September 10, 2021

Discovering a New Passion

You can never tell when a new passion will grab hold of you, but once it has, it’s impossible to deny. For retired teacher and ARTA member Christina Dubetz McIntyre, it happened during a routine scroll through her Facebook feed. “I saw a picture of a beautiful, old, Ukrainian church, taken somewhere in Alberta,” she says. “It caught my interest, and I knew I wanted to see it in person.”

Earlier in her retirement, Christina had been taking drives around the countryside, taking photos of picturesque barns, old cars, and the like. She knew how difficult it could be to navigate out there, so she called the county office in Lamont to get some more information.

The county office was happy to help, giving her directions to the church she saw on Facebook — as well as to 47 other Ukrainian churches spread throughout the region. Seeing the picture of that church might have started out as inspiration for a day trip, but it quickly ballooned into something more: a new passion.

It has been two years since that first trip, and Christina has visited a total of 137 Ukrainian churches spread across central Alberta. She photographs each church she visits and learns what she can about its history. “For me, it’s about cataloguing these historical places,” she says. “Some of these churches are abandoned and some of them are falling apart. I want to capture as many of them as I can before they’re gone.”

While Christina isn’t a member of the Ukrainian Orthodox faith, all four of her grandparents immigrated to Canada from Ukraine, so each church she visits is a chance to learn about her heritage and get in touch with her roots. “I’ve become really interested in delving into my family’s past,” she says. “This spring I took a course at the University of Alberta on Ukrainian Canadian culture. I’ve been reading all kinds of books, asking questions, and trying to find out what kind of life my grandparents had here.”

Christina’s long-term goal is to publish a book of her photos, along with a short history of each church she’s visited. But for now, it’s enough to soak in the beauty of the rural landscape and reflect on the history of the land. “It is simply fascinating for me to dig into the history of my forefathers,” she says, “And to see the dedication they had to establish these monuments to their faith.”