The year 2020 has special meaning to the Canadian Slovak League Branch 23 of Welland, Ontario. They celebrate an incredibly special occasion this year – their 80th anniversary.
During the years 1919 and 1938, and due to political unrest in their home country, many Slovaks immigrated to Canada. At that time, industry in Welland was growing and the building of the Welland Canal had attracted many to come and settle in this area. The hardest obstacle they had to face was to learn the English language. Therefore, they had gathered for friendship and support in the comfort of their own language and customs. On October 6, 1940, Branch 23 was organized. I would like to thank our forefathers and all of our members, from the past and present, who participated in creating and maintaining a strong foundation for our branch, allowing us to exist for 80 years and hopefully to continue on for future generations.
Traditions, heritage, language, and love of their birthplace, kept newly arrived groups of Slovaks united, and over the next several years, their membership grew. In 1944, they purchased their first hall which was located on the corner of King and Lincoln Streets. In 1951, the Slovak Hall at 162 Hagar Street was purchased, and for over 50 years our members worked hard to keep the hall running, enjoying many celebrations and performances there. Over the years, the Slovak Hall was a means for fundraising through bingo nights and hall rentals, enabling Branch 23 to participate in many multicultural programs here in Welland, and to also be a large supporter of the Welland Hospital and many local charities and community functions. The hall was later sold in 2004.
Dance and music make up a large part of our Slovak heritage and traditions. During the past years, Branch 23 members had performed in Slovak plays, broadcasted live on the radio in the Slovak language, held dances, formed a Slovak choir, had a bowling team, taught Slovak school, organized four Slovak dance groups of all ages and sponsored sports teams.
Branch 23 and the Slovak Hall were enjoyed by all – a place to socialize and celebrate, with many wonderful memories. We have been involved in community functions such as the Rose Festival Parade, International Luncheons at the Market Square, Multicultural Open Houses, and displays at the Welland Museum and Welland Multicultural Center. For our members we have a scholarship program, luncheon celebrations, a yearly banquet, picnic, and a Christmas get-together.
Even though we no longer have a hall of our own, traditions, heritage and friendship have kept us united and we always look forward to getting together. Through the dedication and hard work of all its members throughout the 80 years, the survival of Branch 23 is something that we, as members, can all be immensely proud of.
Canadian Slovak League Branch 23
The attached photos show memories from our history. Maybe you will see yourself in your youth or recognize your parents, grandparents, or friends from a time when the world was full of joy, brotherhood and love for everyone and everything. Happy Thanksgiving!