Joseph Oleskiw

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Bust of Joseph Oleskiw at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village in Alberta, Canada

Dr. Joseph Oleskiw or Jósef Olesków (Ukrainian: Іосифъ Олеськôвъ (historic spelling),[1] Осип Олесків (modern spelling), Osyp Oleskiv, September 28, 1860 – October 18, 1903) was a Ukrainian professor who promoted Ukrainian immigration to the Canadian prairies. His efforts helped encourage the initial wave of settlers which began the Ukrainian Canadian community.

After hearing of the struggles of Ukrainian immigrants in Brazil, Oleskiw investigated alternative choices. He determined that the Canadian prairies were the most suitable for the Ukrainian farmers. This led to two pamphlets in Ukrainian – "On Free Lands" (Pro Vilni Zemli,[1][2] spring 1895), and "On Emigration" (O emigratsiy,[3] December 1895) – and one in Polish. Oleskiw believed in selective emigration. His first group of settlers were thirty hand-picked families, led by his brother Vladymir, who arrived in Canada in Quebec City on April 30, 1896. The majority of these immigrants settled in Edna, Alberta.

Due in part to the widespread distribution of Oleskiw's literature, Ukrainians became the largest Slavic group in Canada, with a population of 170,000 by 1914. Although Oleskiw promoted emigrants based on their assimilationist tendencies, the mass of Ukrainians that followed them tended to retain their cultural heritage.

Oleskiw was born in the village of Nova Skvariava (Nowa Skwarzawa), near Zhovkva, in the Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia (now western Ukraine) and died suddenly in Sokal at the age of 43. He was married twice and had two sons and two daughters from his first marriage.

Today Oleskiw Park and the Oleskiw neighbourhood in Edmonton, Alberta are named after him.

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  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ MacGregor, p. 75.
  3. ^ MacGregor, p. 75-76.


  • MacGregor, J.G. (1969). Vilni Zemli (Free Lands) : The Ukrainian Settlement of Alberta. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Ltd. 

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