For many generations of Ukrainian immigrants in Winnipeg, North End bookstores and reading halls were lifelines to the homeland.
Decades later, those reading halls are long gone, but two bookstores still exist: Kalyna Ukrainian Book Shop, which is still a going concern on Main Street, and Ukrainian Book Sellers, which has found new life in a museum in Ottawa.
Kalyna Ukrainian Book Shop, a Ukrainian co-operative, has served Ukrainians for more than 81 years at 952 Main St.
Two years after the Ukrainian Veterans' Association was founded in 1928, the organization announced it was opening the bookstore to serve as the Canadian representative and distributor of the Chervona Kalyna publishing co-operative in Lviv.
Victor Danyliuk, chairman of Kalyna's board of directors, said the bookstore originally helped disseminate information about what was happening in the homeland, and then expanded into other areas.
"We even used to sell appliances," Danyliuk said. "It was a hub and it was a political hub.
"Older Ukrainian people come in here now and they stand and read the newspapers and then they'll buy three or four (greeting) cards," Danyliuk said.
"But most book sales are children's books, which is nice, because that's where the language is coming from now."
Elsewhere in the store, there are shelves with bolts of fabric to make Ukrainian dance outfits, coloured dyes to make Easter eggs, CDs and DVDs, and souvenir hats and soccer scarves.
Just like it did when it first opened its doors, Kalyna still helps people keep in touch with Ukraine, only in a different way.
Pointing to a stack of large parcels, Danyliuk said the store's main chunk of income comes from the shipping of parcels back to relatives in Ukraine and the transferring of money.
"Ukrainians still live in this quadrant of the city and we're still here," he said.
The Ukrainian Book Sellers store at 850 Main St., was founded by Frank Dojacek more than a century ago. Economy Pawn Shop stands there today. But the original bookstore is now one of the more popular exhibits at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa.
Dojacek came to Canada from Czechoslovakia in 1903, and after working a year as a tailor, started selling books written in Ukrainian, German and Slovak door to door across the Prairies.
He later expanded his business to include music, calling it Winnipeg Musical Supply, as well as becoming president of National Publishers Ltd., the publishers of the Canadian Farmer, at the time the country's largest Ukrainian weekly.
David Morrison, director, Archaeology and History at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, said by the time they were tipped off that Dojacek's iconic store was closing, the space had already been converted to a pawn shop and its contents sent to businesses dealing in antiques, including Junk for Joy outside of Portage la Prairie.
"We went there and bought out all of their stuff and recreated the shop's front," Morrison said.
"It's now in our Canada Hall area, which is the best-visited exhibit here, with half a million visitors a year." The exhibit contains items dating from the 1920s to the 1960s.