NOTE:  The following information is about the territory of Bukovina.  Bukovina was a territory in Eastern Europe where many settlers to Saskatchewan came from.  This report was done for a high school genealogy project in 2000 when the writer, Alicia Ottenbreit, of Grayson, SK, was researching some of her roots.




One of the largest areas of Bukovinian settlement was in Saskatchewan.  There are no concrete numbers of exactly how many settlers there were in all.  A major reason for this is Immigration Canada’s way of classifying immigrants.  Many Bukovinians, as German-speakers, were classified as German while many others were classified as Austrian.  A small amount were even classified as Hungarian.  However many little villages in the Melville-Yorkton area particularly, are known Bukovinian settlements.  Some examples of these villages are Grayson, Killally and Mariahilf.




In 1774, the Austrian Empire gained the territory of Bukovina, which lay on the eastern part of the Carpathian Mountains. At the time, its population was only at about 60,000, with most of the inhabitants being Gypsies, Rumanians and Moldavians.


As Bukovina contained plenty of fertile land good for agriculture, the Austrian Empire set out on a campaign to fill the land with plenty of peasants from Austria and Germany, peasants of whom were German-speaking and of German lineage and of the Lutheran denomination in order that they could set up a “True- German” colony.  However, they failed to get very many recruits who fit their requirements, so the Empire offered various rewards (most of which was money) to recruit “True-German” settlers. However, this ploy only succeeded in gaining about 20,000 of these settlers, far below the desired 400,000 that the Empire desired.


At the same time as the Empire was carrying out its campaign for the “True-German” settlers, thousands of other citizens of the Empire were demanding to be allowed to go to Bukovina. These other citizens included to a large extent Catholics who were treated very unfairly by the extremely Lutheran government. Many of these Catholics had originally come from other countries and many had been in Germany since as early as the sixteenth century.  While many of these Catholics eventually came to speak only German and dress German, they were still separated from the main German population, not only because of their faith, but also because of their looks. While the majority of the German race had light hair and eyes, many of these Catholics had just the opposite. With their dark hair and eyes, they were easily identified as “non- Germans” even though they had been there for well over a century. As a result, they were heavily discriminated against by the “true-Germans”.


There were two other groups of people also dubbed “non-Germans” living in Austria and Germany. The first group was the Jews, of which their physical features and faith, just like the Catholics, made them targets of discrimination. The second group was the Poles. As Poland was neighbouring Germany, many Polish immigrants over many centuries had entered Germany and while they had very much the same physical features as Germans, they were mostly Catholic, and forbidden by law to Germanize their last names. As a result, even those Poles willing to convert to Lutheranism, and willing to perfectly assimilate themselves, were still identified by their last names.  The Germans treated the Poles worse than they did the other two “non- German” groups. It was because of this that many Poles completely threw away their Polish heritage and became as German as possible, in everything but their faith.


From 1774 until 1778, many people of these three groups resettled illegally in Bukovina. In 1779, however, the Empire changed its focus of creating a “True- German” colony into a focus to rid Austria and Germany of the “non- Germans”. In the years that followed, about 600,000 people were forced (many quite willingly) to resettle in Bukovina.


While Bukovina continued to be a in name a territory of the Austrian Empire, with the same type of governmental system as Austria, these new Bukovinians built a life for themselves, free of discrimination.  Many were able to get involved in the government and education became highly developed with a university in the capital city of Czernowitz established. Several Catholic monasteries and churches were also built, as well as several Jewish synagogues.


In 1786, despite much protest from the Bukovinians who felt they were entitled to become a province in their own right having established so much in such a short time, Bukovina was made part of the province of Galicia. It stayed part of Galicia until 1849 when it was finally granted the status of a separate crownland and duchy in 1849.


With Bukovina’s policies on religious and ethnic tolerance, several hundred immigrants, from several different cultural groups, continued to enter every year until Bukovina, faced with near overpopulation, banned immigration in 1862. Still, many people continued to illegally enter.


When, in 1867, the Austrian Empire aligned itself with Hungary to become the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Austria gave Bukovina to Hungary, who took self-rule away from the Bukovinians. Hungary, in the process cancelled the immigration ban and allowed a few thousand Hungarians, Slavs, Czechs and others to settle in Bukovina. This angered the Bukovinians who had worked hard to establish a good life for themselves, only to have it taken away. Their anger was further fuelled when Hungary took steps to Hungarianize the territory. Signs and newspapers were changed to the Hungarian language and many Bukovinian farmers had their right to pass their farms onto their sons taken away. Instead, when a Bukovinian farmer died, his land would be given to a Hungarian. Hungary’s focus was to gradually replace the Austrian population with a Hungarian one.


In the 1880s and 1890s, the Austrian and German governments enacted a relocation program, to transfer their former Bukovinian citizens to different lands. Of the over 300,000 of these people, only a handful were brought back to Germany. The large remainder immigrated to the United States, Canada, Brazil and Argentina. However, Jewish citizens were exempted from this program and with only a few exceptions, were forced to remain in Europe. Many suffered during the Holocaust in World War II and those who could, escaped to the Soviet Union. Some returned to Bukovina after the war and were able to rebuild some of what they had lost.  However, the majority of those who came back, lacking any sort of possessions, eventually left for the Americas as well.


Bukovina was ceded to Romania at the end of World War I in 1918. Northern Bukovina was occupied by troops from the Soviet Union in 1940 during World War II. For the whole of the war, Bukovina itself was a battleground between Germany and the Soviet Union.  At the end of the war it was split in three sections between Romania, Germany and the Soviet Union. Within the next years following, Germany lost control of its small section and the small remainder of the German-speaking population was forced to resettle in the Americas. When the Soviet Union disbanded in 1991, Bukovina was distributed between Russia, Ukraine and Moldovia.



Date: Tue, 25 Mar 2003 17:43:59 -0500 (EST)
From: "Ally Ottenbreit"
Subject: Sask Gen Web Biography

Dear Sask Gen Web:

Hi, my name is Alicia Ottenbreit and the attachment
included in this email is a report I did in high
school for a school geneology project.  It is a report
about the territory of Bukovina which is where many
settlers to Saskatchewan came from, particularily in
the Yorkton-Melville area.  The last names of my
family from Bukovina were Ottenbreit, Hoedel, Zaleski,
Zimmer and Paidl.  However, these names are among
hundreds that remain in Saskatchewan today.  My family
settled in and around mainly the communities of
Grayson, Killaly and Mariahilf.  The reason I decided
to email you this report is that under your different
types of ethnic groups, you had the following
"German-Germany" as a group but the fact is, many of
the Bukovinian settlers (and there were lots of them)
did not exactly come from Germany.  I am in University
now and am very much interested in my roots and thank
you for the wealth of information you have provided
for me but I found it necessary to tell you why my
ancestors came here.   If anyone
needs to contact me they can email me at:

Thank you for your time.

Yours truly,
 Alicia Ottenbreit
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