Book highlights prairie history

Prairie Sunset: A Story of Change. (Dion Manastyrski)

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A B.C. author is honouring his rural roots with his book called Prairie Sunset: A Story of Change.
A professional photographer, Dion Manastyrski grew up on a small farm near Rose Valley, Saskatchewan.
His grandparents were homesteaders who came from Eastern Europe.
He’s also lived in Manitoba and Alberta and wanted to share his connection with the prairies.
“I wanted this book to capture the essence of this way of life, which began with those who settled the land and built the agriculture of the prairies,” he said. “This part of our history is vanishing quickly, and it’s an important part of Canada’s history.”
To accomplish that, Manastyrski created what he calls a “fine-art book.” He roamed the Canadian prairies photographing abandoned barns, houses, schools and churches.
He also interviewed over 70 people who lived in the early days of prairie settlement and included 50 historical photos and documents from government archives.
The result is a book that features poignant photos and quotes to create a picture of what once was.
Manastyrski said the photos and words are interlaced to tell a story that begins with the pioneer years and covers many aspects of prairie life over 150 years.
“I searched for understanding as I explored the homesteads of a vanishing era, and I talked to people of the prairies,” he said. “Collectively they have a remarkable story to tell, and I would like to share it.”
Manastyrski made eight road trips across the prairies from 2003 to 2014 to get the photographs for his book, and it means far more to him than a collection of pictures and quotes.
“It’s a book about hope and dreams, hardship and survival, family and community and most recently, rapid change,” he said. “It highlights the richness of the way of life on the small family farms.”
He added that this is a story many Canadians are connected to. “I wanted to create a fine-art, high quality book about the past, to be handed down to future generations,” he said.
Manastyrski said he deliberately interviewed many retired farmers, one-room school teachers, railway workers and other rural people. Most of the these were in their 90’s, with the oldest person interviewed a former one-room school teacher who was 105 years old.
More than 200 quotes and over 100 photos are used in the book.
Manastyrski said his goal is to share his own interest with others. “I wanted to capture the photos and history in a compelling way, to spread interest about rural history,” he said. “I wanted to show how diverse and remarkable the story of the rural prairies has been over the past 150 years or so, since the Dominion Lands Act and the beginning of settlement.”
Manastyrski independently published the book, along with a team of professionals including editors and a designer. His goal was to publish a high quality book.
To accomplish that he turned to crowd funding which raised over $40,000 from pre-sales, mostly to people who wanted a first edition. “At that time, it was the seventh largest support for a crowdfunded photography book project on indiegogo.com internationally, of all-time, anywhere in the world,” he said.
Manastyrski said he was determined his book would be of the highest quality and he was committed to get it printed and bound in Canada. He chose Friesens in Altona for the task and said he was very pleased with the outcome and happy that it will accomplish his goal. “I want people to know what the early settlers went through, because it is so far removed from today’s life, and I want future generations to understand a bit about it,” he said.
Prairie Sunset: A Story of Change is available in Winkler at Gingerwood Lane, Parkside Home Hardware and Peavey Mart.

Dion Manastyrski is rediscovering his prairie roots with his book called Prairie Sunset: A Story of Change.

Prairie Sunset: A Story of Change. (Dion Manastyrski)

Prairie Sunset: A Story of Change. (Dion Manastyrski)

Prairie Sunset: A Story of Change. (Dion Manastyrski)

Prairie Sunset: A Story of Change. (Dion Manastyrski)

Prairie Sunset: A Story of Change. (Dion Manastyrski)

Prairie Sunset: A Story of Change. (Dion Manastyrski)

Prairie Sunset: A Story of Change. (Dion Manastyrski)

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