How Did Ukrainians End Up in Brazil?

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The Ukrainian community in Brazil is the third-largest Ukrainian diaspora in the world. Ukrainians began to settle in Brazil at the beginning of the 1870s. They came from Galicia (Halychyna) and Bukovyna and settled in the state of Paraná.

Mass immigration took place in three phases.

Prudentopolis, Brazil: Ukrainian Catholic church Photo credit

The first wave of immigration from Ukraine, called “the Brazilian fever”, was in 1895 – 1897 and brought over 20,000 small farmers and landless peasants.

At that time, the Brazilian government tried to encourage European immigration, even offering to pay travel expenses to attract some of the poorest people. They also promised a lot of unbelievable things in which naïve Ukrainian peasants believed: that the soil in Brazil gives harvest three times per year, people shouldn’t work there because all work is done by monkeys, or no one needs houses there because the leaves are so big that you can make a house out of it.

After slavery was abolishment in Brazil in 1888, the local government needed cheap working hands, and poor Europeans with no home were perfect for that.

Ukrainians were put to live in very rural areas far from any transportations, communications, or, in the worst cases, they worked as sharecroppers in coffee plantations. Thousands people died because of extreme heat.

The Ukrainian colonists received lots of uncleared forest in Paraná in the vicinity of Prudentópolis and Mallet. The climate there was more or less acceptable for Ukrainians. But some immigrants couldn’t stay there and returned home.

After this, Ukrainian immigrants arrived in smaller groups of 700 – 1,000 people per year. A larger influx, of 15,000 – 25,000, took place in 1907 – 1914, this time people came to lay the railroad from São Paulo through Paraná to Rio Grande do Sul.

Ukrainian immigrants in Parana, Brazil. Photo credit

The second wave was between the world wars and consisted of newcomers from Galicia, Volyn, Polisia, small number from Transcarpathia, Bukovina and from Ukrainian settlements in Yugoslavia. In 1922, was formed the “Ukrainian Union of Brazil”. It is an important political, economic and cultural-educational life.

The third wave took place in 1947 – 1951 when about 7,000 Ukrainians arrived from displaced person’s camps in Germany and Austria or emigrated because of political persecution in the Soviet Union. These immigrants settled mainly in the cities. Among them were many intellectuals, high skilled professionals, most of whom later emigrated to Canada or the United States. During this period, the Ukrainian scouting organization “Plast” was open.

The most important community centres are Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Churches, where immigrants received support and education. Ukrainian identity is still very noticeable mainly because of this.

Prudentopolis, Brazil: Vesselka Ukrainian dance group. Photo credit

Ukrainians started to grow wheat, which made Brazil an important grain export country. Almost 75 percent of Ukrainians are occupied in farming. They grow wheat, rye, buckwheat, potato, rice, sweet potato, sunflower, castor bush, maté, and coffee.

Traditioanl Ukrainian hut. Santa-Katarina state. 2009 Photo credit

Ukrainian immigrants brought beekeeping to Brazil. Ukrainian farmers also raise cattle, poultry, and hogs.

Some Ukrainians work in manufacturing, and 8 percent are busy in high-skilled professions.

On October 5 2021, Ukrainian became the official language of Prudentopolis municipality.

That’s how Ukrainians settled in Brazil. Share your family story in the comments.

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