We’re all familiar with the concept of Canada being a nation of settlers. But there’s not many settlers left these days.
One of them however is still alive and well and living in Winnipeg and has just celebrated her 100th birthday.
There was a big party for Christina Taylor (nee Hoas) at the Vasa Lund Lodge to mark the occasion. And far from being just a settler, I discovered that Christina has had quite an event filled history.
Her ancestors originate from Hiiumaa, Dago Island, which lies off the coast of present day Estonia, yet was a part of Sweden until a few hundred years ago.
Following persecution after the Russian invasion of the island in 1710, the Swedish residents were personally invited by Catherine the Great to settle in Ukraine and were offered free land, houses and a supply of food and an opportunity to form their own Swedish colony within Ukraine.
Jump forward a few years and Christina was born there just prior to the Russian revolution.
Further hardships followed from the new Communist regime so the colony wrote to the Archbishop of Sweden for help.
885 people including Christina were assisted by the Red Cross and allowed to relocate to Sweden.
Yet, all was still not well. The colony may have considered itself Swedish but after years of Ukrainian/Russian life they were ill prepared for twentieth century Sweden.
So another offer of free land this time from Canada prompted a move to Alberta in 1930.
However, something was still amiss, as the land offered was scattered around and the colony wanted to remain together.
So they moved en-masse to Manitoba a year later and settled in the community of Meadows just south of Warren and began the arduous task of establishing a farming collective in the depression days of the dirty thirties.
Nine shareholders signed a contract to rent and eventually own 3,750 acres, known as Camp 1. This land was cooperatively operated on a crop share basis for 22 years until 1953 when it was divided into nine 420-acre parcels.
They also had to pay $17,000 to the Swedish government (an enormous amount of money in those days) for repatriating them from the Soviet Union to Sweden.
In 1996, the Manitoba Historical Society erected a cairn in the village of Meadows to commemorate the various families including the Hoas who were the original Swedish pioneers who first settled in the community.
Christina went on to marry Joe Taylor and was a long time member of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church where she sang in the choir and was known for organizing their annual fall dinners.
She also volunteered her time as a driver for Meals on Wheels and maybe more prophetically was a member of their Young at Heart group.
Although she has no children, she does have a brother, two nephews and a lot of Swedish friends who helped her celebrate her milestone birthday.