Sojourners and Settlers: The Macedonian Community in Toronto to 1940


217 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-0452-0
DDC 305.891'8190713541




Reviewed by John Stanley

John Stanley is a policy advisor at the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and


For its practitioners, multicultural history is far more than mere
documentation of the past: it is a method of validating their
ancestors’ contributions to Canada and of sharing tales of quiet
heroism and sacrifice, difficult adaptation, and the ignorance of the
host society. In adopting this approach, Lillian Petroff leaves little
room for critical review of the Macedonian community’s past. For
example, she gives clear examples of the community’s intolerance of
its own dissidents—but elects to view such ostracism as a sign of the
group’s cohesiveness!

Macedonian immigrants were overwhelmingly male and generally lived
together in boarding houses; yet Petroff elects to broach the issue of
homosexuality in the community. Having ignored court records and
newspaper reports, she also generally avoids the issue of criminality.
While these are difficult issues within traditional communities, without
a discussion of them no thorough treatment is possible.

The multicultural field generally suffers from an ignorance of the
societies that the immigrants left. Petroff has a particularly difficult
task, since national consciousness among the Macedonians rose at a
particularly late date, even for the Balkans; a literary form of the
Macedonian language was agreed upon in 1947, while a distinct Macedonian
political body—within Yugoslavia—appeared in 1945. Petroff
constantly refers to the “Macedonians,” but it is clear that she is
dealing with only one particular faction within this poorly defined
group. In discussing Macedonians as if they were already a nationally
conscious people during the period covered here, she is reading a
contemporary view into the past.

The result of Petroff’s general failure both to question her sources
and to challenge the traditional views among this particular Macedonian
contingent is a multicultural history that is more myth than history.


Petroff, Lillian., “Sojourners and Settlers: The Macedonian Community in Toronto to 1940,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 19, 2024,