Thursday, February 9, 2023

Melting Pots and Tribal Enclaves Historial Fiction

 It is encouraging that society can still allow such a book to be published.  The author, Terry Morgan in his late 70's had a story to tell, but lacked some technological skills, but didn't let that stop him.  His story was hand written and mailed to someone who could translate the words to be emailed.  Then of course editors could turn it into something for us to read.       

 Who would want to read it?   Someone like me who has adopted Hamilton, Ontario as my home.  Someone who is curious about how our multicultural society coalesces.  Anyone who can appreciate some of the subtleties of human nature.  There is something there for everyone. Terry Morgan must have had an interesting life and and learned a lot about how we are all connected.

Hamilton is a city where many people choose to live here because they "can afford it".  There is more to Hamilton and one of the driving forces comes from the variety of people who have been attracted and how they have learned to work together.  Personally I married into the mix and understand a little better the dynamics offered by Ukrainians and Italians.

Story takes us back into history around the time of the Austrian Hapsburg Empire where one character felt a connection.  The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian Hapsburg throne was a major catalyst for the Great War, better known as World War I.

A few facts I learned included that the Ukrainians had been misled about how great Canada was and were shabbily treated when they first reached western Canada.  They proved to be ambitious hard workers and found Canada respected hard work and provided opportunities.  My wife's family migrated to Hamilton from Saskatchewan and went into a variety of occupations, some doing very well.  There are two main Ukrainian groups; Catholics and Greek Orthodox.  Surprisingly many of the western Ukrainians were Catholics, but were dismayed when the Papacy sent Polish priests to take care of them.  The Russian Orthodox Church established in Alaska sent Orthodox priests and converted many of the dissatisfied Catholics.  Somehow that led to me being married in a Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  The author acknowledges there were significant conversions.

Another factor not fully appreciated was how the German invasion of Ukraine in World War II splits Ukrainians.  Essentially they hated Stalin who deliberately starved millions of Ukrainians between 1932 and 1936, an action known as the Holodomor.  My in-laws had all immigrated well before then.

Hamilton became known as a major steel manufacturer that in turn led to development of Labour Unions, in many cases led by British immigrants  The book covers much of those developments focusing on two families, one Ukrainian and one Welsh.  By his depth of knowledge it is safe to assume the author Terry Morgan has personal acquaintance with both groups.  In addition he seems well aware of human nature and illustrates with numerous human characteristics of all humans.  There is a generational element to his narrative that not only effects immigrants, but everyone.  Universal truths are revealed by local realities. 

As a Hamiltonian there are numerous references to streets and personalities that are a part of Hamilton.  Sam Lawrence Park, St. Vladimir's Orthodox Church, McMaster University, Paddy Green's Tavern, the Ti-Cats, Avon Tavern, etc. etc.

This historical history includes Wales and one wonders what the author's connection to the story really is.  Although many ethnic groups are touched on, the Welsh contingent ends up on the groom's side.  One character starts out in Wales, migrates to western Canada where in Moose Jaw there is found a mutual attraction.  They marry and she agrees to live in Wales.  There are stresses there and during World War II she goes back to Canada, but this time ends in Hamilton.  After the war her husband decides to join her and they have another child.

 A delicious part was near the end where in adjacent chapters  detailing much of the psychology indulged in with bridal showers and stags.  All through the book Terry gives his insights into human behavior, perhaps based on similar experiences. The dialogue seems very real (including the silent dialogue) seems very real.

The world is full of connections and we would all be better off if we could learn more of our own connections and that of others because we are all connected.  You don't have to have a Hamilton connection to appreciate, but if you do it will be very rich.

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