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World War One Pilgrimage
In my Father's footsteps
By
Lance Corporal (Up)
Otto Boyko, LSM(RCMP), CD, CLSM.
images of Canadian Maple Leaf.

Photo of Cpl Otto Byko. The foregoing account is our fathers involvement in the previously hidden and little know history of Canada during the First World War and our subsequent establishment as an immigrant family from 1911 to the present. This historical chapter has been removed from the shadows and has taken it's rightful place as an important record of what our father, and other Ukrainian immigrants, suffered during World War One in their pursuit of Canadian citizenship.

Our father, Maksym Boyko, immigrated to Canada in 1911. He first set foot on Canadian soil when he disembarked at Quebec City on the 21st of May 1911. Dad was of Ukrainian ethnic origin, however, he was a citizen of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, and carried that countries passport as identification on immigration to Canada. He often spoke of his upbringing but the conversation usually funneled its way into his military service. He served as a Reservist with the Austro-Hungarian army and was in charge of a horse drawn Artillery piece. Dad settled in Ottawa, Ontario and was employed in the construction industry. He worked in Ottawa for approximately three and a half years.

During this time the winds of war were gathering in Europe. The spark that ignited the First World War was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian-Hungarian throne, and his wife, in Sarajevo on 28 June, 1914. This assassination precipitated Austro-Hungary's declaration of war against Serbia which marked the beginning of the War to end all Wars
.

images of Canadian Maple Leaf.

In Canada the War Measures Act of 1914 was enacted. It curtailed freedom of speech and movement, forced registration and the internment of Enemy Aliens. The Canadian Government feared that those immigrants who had arrived from Austro-Hungary may return to Europe and take up arms against the British Empire, France and Russia. As a matter of interest the Austro-Hungarian government contacted their Reservists, who had immigrated, with the threat of banishment if they chose not to return to help their war effort against Serbia. Our father, who held an Austro-Hungarian Passport, was now considered an Enemy Alien. Sometime in late October 1914, on his arrival at his residence, he was arrested as an enemy alien and later transported to the Internment facility at Camp Petawawa, Ontario. Here he was put to work constructing quarters for the expected influx of recruits for the war effort. Also of interest here is when my brother joined the Canadian Army during the Korean War he received his basic training at Camp Petawawa. When asked by our mother how training went he complained that the tarpaper shacks they lived in were extremely drafty and cold. At this she stated that he shouldn't complain as the quarters were built by our father when he was held there as a prisoner of war.

In mid January, 1915, our father was removed from Camp Petawawa and transported to the newly constructed Concentration Camp at Spirit Lake, Quebec. He was held here as POW#553 until the 14th of June 1916. On this date he was released on an Undertaking, with conditions, and sent to Hamilton, Ontario, to work in a steel mill. After the war he was forced out of work at the steel mill as the employment was given to returning soldiers.

Wartime xenophobia was even more rampant after the war. A sitting member of Parliament, Herbert S Clements, rose it the House of Commons and delivered the following speech:
  • I say unhesitatingly, that every enemy alien who was interned during the war is just as much an enemy as he was during the war, and I demand of the Government that each and every alien in this Dominion should be deported at the earliest opportunity. Cattle ships are good enough for them
Our father, still in the clutches of the Dominion government, was slated for deportation back to Austria-Hungary, which no longer existed. His banishment from Austria-Hungary, as a former Reservist, was questionable so he was given an option of either Argentina or Brazil. He wanted to remain in Canada and had it not been for a local Pharmacist, who had political connections and vouched for his good character, he was spared deportation but could not apply for naturalization for 10 years after the war. In August of 1927 he applied for and became a naturalized Canadian citizen. He then moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where he built and operated a rooming house. Our mother immigrated to Canada in 1929. She met our father in Saskatoon. This union produced our family of five boys and two girls. Our father passed away on the 1st of July 1948, too early to observe the success of his children and their contribution, in various ways, to the fabric of Canada.

Although our father experienced difficulties, racism, wartime xenophobia and internment, he fought to remain in Canada, and was successful. Had he been deported at the conclusion of the First World War what would Canada have lost?
  • One son attained an Architectural Degree.
  • Another son owned and operated a local construction company. He also saw active service with the RCHA during the Korean War.
  • A daughter owned and operated an antique store, became an Auctioneer and a successful dog trainer.
  • I myself, being the black sheep of the family, enlisted in the Provost Corps.
  • Another son received his Masters Degree in Bacteriology and was appointed as a Director of a Federal Laboratory.
  • His youngest daughter, who was a Provincial Record holder in Track and Field, was employed as Head Chef at a Medical facility.
  • His youngest son, a Mensa member and a Royal Military College graduate attained a Doctorate in Engineering Physics and recently retired as Research Director of an international communications company.
Our father would have been proud of his children who served a total of 38 years in the Canadian Armed Forces, one of which saw active service in the Korean theatre.

He would have felt exceptionally proud of two other members his family who graduated from Royal Military College and received Commissions in the Canadian Armed Forces. And I am sure that he would have been equally proud of his son who graduated from the RCMP Academy in Regina and served 21 years as a member of that organization.

Not too shabby a result for a first generation family of immigrant parents from Ukraine. l recently rode to Spirit Lake and will return there in 2016 to celebrate my 80th birthday and the 100th anniversary of my fathers release from the Spirit Lake Concentration Camp.

Photo of LCpl Otto Byko riding a military M/C in 1953.

Otto riding an old military police bike in 1953.

Photo of Otto Byko on his personal M/C in 2015.


Otto riding is personal motorcycle some 63 years later, in 2015. Otto sates that he still enjoys riding his bike whenever he gets the chance.

Photo of Provost recruit, Pte Boyko.

Otto while in training at the C Pro C School in Shilo, MB in the 1950s.

Photo of Otto in training.

LCpl Otto Boyko ready for patrol duties while serving with the UN.

- The End -