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Horses graze at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, a few miles east of Elk Island National Park (Photograph by George Hunter, Alamy)

Canada’s Ukrainian Capital

The homemade pierogi are spot-on and the borscht is rich with dill, just like in Ukraine. But the old country is thousands of miles away; I’m on a patch of Canadian prairie in Alberta, site of the biggest Ukrainian settlement outside of eastern Europe.

Specifically, I’m at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village near Edmonton, eager for a taste of the land where I once lived.

I’m normally wary of old-timey villages, where calico-clothed employees play scripted roles. But Jeffrey Larocque is good at his job; he pulls me into a lumber shop, offers me a pig-bristle brush to paint the new barn, then takes me around back so I can choose from an assortment of nails.

Out in the rustling wheat field I spot Natalya Vanovska. “I came to Alberta from the Ukrainian city of Ternopil a few years ago,” she says. But with her white head kerchief, she looks the part of a Ukrainian immigrant circa 1900.

Playing a new homesteader, she motions to a sod home. “My husband and I built it!” she exclaims. “Others helped, and we finished the whole thing in five days.”

Entering the house, I touch the poplar logs and eye a decorated wood chest from the old country. This, I decide, is the real value of living history museums—they re-create scenes from the past and help us make sense of the present.

This piece, written by Traveler’s Digital Nomad, Andrew Evans, appeared in the February/March 2014 issue of the magazine. Follow Andrew’s adventures on Twitter @Where’s Andrew.

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