Barbara Sapergia’s latest novel, Blood and Salt, tells the story of Taras Kalyna. Taras, a young Ukrainian man from Halychyna province in Austrian-occupied Ukraine, never expected to wind up on this train. Upon his immigration to Canada in 1914, he finds himself a job at a brick plant in Southern Saskatchewan and plans to find his sweetheart, Halya, and marry her. Suddenly, Taras is pulled from his job and sent on a train to an internment camp in remote Castle Mountain, Alberta. The days are long, work is hard and wearying, and the food is disgusting slop. The wind and cold are biting and fierce, a constant reminder of a crime these immigrant Ukrainian men don’t remember committing. The ever-present guards watch over the poorly dressed prisoners labouring through a harsh Canadian winter. The Canadian government, in an act of incredible injustice, has decided these Ukrainians are “enemy aliens”, and should be in this camp because Canada is at war with Austria. All is not lost, though. As Taras begins to build friendships with the other Ukrainian prisoners, he begins to see life through the eyes of his fellow men. An echo of the past, and a reminder of events to come in both Ukraine and Canada, this novel explores the hardships these men endured during imprisonment at the Castle Mountain internment camp in Canada during WWI. The beautiful, patriotic stories that these men weave range from the historical and political, to the deeply moving and personal.
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