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Memorable Manitobans: Josef Olesków (1860-1903)

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Josef Olesków
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Immigration publicist.

Born in Galicia (Ukraine) in 1860, he studied at the University of Lemberg and received his doctorate from the University of Erfurt in Germany. He became professor of agronomy at a teacher’s college in Lemberg (today, known as Lviv), and became an early advocate of the planned immigration of Ukrainian peasants to Canada, rejecting Brazil and Argentina as prospective destinations. In 1895 he established contact with the Canadian Department of the Interior and published Pro vilni zemli (“About Free Lands”) in July 1895. Shortly after, he visited Canada to explore the possibilities of emigration, becoming enthusiastic about an area in Alberta. Upon his return to Ukraine he established an emigrant aid committee and published more pamphlets, including O emigratsii (“About emigration”). As a result, 30 families were sent to Alberta in 1896, and over the next few years Olesków encouraged thousands more to leave, many of them settling in Manitoba. Despite his vision, Olesków underestimated the capacity of peasants to become pioneers, and overstated assimilationism.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Josef Oleskow Plaque (100 Main Street South, Dauphin)

Early Ukrainian Settlements in Canada, 1895-1900: Dr. Josef Olesków’s Role in the Settlement of the Canadian Northwest by V. J. Kaye (1964).

Josef Olesków, Dictionary of Canadian Biography XIII, 784-6.


Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 18 December 2016

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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