The Athabasca Ryga
E. David Gregory
The Athabasca Ryga presents essays, short stories, plays, and selections from a novel that George Ryga wrote in Athabasca and in Edmonton before his move to British Columbia in the early 1960s. Very little of this work has ever been published before. Almost all these early writings evoke and portray the sights, sounds and people of Deep Creek, Athabasca, and Edmonton. They reveal to us Ryga’s ethnic roots, his childhood as a farm boy, his struggle to learn in a one-room school, his desperate search for off-farm employment in meat-packing plants and lumber camps, and his flight to an alien, hostile city where he became both a class-conscious wage-labourer and a visionary poet. Among the manuscripts included in The Athabasca Ryga are two early television dramas (“Storm,’‘ and “Village Crossroad,”), excerpts from the unpublished autobiographical novel, “The Bridge “(1960), and a set of five short stories collectively titled “Poor People.” The Athabasca Ryga also reprints two essays from Ryga’s later years — “Notes from a Silent Boyhood,” and “Essay on A Letter to My Son“ — both reflections on what it was like growing up as an intelligent, creative but lonely youth with a love for literature in an isolated and poverty-stricken Ukrainian farming community.