Gregori Toma was born Sept. 29, 1884 in Boian, Bucovina. He came to Canada at the age of eighteen with his mother Katrina, and his brother John. His father Mihai Toma had arrived in Canada in 1900, and later sent for his wife and family. Both father and son applied to purchase land in 1902 in the Boian district. Like other young men at that time, Gregori went to work on the railroad track. For awhile he was section foreman for the C.P.R. and worked in the Yakk and Kingsgate area. He later married Sanda Harasim and settled on N.E.Vi, 4, 56, 14 W.4th in Boian close to his father’s homestead. They had a family of two a son Mike who is now residing with his wife Nellie in Vernon and a daughter Lena a widow who lives in Edmonton. Sanda passed away at an early age.
In 1918 Gregori married Alexandra Vicsush. They lived at Boian for eight years, then moved to the Ispas area where they farmed for many years. Eight children were born of this marriage. In 1926 the family suffered a grave tragedy. Within a three-week period, four children were swept away by the diphtheria epidemic which was raging in the area. Alexandra’s eyes still fill with tears when reminiscing about those unhappy days. Helen, Mary, Katie and little Johnny were all taken away.
Gregori was a very sociable person, a gifted musician, story teller and singer. He was a cantor (dascal) in the neighboring Romanian Orthodox churches. At the local church, the Holy Cross (Malin) he was the cantor and also treasurer for some eighteen years. When the church holiday (Hram) was observed the Tomas always had a large hram at their farm home. Gregori, being tri-lingual, was a perfect host while Alexandra, dressed in her beautiful and colorful Romanian costume welcomed all her guests from church with her usual hospitality. Although she had no fridge and no running water, she managed to feed the numerous guests. Outside the house she had a large clay oven (cuptor) in which she baked and cooked her mouth-watering foods.
After the meal, the music would start. Gregori had brought a flute from the old country and when he began blowing the nostalgic doinas, the women with tears in their eyes would sing those beloved Romanian folk songs. Gregori also played the violin and the dulcimer (f imbala) and so did his younger brother Nicolai. Because these two brothers played well, sang and joked so much, they were in great demand at gatherings and festivities.
The Romanian weddings at the time would last three days and Gregori would be away quite often. His wife sometimes stayed home and looked after the children and did all the farm chores.
During the long winters, Gregori would harness his best team of horses and go north sometimes as far as Lac La Biche and Primrose Lake. Some two weeks later he would return with a load of frozen fish and the odd time, some venison. They would now have food for the whole family till spring.
Gregori was also active in the community. He was a school trustee for many years and during elections he would be the returning officer. Along with the other farmers he would work on the roads, repairing, building, rebuilding bridges and so on.
Alexandra was also born in Boian, Bucovina and came to Canada with her mother Domnica Vicsush – Mihalcheon and the whole family. Fortunately Dom- nica’s married sister Sanda V. Svekla was already fairly well established in the new land and took them in until they got settled.
Alexandra had three sisters, Eleana who married Bill Basaraba, Veronca married Nick Kozak, Mary who married John Seminovich and two brothers, Metro and John. Today only Alexandra and John are still living.
In 1959 Gregori and Alexandra retired from farming and moved to Edmonton. They had four surviving children. Margret married Les Langston. They have two children and three grandchildren. George married Helen Esak. They have five children and four grandchildren. Pearl married George Demchuk and have four children, including a set of twins and three grandchildren. Elizabeth married Bill Kokotilo and have four children and two grandchildren.
Gregori passed away in 1963. Alexandra is in a senior citizens’ lodge in Edmonton. Both lived long enough to witness so many changes in their lives and in the lives of many others.