“Golden Harvest,” an oratorio written to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the settlement of Ukrainians in Canada by Dr. Talia Zajac (libretto), with composer Larysa Kuzmenko, was performed on May 19 by the Victoria Choral Society and musicians from the Victoria Symphony in British Columbia, Canada.

“The choral oratorio was commissioned by Laurence Ewashko, former conductor of the Vienna Boys’ Choir and associate professor of music at the University of Ottawa, who was looking for a librettist who could write in English and French, as well as Ukrainian, to mark the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian settlement in Canada in 2016,” Dr. Zajac, assistant professor of religious studies, explained. “I am of Ukrainian heritage and grew up in Ottawa, so I was keen to take part in the project.”

The trilingual choral oratorio, which chronicles the journey of one family, symbolic of all Ukrainian pioneers, who made the difficult decision to leave behind all that was familiar and dear to them in order to build a better life in Canada, was premiered by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in Manitoba, Canada, in 2016. It has since been performed by a number of other groups, including the Saskatoon Symphony, the McGill Chamber Orchestra, and the Regina Symphony.

“I researched the history of Ukrainian immigration and wrote a story that centers on an archetypal family—an anonymous mother and father who leave Ukraine in 1891 to search for a better life in Canada. Once they cross the ocean, they face the hardship of farming their homestead in the wilderness and of xenophobia, which culminated in the internment of over 8,000 Ukrainians in forced labor camps from 1914 to 1920,” said Dr. Zajac. “More broadly, the archetypal family represents the struggles of all immigrants and refugees who flee poverty, lack of opportunity, and oppression and whose cultural, intellectual, religious, and professional contributions have enriched their new homelands.”