wages
Still we were not wanted around

In a camp that lay beneath Castle Mountain
Rotten food and sodden tents
The most glorious place in the world is ugly
When seen through a barbed wire fence

Our footsteps and voices have long since faded
From these pristine forest paths
Yet many’s the mile and the hour we trudged here
To our place of labour and back

If you listen, young stranger, the wind in the pines
Or the water over the stones
You may hear the songs we sang to each other
To remind us of our homes

Maria Dunn  vocal
Brian Cherwick tsymbaly


Brian Cherwick has provided an English translation of the original lyrics for the melody of “As I Walked Through Canada” here:

As I walk through Canada, I count the miles,(2)
Wherever nightfall finds me, there I bed down.
Hej-ja-hej, there I bed down.

I spent the night in a wood, in a green wood, (2)
Over there my young wife is crying for me.
Hej-ja-hej, my young wife.

My young wife and my young children, (2)
I came to Canada in search of happiness.
Hej-ja-hej, in search of happiness.

On a high hill the grass does sway, (2)
Somewhere my beloved is writing a letter to me.
Hej-ja-hej, is writing a letter.

She writes it in fine, delicate script, (2)
When I read it, I washed myself in tears.
Hej-ja-hej, washed myself in tears.

I waited for a letter for a month and an hour, (2)
I never received the letter from my family.
Hej-ja-hej, from my family.

O Canada, Canada, how deceitful you are, (2)
You have separated many a husband from his wife,
Hej-ja-hej, from his wife.


Photo in CD Liner Notes: Prisoners of war at internment camp, Castle Mountain, Alberta, 1915, Glenbow NA-3959-2

Written as part of an Artist Residency with the Edmonton District Labour Council; funding support from Alberta Foundation for the Arts


Notes to In the Shadow of the Rockies:

1. The title of the song is taken from the title of the following book:

Kordan, B.S. & Melnycky, P. (1991). In the Shadow of the Rockies: Diary of the Castle Mountain Internment Camp, 1915-1917. Canadian Institute of the Canadian Studies Press: University of Alberta, Edmonton.

2.  Galicia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time of WWI.  Ukrainians were often referred to as “Galicians” in the early 1900s in Canada.

Sources used for In the Shadow of the Rockies:

Kordan, B.S. & Melnycky, P. (1991). In the Shadow of the Rockies: Diary of the Castle Mountain Internment Camp, 1915-1917. Canadian Institute of the Canadian Studies Press: University of Alberta, Edmonton.

Waiser, B. (1995). Park prisoners: The Untold Story of Western Canada’s National Parks, 1915-1946. Fifth House: Calgary.

Doskoch, W.H. (2001). Oral history interview by Alberta Labour History Institute. Unpublished.

Doskoch, W.H. (1993). Strait from the Heart: Biography of W (Bill) Doskoch, 1893 – 1941. Self-published.

– description of his father’s (Bill’s) experiences in internment camps in BC and Ontario, 1915-1920