I believe that the families sending packages to Ukraine at the time of the Soviet Union might not have realized the real part of these presents in the lives of their Ukrainian relatives.
I hear about them every time I go to do any family research in any village and I see that the expression of “packages from Canada” has become a generic name used for all packages and presents received from abroad, no matter where from, Canada, USA, Australia, or other countries.
Although everyone remembers those famous packages, it is interesting that finding the items that were sent is not that easy today. The fact that most of them were sent long ago is not the only reason. The other cause is that they were often exchanged or sold and they got to be owned by other people than the family they had been sent to.
I sometimes hear about a dollar that was slipped into the envelope or a package. However, owning or exchanging any foreign currency was a serious crime at Soviet times and the consequences could be drastic. The local people were afraid to tell their families living abroad about the real state of things in the country, their village, their family and ask directly for any support or things they really needed (read more about mail censorship in one of the previous posts. Having a family abroad was dangerous and that is one of the reasons why so many contacts were lost. However, it could also be a blessing for the poorest families because the most famous “Canadian khustkas (headcloths)” and all other presents they received became a “hard currency”. They were sold and the money was used to buy food, winter clothes, boots.
I often hear happy stories about Grandmothers who received the “packages from Canada” and presented one item to the family of each of their children. It was a great event. Of course, it could also be the reason for envy by the other citizens of the village.
Although in most cases the items sent in the “packages from Canada” do not exist anymore, they sometimes still play an important part even today. For those who sent them, those who received them, and for family history researchers. It’s often one of the markers that direct us in our search for the lost relatives in the village. It is what the random people you meet and interview on the street always remember and they often come up with something like this straight away: My Baba said that family used to receive “packages from Canada”…
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