Sago, Mitch

Sago, Mitch or Mitchell (né Сарамага, Михайло; Saramaha, Mykhailo), b 6 August 1914 in Winnipeg, d 15 July 1989 in Toronto. Author, journalist, and political activist. He was born into a family of Ukrainian immigrants who arrived in Manitoba in 1907 and settled in East Kildonan in the Winnipeg area. From 1921 they were active members of the Ukrainian Labour-Farmer Temple Association (ULFTA). Sago joined the Youth Section of the ULFTA in 1927, the Young Communist League in 1930, and the Communist Party of Canada (CPC) in 1932 (under the name Mitch Sago). From his early years he showed talent as an entertainer and was involved in various cultural activities and performances. During the Depression, he became active in the Workers Unity League, the People’s Co-Op, and the Canadian Labour Defence League. For a number of years, he held the position of the CPC Manitoba provincial organizer. He was an organizer for the Mine Workers Union among striking miners in Flin Flon, Manitoba in 1933–4 and, in May 1933, was arrested for participating in the strike. In the summer of 1935, he led the Manitoba contingent of protesters on the On-to-Ottawa Trek.

In the mid 1930s, Sago began to work as a journalist for various newspapers including The Voice of Labour and The Western Clarion and he edited The Unemployed Worker. In 1936, he became the first director of education and publicity for the People’s Co-Op. In 1938, he assumed the post of the CPC education director for Manitoba. On 8 November 1940 he was arrested in Winnipeg and charged with membership in the CPC. He was imprisoned at the Headingly Jail in Manitoba and served one year of a two year sentence. Having won an appeal against a sentence of hard labor, he was nonetheless soon interned under the Defence of Canada Regulations and sent, in January 1942, to the Hull Jail in Gatineau, Quebec. Sago was released in August 1942 and returned to Winnipeg, where he became active in the Labor Progressive Party of Canada, the front organization for the illegal Communist Party of Canada, and in the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians (AUUC), established in 1946. He became a member of the Point Douglas branch of AUUC, stood as a candidate of the Workers Election Committee for school trustee in Winnipeg in 1948, and was editor of the weekly The Westerner in 1947. As an active member of the AUUC, he organized, with Matthew Shatulsky, concerts and theatrical productions.

In 1953, Sago moved to Toronto and in October 1954, became editor of the English-language semimonthly The Ukrainian Canadian. As editor, he showed himself as a strong promoter of Ukrainian culture and literature. In 1956, he was elected to the National Executive Committee of the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians with responsibility for the Canadian-born sector and was involved in policy and cultural work. He co-organized Ukrainian Canadian cultural festivals in Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Regina. He wrote lyrics for songs, recorded songs, participated in readings on stage and on radio, and produced a number of theatrical performances and cultural events. He also produced two documentary films, Visiting the Shevchenko Museum in Palermo and The Fourth Dimension of Ukraine. In 1960s, Sago was on the editorial committee of the periodicals Horizons and The Marxist Quarterly. He was involved with the Citizen Rights Campaign launched in 1961 by the Canadian Slav Committee and was responsible for public relations with the Canadian Council of National Groups in 1962–4. With Hanna Polowy, he was the coauthor of the publication about Ukraine’s national poet Taras Shevchenko, The World is My Village: A Story of the Great Kobzar, Taras H. Shevchenko, (1964), and of Adam’s Sons (1969), an English-language play based on Olha Kobylianska’s Ukrainian literary classic Zemlia (Land). Sago also coedited a history of the Workers’ Benevolent Association (WBA), published under the title Friends in Need: The WBA Story. A Canadian Epic in Fraternalism (1972). From 1965 he worked as editor of Zhyttia i slovo (Toronto). He retired as editor of The Ukrainian Canadian in October 1980, having served 28 years in this position.

Myron Momryk

[This article was updated in 2022.]

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