When Warren Kreway left for a month-long trip to the Ukraine with Medical Mercy Canada at the beginning of May, he was hoping to do more than help out a country in need.
For Kreway, there were also personal motivations for going on the trip. He hoped that he would be able to find a lost piece of his family’s history as well.
Other than knowing that his grandfather emigrated from the Ukraine to Canada and homesteaded in Sheho, Saskatchewan, Kreway knew nothing about his Ukrainian heritage. Kreway said his father never spoke of their family’s Ukrainian ties, or why Kreway’s grandfather left the country.
Some time ago, Kreway found a clue that might lead him to learn more about his family in the Ukraine. When going through the belongings of Kreway’s late uncle, his family found a baptismal certificate for Kreway’s grandfather from 1872.
When Kreway left for his trip to the Ukraine this year, he brought the document with him, hoping it could lead him to learn more about his grandfather and why his family left the Ukraine. With a little research and a lot of luck, or as Kreway likes to think of it, divine intervention, he was able to do just that.
“I’m not over it yet,” said Kreway, who shared his findings in a gathering of family and friends at the Lacombe Memorial Centre last month.
One of the lead doctors on the medical mission trip was able to lead Kreway to the region of Bukovina. From there, Kreway and his companions were also able to find the City of Kitsman, where Kreway’s grandfather was from.
He had already learned more than he had dared to hope, but it wasn’t until the group was visiting a nearby village on an appointment with Medical Mercy Canada that things really started to fall into place for him. At that appointment, one of the nurses recognized Kreway’s name or at least, his original Ukrainian surname.
Kreway is an Anglicization of Crevoho. Like the surnames of many immigrants, Kreway’s surname was changed when his family came to Canada.
When the nurse recognized the name, she was able to put Kreway in touch with his cousin, George Crevoho.
Crevoho, the grandson of Kreway’s great-uncle, is actually a historian. When meeting his cousin, Kreway also discovered the Crevoho had been trying to do the same thing as Kreway from the other side.
While Kreway had been trying to find out why his family had left the Ukraine, Crevoho had been trying to find out why a part of his family had suddenly disappeared from the Ukraine. Between the two of them, each now has the answers they were looking for.
Kreway said that, during the many invasions the Ukraine has undergone throughout history, the people of the country have often been oppressed by some foreign influence. Anyone who opposed that oppression could meet dire consequences.
Kreway’s family left the country to escape that. However, it wasn’t as simple as just leaving.
If Kreway’s Ukrainian relatives had known anything about where his grandfather was escaping to, it would have been them that would have suffered the consequences. There was also the chance that, even if they successfully escaped, that Kreway’s grandparents would be found out after the fact and sent back to the Ukraine.
While the Crevoho family knew Kreway’s grandfather had left the country, they had no idea where he had gone or what had happened afterwards. Kreway said it was safest this way.
“If you were caught, you were literally a dead man.”
Now, thanks to Kreway and Crevoho, both sides know what happened to the other. Kreway said it was a rewarding and emotional experience for both him and Crevoho.
“I feel so honoured and blessed that I was able to take that circle and close it for both sides,” said Kreway. “George was ecstatic, there were a lot of tears shed in the two days that we had together.”