Thursday, May 20, 2010

Happy 110th Grandpa!

If my Grandfather were still alive today, he'd be 110 years old.  That's right, he was born in 1900, and in a small village Southwest Ukraine.  He was 45 when my dad was born and he was alive for over 16 years of my life, passing away in January of 1989 from prostate cancer.  I'm named after him.

He lived through much turmoil.  In WWI, at 17, he was forced to fight for the Austrio-Hungrian army on the Italian front, a period he talked little of.  On his return, he found out that the Polish army had taken his dad prisoner where he later died from typhous. I can't imagine the feeling of not being able to say goodbye.

He soon joined the Ukrainian Army, fighting the Russian Bolsheviks who were trying to take over Ukraine.  Then out of the blue, in his mid-20's he left for Canada, and ended up in Edmonton, speaking no English. Thinking about that journey alone by ship makes my comfortable airline trips to the States seem trivial.

Upon arriving in Edmonton, he got a job working in construction and due to his hard work, gained the trust of his boss, and was able to have that boss secure a business loan for him to open the Home Meat Market. It became a staple of the best koubassa in town and my Grandfather became well known in the Ukrainian community, volunteering on councils and community groups.  You can find the shop on West side of 101 Street and 108 Avenue.  Seriously, the koubassa is outstanding!  He was able to help bring over a family member to Canada--his brother, John, who fought valiantly in WWII for Canada and then settled in Winnipeg.

I remember the family dinners.  He didn't say much, but when he did, everyone listened.  He was one of the best checkers players around, and wow, could he snore!  I remember being babysat by my grandparents at their home which he built.  I remember the family vacation in Fairmont, BC, and I remember his car, a Buick Wildcat, in immaculate condition.  I remember their 50th wedding anniversary at our church hall.  There were a lot of people there, and I remember saying how my Baba was such a good cook.  You see, I hardly knew my Grandfather, because he spoke so little, yet he was always there for the family. That was until I remember at one family wedding in Winnipeg where he and I spoke for quite a while about cars and music, while he tapped his feet as we watched everyone dance.  There's a picture of us and it was one of the first real bonding moments with him for me.

My Grandfather just missed the fall of the Berlin Wall and most especially, Ukrainian Independence in 1991. Since then, Ukraine has had its up and downs as it get pulled from East to West.  I wonder what my Grandfather would think about what's happening there now and what the future lay in store for it.  The new president, Victor Yanukovich, is quickly taking the country toward more Russian influence, which is not accepted by Western Ukrainians by any means.  Not long ago, coming off the Orange Revolution, the future of Ukraine looked promising--possibly joining NATO or the EU.  Putin wouldn't have it though.  Now the future looks bleak, it becoming more and more influenced by Putin.  Please have a read of this blog post about the situation there. It really churns my stomach.

The last time I saw my Grandfather alive, I was at his bedside at the extended care hospital in Edmonton (only 7 blocks from my home today) where a few days later, he would pass.  He was very sick and had difficulty speaking, so he took my right hand, squeezed it, shook it with all the love one could feel, and he wouldn't let go. 

And neither will I.

Happy Birthday, Dido.

1 comment:

E Mac said...

Funny you should come out with this golden trinket of love at this time. I can relate to the subject at hand and I'll give you a little background of me if you don't mind. My Mother Mary was Polish and was born in Moose Jaw SK. My Father Peter was born in Bokavana (Ukraine) in 1888 and had 2 brothers as well. They left Ukraine during the Bolshevik revolution in 1905 and came to Canada.Two of them settled in Moose Jaw and the other brother settled in Manitoba. His Mom and Dad which would be my Baba and Tata on Dad's side, I never met or saw any photos. I really missed out on that part of my heritage.
My Baba and Tata on my Mothers side I did know and my Baba died an agonizing death in 1947 of uterus cancer and my Grandfather died around 1949 or 50. I was obviously a young sprout but we had some happy times that I can remember.
My father died in 1962 of a heart attack and was laid to rest. Years later, my Mother passed away with lung cancer. I miss her a lot.
My Dad and his brothers lived a long full life as well as my Mother. The longevity genes are there and hopefully I will continue to see my kids and Grandkids for a long time. GOD willing.
Memories fade as we get older and now I am in my early 70's, so I think I know where your coming from. Our folks worked from day one, never asking for help as there was no such thing as welfare or EI.
Ukrainians are a hard-working lot and I am proud to be one as well.
Tks for sharing.