KOREICHUK, TYMOFEI, labour organizer and political activist; b. c. 1879 in Kitsman county, Austrian crown land of Bukovyna (Ukraine); d. unmarried October 1919 in Vernon, B.C.
Tymofei Koreichuk was a prominent peasant politician, one of a cohort of orators and organizers who rose from the Ukrainian masses in Bukovyna and adjacent Galicia at the turn of the century. In 1902, in the town of Kitsman, he established a branch of the Sich society, an organization which challenged clerical leadership and promoted self-reliance among Ukrainian peasants and agrarian labourers. Although his efforts to give the branch a socialist stamp were rejected, Koreichuk continued as an organizer for the society until 1906, when he helped form the Bukovynian section of the Ukrainian Social Democratic party. He subsequently visited villages in northern Bukovyna, organized agrarian labourers, spoke at mass meetings, and ran unsuccessfully as a USDP candidate for the Bukovynian Diet in 1911. Ultimately, penury, Austrian repression, and chronic respiratory illness forced him to emigrate to Canada, apparently in the spring of 1913.
Koreichuk immediately became active in the Montreal branch and the national executive of the Federation of Ukrainian Social Democrats. At the time the Ukrainian social democratic movement in Canada, which had originated in the coalmining districts of Alberta and British Columbia and in Winnipeg’s North End in 1907, was in the throes of a crisis. Disputes over funds collected to free a Ukrainian political prisoner in Galicia (Myroslav Sichynsky), the defection of several organizers, and economic recession had demoralized the rank and file, depleted the movement’s resources, and brought its weekly, Robochyi narod [Working People] in Winnipeg, to the brink of bankruptcy. It was largely due to the efforts of Koreichuk and other experienced social democratic organizers who arrived in Canada at this juncture, including Ivan Hnyda and Hryhorii Tkachuk, that the movement was able to weather the storm.
Much like the Ukrainian migrant labourers whom he would try to organize, Koreichuk led a peripatetic existence. When the FUSD transferred its executive to Winnipeg in January 1914 and renamed itself the Ukrainian Social Democratic Party of Canada, he moved to the prairie city. Still a member of the party’s national executive, he also served as first president of the Volodymyr Vynnychenko Drama Circle, contributed to Robochyi narod, and spoke at gatherings organized by the USDPC, the Industrial Workers of the World, and the Social Democratic Party of Canada. His speeches broached a range of subjects: the achievements of Ukrainian national poet Taras Shevchenko and French socialist leader Jean Jaurès, the goals of European social democracy, police brutality against Winnipeg’s unemployed workers, municipally funded “free kitchens,” and the complicity of the Christian clergy who sanctioned the slaughter of World War I.
From October 1914 until May 1915 Koreichuk served as the USDPC’s western organizer. He visited branches in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia, relying on contributions from party members to cover his expenses. Addressing crowds that often numbered several hundred and included Ukrainians, Poles, Russians, and Slovaks, he promoted temperance, self-education, and the need to organize labour for the political struggle against capital, and spoke about the inhumanity of war. His speeches and example helped to reinvigorate the USDPC in western Canada, but Koreichuk’s failing health and the internment in the spring of 1915 of hundreds of unnaturalized Ukrainian migrant labourers (including many USDPC members) who had been employed in the Crowsnest Pass (B.C./Alta) limited his success as an itinerant organizer. For the remainder of the year he lived in east central Alberta, visited Ukrainian rural communities, lectured, and may have worked to organize several rural USDPC branches. (The efforts of Ukrainian social democrats to organize indebted homesteaders on marginal lands set them apart from other Canadian socialists.)
Having returned to Winnipeg by 1916, Koreichuk resumed his activities as a speaker and organizer and for a time operated a Ukrainian workers’ bookstore in the North End. By the spring of 1917 he had relocated in Ottawa, where he addressed a May Day rally on the significance of the recent Russian revolution and appeared at USDPC gatherings until the fall, when he moved again, to Toronto. In January 1918 he went to Welland, Ont. There he organized a workers’ night school and lectured on astronomy, geology, geography, the struggle between science and religion, the materialist conception of history, world history, political economy, and social revolution.
During the summer of 1918 Koreichuk settled with relatives or acquaintances near Vegreville, Alta. His deteriorating health was his primary motive for relocating, but the Canadian government’s efforts to stamp out labour militancy was also a factor. In the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution and the conclusion of peace treaties between the Central Powers and both the Ukrainian Central Rada and the new Russian Soviet government, the repression of “radical aliens” had intensified. During the spring and summer of 1918, USDPC branches in Montreal, Ottawa, Timmins, Brantford, Copper Cliff (Sudbury), and Hamilton were raided and unnaturalized party members, among them Koreichuk’s close associates Ivan Hnyda and Petro Haideichuk, were interned. By late September publications in Ukrainian and 11 other “enemy” languages were prohibited and the USDPC, as well as 13 other radical organizations, were outlawed. Koreichuk maintained a low profile and delivered only a few lectures in rural communities in 1919. It is not known if he expounded the pro-Bolshevik orientation adopted by Robochyi narod and the USDPC after December 1917. None the less, the mere prospect of his lecturing in Vegreville appears to have incensed the town’s Ukrainian businessmen and clergy, who feared labour unrest and rejected the prospect of a Soviet Ukraine. According to Ukrainski robitnychi visty [Ukrainian Labour News] in Winnipeg, his opponents – “priests and nationalists” – denounced him to the authorities. Koreichuk and N. D. Tkachuk, a prominent USDPC and mine-workers’ activist, were arrested on 5 Sept. 1919 and charged with making “seditious speeches.” Still an unnaturalized Austrian subject, Koreichuk was interned in a camp at Vernon, where he succumbed to tuberculosis several weeks later.
Perhaps the most experienced Ukrainian labour organizer to cross the Atlantic, Koreichuk was one of the most tragic figures of Ukrainian social democracy in Canada. Poor health and the war left him dependent on his party for sustenance and made it difficult for him to perform the work to which he was devoted. His travels across Canada in search of a livelihood, the fear and disdain with which respectable Ukrainian community leaders responded, and his internment encapsulated the experience of thousands of Ukrainian labourers who had migrated to Canada before the war.
Robochyi narod [Working People] (Winnipeg), 1913–18, esp. 21 Oct. 1914. Ukrainski robitnychi visty [Ukrainian Labour News] (Winnipeg), 17 Sept., 29 Oct. 1919. Petro Kravchuk, Ukrainskyi sotsialistychnyi rukh v Kanadi, 1907–1918 [The Ukrainian socialist movement in Canada, 1907–1918] (Toronto, 1976). O. T. Martynowych, Ukrainians in Canada: the formative period, 1891–1924 (Edmonton, 1991). I. L. Rudnytsky, Essays in modern Ukrainian history, ed. P. L. Rudnytsky (Edmonton, 1987).