Historic novel celebrates Wakaw Centennial

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WAKAW – A Prairie Lake Town - 1900-2011 Historic novel celebrates town’s centennial


            Wakaw’s 100th birthday party this year will see its past and present chronicled in a novel, writtten by one of its native sons, now a Vancouver resident.

            Craig Brunanski, who confesses that almost everything he’s written is set in Wakaw, began the work six years ago, not thinking it might coincide with the town’s centennial.

The 500-page epic reveals Wakaw as never before.  Combining fact and fiction, it exposes the collusion of railroad and townsite interests in the dislocation of the town from its original lakeside setting. 

The novel documents the efforts of local citizens to return Wakaw to the lake and rivive its economy with the construction of a one-kilometre-long canal, proposed 350-home residential development, golf course and commercial centre, all culminating in the town fathers’ appearance on the Dragons’ Den, exactly as it might have happened.

The scars of the 1962 medicare crisis are laid bare in a quarrel between two women, secretly recorded and made public for the first time.

Beginning in the Old Country with three families—Ukrainian, Hungarian and German—the story follows five generations from their prairie homesteads through their lives in an ever-changing agricultural community, with none of the warts removed.

Outside influences are shown to have played a role in the destiny of Wakaw, including political machinations in Ottawa, along with the of the participation of the Church, two Riel rebellions, and the atrocities of Indian residential schools, all featured in an authentic and intimate re-telling of Saskatchewan’s small-town history.

The author is thrilled to have the opportunity to present his novel to the very people for whom he was writing, a readership whose experience of Wakaw makes the story their own.

Wakaw – A Prairie Lake Town – 1900-2011 will be available in Wakaw during the centennial celebrations, July 29 – August 1st, and can be purchased on line at Craiglex.com.





Excerpts -- Dear ed., if there is space, please use any of the following:


“That act will be judged as the most vicious piece of legislation that has ever been passed in this country or in any country in the entire Commonwealth of Nations.” – K.O.D. member on Sask. Medicare, 1962.



“They say he did more than comfort the sick, especially them with no husbands or whose man was away working.  He was a handsome devil, they say, and was forced to overnight at many a lonely homestead.  They say if you take a close look at a lotta the boys born around Geneva, you’ll find a strong resemblance to the dear departed Reverend.”



Dmytro Mozuhrsky cut down two medium-sized poplars, sawed off four six-foot lengths, peeled them, planed them and nailed them high atop an open gateway he’d constructed at the entrance to the homestead.  They formed a big letter ‘M’, and his farm came to be known throughout the district as The Big M, an ironic comment on the stature of its owner, who stood only five-feet-seven inches tall.  But the joke ended there, because Mozuhrsky was anything but a small farmer.



“Hold your horses, preacher,” Mozuhrsky interjected.  “I don’t understand your two-dollar words, but when you say my boy could go far with an education, do you mean living in a cold shack in some schoolyard, relying on the kindness of dirt farmers for a chicken or a sack of potatoes, and maybe pocketing a few dollars a month?”           


“Okay, okay, let’s just sit down. I want to hear this.”  Dick sat in his chair and lay back with a nervous sigh.   Karen turned off the TV and sat on the couch.  “Tell me,” she said, “why on earth and how on earth are you going to build a canal?”

     “I don’t know,” Dick groaned, “but I’m going to do it.  I know a guy with a backhoe.”



    In the village Dmytro drank heavily, and it was in a state of inebriation that he saw the beautiful poster advertising ‘Western Canada, the new Eldorado’.  Bounteous fields of grain were pictured, stooked and ready for harvest, along with a fine house and barn, and best of all a grand team of horses, their proud driver sitting high atop a wagon loaded with sacks of grain.



    A guest of wind flipped Dierk’s sandy hair back and sent a shiver through his long, rangy frame down to where his bare feet were lapped by the frothy waves.  Turning landward, he faced the interminable wall of poplars.  A kingdom of poplars, and he was their naked king.  One hundred and sixty acres of softwood trees, average height twenty feet, many of them four or five inches in diameter, perfect for building, heating and cooking, as well as shade and shelter from the wind—a stand like this would make him a rich man in Germany.


An unidentifiable corpse was found in the ashes of the house, its forefingers still attached to the glass handle of a gallon jug. A few days later an RCMP investigation concluded that the man must be Anton Timchuk, whose disappearance and penchant for home brew added up to just such an end.  Timchuk had come in to steal the liquor and probably lit a cigarette, which ignited the highly flammable liquid, and that was that.


Dierk’s tears slipped quietly into the lake water as he swam slowly back.  Crawling over the rocky shoreline and up onto the gnarled grass, he lay sobbing like a new-born child.  In mourning for his old life, the old world.  He and Hedda had left everything behind.  She more than he.  He would never return to his country.  The dreams he had dreamed had given way to reality.  Something was lost there too.


On May 15th, 1900, the Mozuhrskys were standing with all their belongings on the station platform in Dana, Assiniboia, Canada.  They were the only Ukrainians to disembark from the train, a fact that did not escape the notice of other passengers.  Their traditional Ukrainian costumes were festooned with gaily- coloured embroidery.  Oksana and Katya wore nearly identical aproned dresses, while the menfolk, even little Dmytri, had on handsome shirts with flared sleeves and baggy pants.  Dmytro turned many a head in his large sheepskin jacket.


While the ship prepared to depart Halilfax for England, Patricia and the man she was leaving behind sat on deck chairs watching an immigrant vessel dock alongside and off-load its rag-tag mass of humanity, young men and women, many with children, crawling out from below decks, squinting in the sunlight as though they had lived a life underground.  Despite their wretchedness, Patricia couldn’t help but envy them; they were in Canada, the home of the man she loved.


“Liam!” she cried, running after him.  “Please try to understand.  I love you.  I’ll write to you.  We’ll be together.”  She stopped as the speed of the train became too much.  He watched as she grew more distant, smaller, her hand in the white glove held high waving to him, until the train entered a curve and he was left with his tears.


     The Indian stopped and raised his hand “Tawaw,” he said.  He was an elderly man, similar to the boy in build, but with a little pot-belly.  His round face was leathery and lined.  “Tawaw,” he said again, “welcome.”

     Olla was somewhat reassured by the friendly tone of the greeting, but before she could think of an appropriate reply, he spoke again.  “Welcome to my land.”

     “Your land?”  Olla was affronted.  “But my husband and I have filed on this land.  It’s not ours officially, but when we obtain the patent, it will be.”


     “It’s a wild scheme, Dick,” said Ralph, “but unless we inject something into Wakaw’s economy, the rate-payers aren’t going to foot the bill much longer.  Next thing you know, services will have to be cut, and that includes medical.  Think about it.  When Doc Cenaiko goes, who on the planet is gonna wanna work that hard?”


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Recent comments

  • Heather Hess
    June 20, 2014 - 00:48

    Thanks for putting Wakaw on the map Craig - I look forward to reading your book - I look forward to being enlightened about some Prairie history.

  • Kay McCracken
    August 19, 2011 - 10:37

    What a great article! I began reading Craig's fascinating novel a few days ago. It's extremely well written and very engaging. Well done, Craig Brunanski.