Gowda, Michael

Gowda, Michael [Ґовда, Михайло; Govda, Myxajlo], b 8 November 1874 in Vetlyn, Jarosław county, Galicia, d 8 July 1953 in Edmonton, Alberta. Pioneer-era civic figure in Canada. Born into a devout Greek Catholic family, he was educated in a cantors’ school and later became a teacher. To avoid military service Gowda emigrated to Canada in June 1897 and slowly worked his way from Halifax to Alberta, where he arrived in the spring of 1898. By that time he had acquired enough knowledge of English to act as an interpreter for an agricultural implements retailer and from 1908 to 1912 for the Dominion Land Office. Gowda quickly emerged as an important figure in the rapidly growing Ukrainian community in Edmonton and east central Alberta and established a significant working relationship with Petro Zvarych, another pioneer-era Ukrainian leader in the area. He published articles and poems in the Ukrainian-American newspaper Svoboda. A strong believer in popular education, he was one of the founders of the first Ukrainian reading club in Edmonton. At the same time he developed a strong sense of Canadian patriotism and penned the renowned poem ‘To Canada,’ which appeared in English translation with the assistance of journalist Edward William Thomson (the Ukrainian original has been lost). He joined the local Edmonton contingent of the Canadian Home Guard in 1908 and was soon afterwards calling for the creation of a Ukrainian infantry regiment as part of the Canadian army. In 1910 Gowda was recruited to become (for a short period) a leader of the Federation of Ukrainian Social Democrats in Canada, more likely because of his high profile in the community rather than his political proclivities. In 1913 he and three other Ukrainians ran unsuccessfully as independent candidates for the Alberta legislature in the wake of a dispute with the ruling provincial Liberal party. Following his defeat, Gowda focused more attention on his family and other matters. In 1924 he became involved with immigration recruitment as an agent of the Canadian Pacific Steamships Company, but resigned his Winnipeg-based position in 1927 so that he could return to his family in Alberta. Over time Gowda’s involvement with Ukrainian community affairs and the memory of his earlier contributions were largely forgotten.

Balan, Jars. ‘“To Canada”: Michael Gowda’s Unique Contribution to the Literary History of Alberta,’ in Wild Words: Essays on Alberta Literature, eds Donna Coates and George Melnyk (Edmonton 2009)

Andrij Makuch

[This article was updated in 2010.]

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