Kiriak, Illia

Kiriak, Illia [Киріяк, Ілля; Kyrijak, Illja], b 29 May 1888 in Zavallia, Sniatyn county, Galicia, d 28 December 1955 in Edmonton. Teacher and novelist. Kiriak received a fairly good education in light of his parents’ limited means, although he never completed gymnasium. He emigrated to Canada in December 1906. Upon arriving he spent four years working various jobs in Canada and the United States before reaching his original intended destination—family members in rural east central Alberta. He stayed there only shortly and then moved to Edmonton, where he worked for Roman Kremar’s newspapers Nova hromada (Edmonton) and then Novyny. It was at this time that he first started writing. He went on to obtain his teaching certification and then held a variety of positions with schools in the Ukrainian bloc settlement district of east central Alberta from 1919 until 1936. In this period he began writing stories on a more regular basis and started a novel on Ukrainian immigrant life in Canada (which he set aside over concern that it would not be received favourably). He revived the latter project after the appearance of Honore Ewach’s Holos zemli (Call of the Land) in 1937 and then published his three-volume epic novel Syny zemli (Sons of the Soil) between 1939 and 1945. The work is a valuable sociological document about Ukrainians in Alberta during the pre-Second World War period. (An abridged translation by Michael Luchkovich titled Sons of the Soil appeared in 1959.) Kiriak also served as secretary of the Ukrainian Self-Reliance League (1936–42) and rector of the Hrushevsky Institute (now Saint John's Institute) in Edmonton (1940–2). Mykhailo Marunchak’s study Illia Kyriiak ta ioho tvorchist’ (Illia Kiriak and His Work) appeared in 1973.

[This article was updated in 2010.]

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