For Slovenians, the linden tree with its fragrant yellow blossoms represents both the home and their homeland, once a republic in the former Yugoslavia and now a small, independent free country bordering Austria, Italy, Hungary, and Croatia. In Etobicoke, the modern “Dom” Lipa Linden Foundation for the Aged and Disabled, beautified by a large linden tree on its front lawn, was built by Toronto’s Slovenian community. The linden tree is also celebrated in folk songs sung on Slovenian Day and appears in the names of Toronto Slovenian organizations and businesses.
The history of Slovenians in Canada dates back to 1830 when Rev. Frederick Baraga, a missionary and later the first bishop of Sault Ste. Marie and Marquette, came to work among the native community of the Upper Great Lakes. He was called the “Father of Indian literature” for his dictionary of the “Otchipwe” language. Written in 1853, the dictionary is still the definitive reference to the Otchipwe language. Among his other literary works, Baraga published prayer books and hymnals for the native community and sermons for missionaries.
Intrigued by Father Baraga’s reports, a large group of Slovenians began arriving in North America between 1875 and 1900. Those who settled in Canada worked primarily in mines, forestry, and road construction. During another period of immigration in the 1920s and 1930s, Slovenians settled in three Ontario communities: Timmins, Kirkland Lake, and the farming area of the Niagara Peninsula.
Slovenian immigration increased substantially after the Second World War, following the establishment of the Communist regime in Yugoslavia. Some 25,000 Slovenians arrived in Canada from neighbouring European countries and started new lives as farm labourers, domestics, and railway construction workers. In the 1950s, Slovenians began settling in Toronto’s west-central neighbourhoods. The community organized mutual benefit societies which served as social and cultural centres. A number of post-war immigrants included professionals; others were craftsmen who initiated home-building enterprises and construction projects.
Today, there are approximately 20,000 Slovenians living in Toronto. Centres for the community’s cultural, religious, and social activities are the two Slovenian Roman Catholic parishes founded by Rev. John Kopac and Rev. Jakob Kolaric in the 1950s and ’60s, respectively. Toronto Slovenians also own two credit unions and spacious properties used for camping, hunting, and community events.
Prominent Slovenians who have furthered arts and sciences in the city include the late Dr. Vojko Bratina, former professor of metallurgy at the University of Toronto, whose research essays and papers can be found in the University library, and the late Ludmila Dolar-Mantuani, internationally renowned geologist and author of The Handbook of Concrete Aggregates. In the field of the arts, the following names come to mind. Artist Ted Kramolc has works on permanent display in the National Gallery and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Music is an integral part of every Slovenian’s life, both choral and instrumental, and the following individuals brought this gift to the Slovenian community: the late Jurij Erzen, organist; choral director, Rev. Anton Zrnec; conductor and teacher, Rev. Franc Sodja; the late Joze Osana, organist, pianist and composer; and choir director, Ignac Krizman, whose career as choir director started in the late 1940s in the railyards of Smiths Falls, and has continued right up to the present day.
SLOVENIA PARISHES (TORONTO) CREDIT UNION, (Tel. 416-255-1742, 725 Browns Line, and Tel. 416-531-8475, 618 Manning Ave).
JOHN E. KREK CREDIT UNION LTD., (Tel. 416-532-4746, 611 Manning Ave, and Tel. 416-252-6527, 747 Browns Line).
CORPUS CHRISTI. Slovenians dressed in their national costumes or scouting uniforms, hunting uniforms, and young girls in white First Communion dresses attend a religious observance of Corpus Christi held on a Sunday in late May or early June. A mass said by priests with the cooperation of a musical choir from both Slovenian parishes in Toronto, is followed by a procession to four prayer stations situated on the grounds of the Slovenian Summer Camp, near Bolton.
A MEMORIAL SERVICE is held on a Saturday in the first week of June for Slovenians killed during and after the Second World War.
SLOVENIAN PILGRIMAGE. A religious pilgrimage and memorial service are held on the second Sunday in September at Martyr’s Shrine in Midland, Ontario. Slovenian victims of the Second World War are honoured at the Slovenian Memorial Cross erected at the site. This cross was designed by architect Vilko Cekuta and erected in 1975 by War Veterans Association “Tabor.” The Stations of the Cross follow the memorial service after which a High Mass is celebrated within the Shrine itself.
CATHOLIC DAY (KATOLISKI DAN) is held on the first Sunday in July. A morning mass is followed by a religious and cultural program held at the Slovenian Summer Camp near Bolton.
SLOVENIAN DAY (SLOVENSKI DAN) is held on a Sunday at the end of June or beginning of July, corresponding with Slovenian Independence Day, June 26. The day’s festivities include a morning mass followed by a program of folk dances, choral selections, traditional displays, and international guest speakers. Slovenians who have made unique contributions to Slovenian culture are recognized on this day. Slovenian Day is organized by the Slovenian Canadian Council in cooperation with the Canadian Slovenian Community.
BISHOP FREDERICK BARAGA DAY (BARAGOV DAN) is now celebrated on the third Sunday in January, a day closest to his date of death, January 19, 1868, in Marquette, Wisconsin. Known as the “Snowshoe Missionary” among the Indians of the Upper Great Lakes, a process is in place to have him beatified by the Pope. He lived from 1797 to 1868.
BISHOP ANTON MARTIN SLOMSEK DAY (SLOMSKOVA NEDELJA) is celebrated on a Sunday, as close to September 19 as possible, the day of his beatification by the Pope in Maribor, Slovenia. Bishop Slomsek is the patron of Slovenian language and culture. He lived from 1800 to 1862.
CULTURAL DAY (PRESERNOV PRAZNIK) is celebrated at the end of February, honouring one of Slovenia’s greatest poets and the author of the lyrics to the National Anthem of Slovenia—Zdravljica.
DR. FRANCE PRESEREN’S DAY is sponsored by the Slovenian embassy in Ottawa, Ontario. The ambassador also sponsors Slovenia’s Independence Day at the end of June with a celebration of Slovenian culture and language in Toronto. In 1999, a celebration was held in the newly opened Consulate for the Republic of Slovenia, in Mississauga.
BOZJA BESEDA (THE WORD OF GOD), (Tel. 416-255-2721, 739 Browns Line). A religious bi-monthly magazine published since 1950 by the Slovenian Vincentian fathers. Editor: Rev. Anthony Zrnec.
DOM LIPA NOVICE (DOM LIPA NEWS), (Tel. 416-621-3820, 52 Neilson Dr). This newsletter is published quarterly by the members of the Board of Directors. Information found within this newsletter includes special announcements and events for and about the residents of Dom Lipa (Linden Foundation).
CANADIAN SLOVENIAN BUSINESS DIRECTORY, (Tel. 416-251-8456), published by the Canadian Slovenian Chamber of Commerce every three years, contains a directory of businesses operated by Slovenians, as well as a personal directory of telephone numbers. Editor: Frank Brence Sr.
UPDATE, (Tel. 416-251-8456), a bi-monthly newsletter published by the Canadian Slovenian Chamber of Commerce, informs the members of upcoming meetings and special events. Editor: Frank Brence Sr.
GLAS KANADSKIH SLOVENCEV (VOICE OF CANADIAN SLOVENIANS), CHIN 100.7 FM, (Tel. 905-277-8358, 622 College St). A radio program heard on Sundays between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. (summer hours) and 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. (September to May), is hosted by the members of the All Slovenian Cultural Committee, which was founded in 1991. Contact person: Florian Markun.
KREK’S SLOVENIAN CREDIT UNION NEWSLETTER. (Tel. 416-252-6527), This quarterly newsletter provides information on new products and services as well as community events and member features. Contact person: Joe Cestnik.
PLANICA NEWS, (Tel. 416-281-6794), a newsletter published by the Planica Hunting and Fishing Club (www.planica.org) for its members, reports on Club activities and newsworthy happenings within its membership. Contact person: Frank Brence Sr.
STZ NEWSLETTER (SLOVENIAN SPORTS FEDERATION), an environmental newsletter hoping to raise awareness among the members of the Slovenian community and to educate them in the different facets of recycling. Contact person: Frank Gormek,; Oscar Koren.
CANADIAN SLOVENIAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY (CSHS), The CSHS is an independent society with its own constitution and by-laws. Its sole objective is to acquire, organize, and preserve the history of Slovenians in Canada. Its logo combines the linden and the maple leaf, both strong symbols. The documents, art, and artifacts of Slovenians in Canada will be stored in the Slovenian Senior Citizens Centre (Dom Lipa), (52 Neilson Dr). All Slovenians are invited to help preserve their rich history in Canada. President: Stan Kranyk.
THE SLOVENIAN CULTURAL ASSOCIATION “SIMON GREGORCIC,” (Tel. 416-248-0530), founded in 1949, is named after one of Slovenia’s greatest poets and writers. A statue of Simon Gregorcic is found on the grounds of the association’s summer camp west of Newmarket. Each year the association holds Gregorcic Day, which is celebrated with a cultural program attended by Slovenians from across Canada. Contact: Joe Kanalec.
ALL-SLOVENIAN CULTURAL COMMITTEE (Tel. 905-277-0273, 770 Browns Line). Contact: Florian Markun, President.
SLOVENIA HOME ASSOCIATION (SLOVENSKI DOM) (864 Pape Ave). Established in 1960 by a group of Slovenian-Canadian shareholders to preserve the Slovenian language and heritage. The association purchased a building on Pape Avenue in 1962 which served as a clubhouse and home base for the Slovenian Sports Federation (STZ). The building has also been used for exhibitions of art by Slovenian artists. Contact: Oscar Koren.
SLOVENSKA IGRALSKA SKUPINA (SLOVENIAN THEATRE CLUB ENSEMBLE), (Tel. 416-251-9428, 5 Dunning Cres). Established in 1988, the group puts on theatrical productions throughout Southern Ontario and the northern United States. Contact: Mrs. N. Cemas.
SLOVENSKA TELOVADNA ZVEZA (SLOVENIAN SPORTS FEDERATION), (Tel. 905-473-6632). Established in 1948, Frank Gormek and members of STZ have competed as gymnasts on the Canadian Gymnastics team. The organization also owns approximately 1,000 acres of hunting land near Bancroft. Contact: Frank Gormek.
SLOVENSKI-KANADSKI SVET (SLOVENIAN-CANADIAN COUNCIL), (Tel. 416-489-8331, 57 Anderson Ave), was formed in 1978 to speak for the community in affairs concerning Slovenians in Canada and to coordinate visiting groups from Slovenia. Contact: Emma Pogacar.
SLOVENSKO GLEDALISCE (SLOVENIAN PLAYHOUSE), (Tel. 416-654-4066). This theatre ensemble has staged more than 125 productions over the last four decades. Productions include comedies, dramas, and light operettas held in Slovenian community centres throughout Ontario and the United States. Producer and Director: Vilko Cekuta.
SLOVENSKO LOVSKO DRUSTVO (THE SLOVENIAN HUNTERS AND ANGLERS CLUB), (770 Browns Line). Established in 1971 by individuals interested in continuing a sport that was part of their everyday life in their homeland of Slovenia. The club has a lodge near Everett, Ontario, with an in-ground swimming pool, a soccer field, campsites, and trapshooting facilities. They also sponsor chess tournaments, card (Tarok) tournaments, hunting and fishing expeditions, picnics with live music, barbecues, and publishes an annual review which also acts as a directory of Slovenian businesses and members phone numbers. President: Rudy Mihelic; Contact: Louis Kocjancic; Miro Rak.
VECERNI ZVON (EVENING BELL), (Tel. 905-625-5485), founded in 1956, is one of the oldest Slovenian societies, which assists its members in times of illness and hardship and fosters a sense of community among Slovenians in North America. It holds an annual cultural day, named “Proscenje” (Polish Fair) or “Pomurski Dan,” at its summer campgrounds near Tottenham, Ontario. Contact: Joe Hozjan.
HOLIDAY GARDENS, (Tel. 905-686-0782, www.holidaygardens.ca, 3315 Balsam Rd). A Slovenian country club association established in 1964 by Slovenians from the Oshawa and East Toronto communities. The grounds incorporate a large hall, swimming pool, camping sites, and sports facilities. The association arranges picnics and cultural and sporting events for its members and other Slovenians. President: Tony Cernivc.
DANCE ENSEMBLE NAGELJ (CARNATION), (Tel. 905-276-7258). A folk-dance company, established in 1959, which has toured Canada, the United States, as well as Slovenia and Austria. Choreographer: Ciril Sorsak.
PLANICA HUNTING AND FISHING CLUB, (Tel. 416-281-6794, Fax 416-281-4287, www.planica.org). Slovenian hunters and anglers own 1000 acres of land with a clubhouse and two lodges with 47 private rooms near Bancroft.
SLOVENSKI SPORTNI KLUB (SLOVENIAN SPORTS CLUB), (Tel. 905-274-8730), was founded in 1959. This club takes part in provincial hockey, soccer, and volleyball tournaments. Both female and male divisions of the volleyball team have attended Canadian championships. The women’s teams have claimed a number of Ontario titles in women’s volleyball. All three divisions have attended European tournaments. Contact: John Kavcic Jr; President: Paul Zabukovec Jr.
SLOVENSKO LETOVISCE (SLOVENIAN SUMMER CAMP), (Tel. 905-880-4850, www.sloveniansummercamp.com, 17196 Mount Wolfe Rd., Palgrave). The grounds are located near Tottenham, and are owned by the missionary order of St. Vincent, the religious order to which the priests of both Slovenian parishes belong. Several annual events take place on the grounds, including Corpus Christi procession, Slovenian Day, Thanksgiving, and Closing Day. Facilities include an open-air chapel, a large hall, camping sites, a swimming pool and a wading pool. The camp sponsors sporting activities throughout the year. President: John Kuri Jr.
DANCE ENSEMBLE—MLADI GLAS (VOICE OF YOUTH).(Tel. 905-812-3735). This dance troupe was molded into a folklore dance ensemble in 1974, during the early years of Metro International Caravan. It evolved from a mini theatre presentation to a full fledged dance group that has performed throughout North America and Europe during its 35-year existence. Contact: Nada Petrovic.
SLOVENIAN CULTURAL COMMITTEE (VSESLOVENSKI ODBOR).(Tel. (519) 884-9413), After Slovenia had won its independence in 1991, a committee of patriots formed a cultural organization whose statement reads as follows: “this association’s aim is to be a forum to link, inform and to coordinate the activities of the various Slovenian organizations.” It also sponsors and plans tours for performing groups coming from Slovenia. This newly formed organization works in close association with the Ministry of Culture in Slovenia, an organization held over from the previous regime. Contact: Ivan Plut.
CANADIAN SLOVENIAN CONGRESS (KANADSKI SLOVENSKI KONGRES), (770 Browns Line). A voluntary non-profit organization of Slovenian origin, regardless of member’s affiliation or political persuasion, this council is formed by 15 members who are voted in for a mandate of two years. The organization has branches in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Windsor, Hamilton, and Ottawa. Its main focus is cultural aspirations, defending rights and interests of Slovenians, and acting on behalf of Slovenian individuals in the community at all government levels. The organization is also a member of the World Slovenian Congress. President: Dr. Frank Habjan.
BELOKRANJSKI KLUB, (Tel. 905-238-9258) an association of Slovenians from the Belokrajina region of Slovenia, this club organizes an annual banquet to raise funds for their charitable activities. Members come from all over North America to reminisce and at the same time support worthy causes such as Dom Lipa, Folklore Dance Ensembles, Slovenian Radio Club, and other such activities. President: Janko Bubas.
JUNIOR CHOIR—NOVI ROD (NEW GROWTH) is a choir of junior members of the Slovenian community. Their main focus is to learn Slovenian folk songs as well as Canadian folk songs to be sung at various events and during their concerts. They like to perform for the residents of senior citizen homes, they become carollers during the Christmas season, and they perform at religious ceremonies. Contact: Kristina Krizan, Tel. 905-949-9668, or Laurie Ulcar, Tel. 416-626-1755.
It’s a Slovenian tradition on Palm Sunday: branches of pussy willows and greenery (called butare) are taken to the church for blessing.