The Stories Were Not Told

Boris Cyrulnik said that “almost any experience can be reshaped if those who have endured it are given the power to write their own narrative.”  The stories we tell ourselves and those that deny our stories within culture–all shape identity. In this exhibition, The Stories were not Told, I juxtapose, contemporary photographs, video and texts with the historical to engage the audience in acts of memory and place–to assert the possibility that stories can emerge to reshape identities even after a century of willful forgetting on the part of the nation and the near silence of those incarcerated and forced to labour.

At the start of WW I, in August of 1914, the Borden government passed the War Measures Bill, giving the government sweeping powers during “war, invasion or insurrection, real or apprehended”. A permit system was developed to control the movements of 88,000 enemy aliens or prisoners of war in Canada, those people who had the misfortune to be born in or have passport from nations at war with Great Britain. Then, 24 internment camps were built across this country, to contain those deemed of danger to the nation, largely men in urban centers who had no work or lost their jobs because of fears, but also homesteaders and whole families. They had no recourse to justice.

Many communities in Canada that internees came from who do not know these stories–Ukrainians, Alevi Kurds, Armenians, Bulgarians, Croatians, Czechs, Germans, Hungarians, Italians, Jews, Ottoman Turks, Polish, Romanians, Russians, Serbians, Slovaks, Slovenes amongst others.  Most internees were Ukrainians and most were civilians. This exhibition creates a space to remember internees as well as those who contained them in recognition of harm done to the identities of prisoners, those who imprisoned them and their descendants.


I am second generation Canadian Ukrainian and Polish artist from Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. I am a storyteller, photographer and video artist who works collaboratively using the familial, autobiography, and dialogue across generations, cultures and species. I am primarily interested in dialogue as the basis for recognition and identity formation. I am currently completing the book, The Stories Were Not Told: Stories and Photographs from Canada’s First Internment Camps, 1914-1920. I have worked with internee descendants–largely Ukrainian Canadian–and their stories from WW I to integrate memories with possible effects of the internment on identity and cross-cultural learning in Canada. I have photographed the sites of the 24 internment camps and compiled historical photographs and documents.  I teach photography at Emily Carr University.


Oct 15 11am-1pm – Resilience, facilitated by Sandra Semchuk, drop-in workshop, everyone welcome
Oct 25 10am-12pm– Resilience workshop with grades 4-6 Montessori students, facilitated by Sandra Semchuk


This exhibition emerges from a larger project, a book of stories and photographs from the internment. I would like to thank Emily Carr University of Art + Design, the Endowment Council of the Canadian First world War Internment Recognition Fund, the Alberta Ukrainian Heritage Fund and The Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association for their financial support for that project.