92-year-old church near Mundare surviving lift onto new foundation

A group near Mundare began its work this week to preserve a historic Ukrainian church by moving it onto a brand new concrete foundation.

‘There were some obstacles to jump over but it’s going to be well worth it’

Spaca Moskalyk Ukrainian Parrish is lifted and moved on to a new foundation after 92 years. 0:51

A group near Mundare began its work this week to preserve a historic Ukrainian church by moving it onto a brand new concrete foundation.

More than two dozen people watched the slow and deliberate progress as Spaca Moskalyk Ukrainian Catholic Parish, 12 kilometres northeast of Mundare, was moved onto its new foundation — just a few metres south of where the church was originally built.

The move, estimated to cost $55,000, is expected to be completed Monday.

Spaca Moskalyk Ukrainian Catholic Parish is pulled by a winch on a truck to get the church onto the newly-constructed concrete foundation. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

The original concrete foundation had to be drilled apart while the building was lifted on rails. The rails were lathered with soap, which made it easier to slowly pull the church with a winch from a truck.

Ernie Bay smiled as he watched the 92-year-old church being moved.

"How they can move a big building so smoothly with no creaks or cracks is just amazing," said Bay, the president of the church.

Ernie Bay, the parish's president, gets emotional when talking about the amount of effort to save the church. (Travis McEwan/CBC)
If we don't try then we're letting down everybody that's resting here.- Cliff Moroziuk, on preserving work of generations

In 2013, an engineering report stated the foundation was unstable and it could cost up to $400,000 to repair it. 

The initial plan was to burn it, but the parishioners voted to preserve it through donations instead.

More repairs are expected once the church is fully stabilized on its new foundation. The windows will be replaced and the domes will be acid-washed as part of the preservation. All of the repairs are estimated to cost close to $175,000.

"It's very comforting to know that it's going to be saved," said Bay. "It's something everybody is looking for and wanted. There were some obstacles to jump over but it's going to be well worth it, by far."

The church is built in an area where many Ukrainian farmers settled. Some of them were even buried in the cemetery next to the church.

The tombstones of three generations of Cliff Moroziuk's family sit in the cemetery. He says the efforts to save the church are for the people who built it and maintained it over the decades.

Cliff Moroziuk, the parish's vice-president, voted against burning down the church three years ago. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

"If we don't try then we're letting down everybody that's resting here," Moroziuk said. "Everybody's got their different opinions. They say, 'Why would you preserve an old structure?'

"But it means a lot to these people and it means a lot to those of us left behind to try to do what we can to preserve it."

@TravisMcEwanCBC