Blood and Salt
by Barbara Sapergia
The time is World War I, and Canadian soldiers are proving their worth in the trenches of Europe. But on the home front, Ukrainian Canadians are being sent to internment camps, "Canada's gulag". Blood and Salt is about this forgotten part of Canadian history.
They had committed the crime of being unemployed in bad times. Or simple of having come from lands ruled by the Austrian empire. They became "enemy aliens".
Taras Kalyna, a young man who deserted the Austrian army to search for his lost love, Halya, becomes one of these men. Imprisoned with hundreds of others in Banff National Park, he helps build a highway from Banff to Lake Louise. Conditions are brutal, the food poor.
His time in the camp isn't completely lost. He forges strong friendships and begins to learn about the wider world. Myro, an idealistic schoolteacher, tells him stories about the life of the great Ukrainian patriot and poet, Taras Shevchenko. Yuri, a farmer, teaches him optimism. And Tymko, a fierce socialist, helps him ask questions about his new country.
Taras has no way of knowing when, or even if, he'll be free again. But even imprisoned, he never stops think of Halya. Their stories develop in separate strands until the war is over. And then he'll be free to look for her.
Blood and Salt is a work of fiction grounded in actual details about the Banff-Castle Mountain internment camp. It explores the search for a new life and the search for love - all the while asking what it is to be Ukrainian.