George T. Toma was born Jan. 1, 1880 in Boian, Bucovina, the youngest child of Toader A. Toma and Sanda (Alexandra) Toma (née Cozocari). He had two older brothers, Ion and Vasile and three older sisters, Maria, Domnica and Ioana. As a child George was fortunate enough to attend the village school and by age twelve had completed grade six. After that he had to help on the farm.
His father Toader A. Toma was a fairly prosperous farmer in those days as he owned about thirty acres of arable land and another five in the village where he had a large house a large garden and an orchard with fruit and nut trees. With all the talk about the faraway land in Canada, Toader, rather reluctantly, decided to sell his comfortable dwellings and all his land. With this money he was able to pay the fare for himself, his wife and that of all his six children and their families. He sacrificed all this for a brighter future for his children and grandchildren. Quite an undertaking considering that he was already sixty-three years of age, an old man in those days.
Boxes, trunks and bags were packed and labelled and the families embarked on the train from Cernaufi to Hamburg, Germany. There on May 25, 1899 they boarded the vessel, S.S. Bulgaria for passage across the stormy Atlantic. On June 5th at 11:00 A.M. they arrived in Halifax. (Public Archives of Canada). From there they made the long trip by train to Calgary and north to Edmonton. From there they travelled to Andrew where the Tomas spent the first winter in the bordei with Ichim Yurko. The men went to work that summer and fall.
George Toma got a job on the railroad track like so many others. He earned $1.25 a day out of which fifty cents was deducted for room and board. The money earned was sent home to help purchase flour, tea and sugar for those left on the land.
In April, 1900, the families moved to the Boian area where Toader A. Toma, his wife Sanda and two single sons settled on N.E. Sec. 16, 56, 14, W. of 4th. They proceeded to build a fairly large log building in the middle of the farm north of a little lake. The walls were plastered with mud. The roof was thatched with slough hay cut by scythe and in each of the two larger rooms there was a clay oven built (a cuptor). For cooking a clay stove was built and on top a piece of tin was placed. And so Sanda began cooking and baking in their new kitchen. Here she shed many bitter tears and often she would vent her wrath on her mild uncomplaining spouse.
“Husband”, she would say, “you did very well. You sold our beautiful property in Boian for so little. You paid the fares (drumul) and you brought us here to starve in the wilderness where there is nothing but bushes, Indians, wild geese and mosquitoes. And how lonely I am!” And she would burst in tears and sob broken heartedly. But slowly conditions improved.
Toader Toma never lived to see the Boian community develop. He longed for his old surroundings and died in 1905, the year the church was completed. Sanda (Bunica) lived to enjoy many of her grandchildren in her new home and passed away in the spring of 1919 at the age of eighty-three.
George worked all summer in 1903 on the railroad tracks and in late fall he purchased for the sum of $50 from a rancher near McLeod a young mare and a three-year-old gelding. These horses were halter broken but that was all. He, along with George Porozni Sr., who had also purchased horses, started leading the animals home to Boian. When they got to Calgary
it began snowing very hard and turned bitterly cold. They stayed in Calgary at a livery barn four days before resuming their journey northward. The whole trip took approximately eighteen days. Since they had little money they existed on bread and water.
Now George had a team of horses and he had the mare bred so a year later there was a colt on the farm. He was able to start breaking prairie with a walking plough.
Maria, his wife, was bom July 8th, 1887 also in Boian, Bucovina, the youngest daughter of Maftei and Pachi^a Mihalcheon. She came to Canada with her widowed father, her married sister Sanda, an older half-brother John and two younger brothers Steve and George. She, too, had attended the local school and completed Grade VI. But since their mother died when Maria was ten, she and her older sister had to do the housework.
When they arrived in Canada, Maria, although only fourteen years old, went to work as a maid in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Dick Hughson (Eusten as the Romanians called him) for $5 a month. Mrs. Hughson didn’t know Maria’s name so she kept calling her Annie till Maria learned enough English to tell her employer what her real name was. Maria worked very hard taking care of the two young children and helping with the housework. The job she detested most was stomping the haystacks during the early fall when the men were putting up fodder for the winter. In 1904 she went to Edmonton where she got a job as a housemaid in an engineer’s home on 107th st. just south of Jasper Avenue. She was now earning $10 a month. Here she became quite fluent in English and learned to read the English language very well.
On January 25, 1905, George and Maria were married in the Wostok Russian Orthodox Church with Father Mihailo Skibinski officiating. Sponsors (nana§i) were Petre and Domnica Esak. They travelled to church all the way by sleigh and returned the same way. They settled on the home place with George’s parents and began farming together.
The marriage was a happy one. George was aggressive, hard-working and physically very strong. He loved singing, dancing and social activities in general. His strong characteristics were complemented by Maria’s who was gentle, intelligent and very understanding. Twelve children were born of this marriage: Katie (Pachija), John, Sadie, Floyd, Grace, Toder, Mike, Constantine, Alexander, Emilia, Hazel (Victoria) and Andrew.
George T. Toma was always involved in Boian community activities and in politics provincially and federally. He served as cantor (dascal) in St. Mary’s Romanian Orthodox Church for fifty-three years from 1928 till 1961 – a week before he passed away. He served as trustee and chairman of the local school board for a number of years. George learned to speak English and fairly fluent Ukrainian. In the Toma home there was always reading material available in two languages. The author remembers that his father was a perennial subscriber of the Edmonton Journal. The colored “doo-dads” were a source of much amusement to the children for years. Then there was the Country Guide, the Free Press, the Western Producer, and later the Romanian paper, “The Solia” (Faith).
Both Maria and George believed that education was very important and encouraged their children to attend school. All the children finished public school at Boian. In addition Katie and Sadie (Sanda) attended Vegreville High School. Mike completed high school in Willingdon, attended Edmonton Normal School and after five years of teaching, returned to the U. of A. and completed a combined B. Ed. and B.A. program in four years. He taught school for over thirty- five years. Emilia attended Hairy Hill High School, and after completing Normal School, taught a number of years before marriage. Andrew (Andrei) graduated from Willingdon High School then received his B.Sc. degree in electrical engineering from U. of A. He joined the Canadian Air Force and rose to the rank of Squadron Leader. Katie (Pachi^a) married Harry Niki- pilo. Katie had one son Sandy who is a psychiatric nurse in the Jubilee Hospital in Vancouver. John left home in 1926. Sadie (Sanda) married John Wardrop. They had one son who died in infancy of pneumonia. Floyd married Mary J. If tody. They raised a family of seven children – Rosalette, Richard, Gerald, Delores, Kenneth, Marvin and Karen. Grace passed away of diptheria in 1922. Toder, a bachelor, was killed in a truck accident in 1973. Mike married Anne Lupul and they had five children – David, Darrell, Margaret, Albert and Laverna. Karl (Constantine) married Doris Wagstaff and they had six children. Sandy (Alexan- dru) married Norma and they had one daughter and four boys, including a set of twins. Emilia married Nick Kachuk. They have a son and a daughter. Hazel (Victoria) married Harvey (Nick) Haresym and have a son and a daughter. Andrew, the baby of the family married Janet McLeod and they had five children – Michael, Mary, Anne, Jenny and Mark.
Most of the Toma children left Boian early either because of marriage or for jobs and today the survivors are scattered from St. Thomas, Ont. to Victoria, B.C.
Maria Toma died of cancer after a brief illness in January, 1945 at age 57. George T. Toma died in February, 1961 at age 81. Both are buried at Boian. Vesnica lor pominere! (Memory eternal!).
George birth record will added in short time.