Shelter from the Rain

(The First Dwelling Place)

When the Ukrainian pioneers initially arrived at their homestead, they often stayed with friends or relatives while they settled in. The Ukrainian pioneers preferred to settle on lands with trees because in the Old Country trees were a valuable commodity generally out of reach on the landlord's land, not on the peasant's small acreage. Trees represented a source of fuel and building materials and showed the soil received adequate rain.

The first shelter that the pioneers commonly built was to little more than lean-to for temporary shelter called a burdei. The pioneers cleared a small section of land by hacking away the bush, cutting down the trees, shaving the trees clean and stacking them as logs. Then they dug a hole in the ground about 3 feet deep, 9 feet wide and 14 feet long. They leaned the logs on each other to form an A-frame roof. The roof was covered with sod on which grass was permitted to grow. The ends of the burdei were covered with mud to further seal off the interior. Then openings that served as windows were made at each end and a door made of saplings added at the southern end.

[Burdei: Exterior.] [Burdei: Interior.]

(The burdei above is located in the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village near Edmonton, Alberta.)

The furnishings in the burdei were quite rudimentary. They usually consisted of a clay stove, a hand-made table and bed, and the immigrants meagre belongings. This was home until a more permanent log home was built.

Copyright 1999, David Nemirovsky.