Friday, May 20, 2011

Happy 111th Grandpa!

The following text is reposted from a year ago... with some adjustments...

If my Grandfather were still alive today, he'd be 110 111 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 (last fall, I'm not sure where it moved to).  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. 



don muntean said...

Very nice story! I used to live in that neighborhood - just six blocks from there! Here is the shop on 101 street! Lets go there:

Freecloud Records was at that corner when I lived there in the '90 bought lots of vinyl there (and the other record store just up the street noe closed up) and so was your grandfathers shop - I ever bought some of that kielbasa (before I became a vegetarian) and i recall it was very good at the time! I miss Edmonton! Happy Birthday to your Granddad!

don muntean said...

That other link didn't open the location - (you will have to copy and paste this whole Google URL this to your address bar) try this one:,+Division+No.+6,+Saskatchewan&layer=c&cbll=53.552644,-113.493741&panoid=echwSMpmTHbHYUXfZAbGvQ&cbp=12,301.74,,0,4.25&ll=53.552644,-113.494252&spn=0.000961,0.003862&z=19