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Maria
Romaniuk

March 25, 1935 – October 8, 2018

Maria Romaniuk
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Obituary for Maria Romaniuk

With grieving hearts we share the news that our beloved mother, grandmother, and sister, Maria Romaniuk (née Kozak), passed away on Thanksgiving Day, October 8, 2018.

Maria was born on March 25, 1935 in the village of Petriv, Ivano-Frankivsk oblast (province) in western Ukraine. During her first decade of life, Maria knew almost nothing of peace. Instead, she both witnessed and experienced first hand much suffering and devastation at the hands of Hitler's Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union.

In 1944, Maria with her parents and two baby sisters, Orysia and Katrusia, fled westward ahead of the advancing Soviet armies in search of safety and freedom with hundreds of thousands of other Ukrainian refugees. It was a long and perilous journey, partially on foot and by wagon (across the Carpathian mountains into Hungary) and partially by transport train as they zig-zagged their way through parts of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Austria and, finally, southern Germany which, by that time, had been occupied by U.S. forces. The German trains they were placed in were heavily bombed by allied forces, especially at night, and many people were killed fleeing into adjacent farm fields as the bombs fell. Maria, who was 9 years of age at the time, had nightmares about one such episode near the outskirts of Budapest that haunted her the rest of her life.

Maria's family eventually found refuge on a farm in Bavaria where it spent the last months of the war. Not long afterward, Maria's father found temporary work with the U.S. Army in Rosenheim. Maria's future husband, Stephan, whose family lived beside hers in their native village in Ukraine, and who was stationed in Rosenheim at the time, had assisted her father in obtaining this employment. Stephan had also escaped to the west. However, his route took him to Yugoslavia where he joined the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1945. In 1946, the Kozak family was relocated to a Displaced Persons (DP) camp in Dillingen, Germany some 120 kms northwest of Munich.

Given the number of times Maria's education had already been interrupted by the war, her father arranged for a fellow Ukrainian refugee to serve as a part-time tutor for her while they awaited their transfer to Dillingen. Maria continued her early education in the Dillingen DP camp in a school that had been established for children by the refugees themselves. Most of her remaining time at the DP camp was spent taking care of her two younger sisters and assisting her mother with other essential domestic tasks.

The Kozak family eventually secured passage to Canada as contract labourers assigned to work on a sugar beet farm in southern Alberta. Tens of thousands of Ukrainian immigrants secured similar labour contracts in various parts of Canada in the years following WWII. Maria, with her parents and sisters, sailed to Halifax from Bremen, Germany aboard the S.S. Samaria (a converted ocean-liner and WWII troop ship for the Royal Navy) in March 1949. The ship carried over 2000 refugees from all parts of Eastern Europe anxious to rebuild their war-shattered lives.

After fulfilling their agricultural labour contract, the Kozak family moved into a tiny farmhouse near Coaldale, Alberta. This, their first home in Canada, was uninsulated and had neither running water nor electricity. To Maria, it was still the best home she had ever known.

WWII, and the years of war-related dislocation that followed, robbed Maria of even the semblance of a normal childhood. Canada, and the opportunities it offered for a better life, would make up for this loss a hundred-fold over the next 7 decades of her life.

English was Maria's second language. She became reasonably fluent after completing Grade 7, the one and only year of school she would attend in Canada. Having suffered and endured as much as she had in her first 14 years of life, Maria found it difficult to relate to the Canadian children of her own age. This, however, did not stop Maria from engaging in a lifetime of learning on her own. She began reading English language newspapers and learning idiomatic Canadian English by listening to radio talk shows and news broadcasts. She furthered her understanding of the language in all its nuances by becoming an avid movie-goer, especially during her first years of marriage. In later years, she became a voracious reader of books in both Ukrainian and English, a passion that remained with her until her final days.

Maria married her childhood sweetheart, Stephan Romaniuk, in 1951. Between 1955 and 1960, they were blessed with three children.

Maria and Stephan were inseparable throughout 66 years of marriage. Their union came to an end only with her husband's death on October 27, 2017. With her passing, Maria has once again joined her beloved Stefko, this time for all of eternity.

While her children were young, Maria maintained the family home. She ensured her children were ready for classes each morning and was always waiting for them after school with a hug, a smile and a bite to eat. Over the years, she came to excel at the domestic arts: cooking, baking (including extraordinary tortes, pies, pastries and flans), embroidery, making preserves, and tending to her immaculate vegetable gardens (which were renowned for their variety, orderly design and prodigious harvests). Photos of the Romaniuk and Kozak families, with traditional Ukrainian meals Maria lovingly prepared for Ukrainian Christmas and Easter, were featured many times over the years in the Lethbridge Herald.

Fishing and camping were two favourite family pastimes. Maria's husband Stephan was a passionate, lifelong fisherman. Maria eventually took up the same hobby and became Stephan's constant companion on fishing trips, whatever their duration. She caught her first-ever fish on Mother's Day, 1965 at Keho Lake, just north of Lethbridge. After that, she was hooked!. As the children were growing up, weekends and holidays were almost invariably spent in or near the mountains with a fishing rod in hand. Their favourite fishing and weekend camping spot was Police Outpost Lake, at the foot of Chief Mountain near the U.S. border. However, they went fishing and camping all over Alberta and southeastern BC (and even in Montana at Duck Lake) over a span of some 30 years. Favourite spots included Waterton, Banff, Jasper and Kootenay National Parks (including Radium and Fairmount Hot Springs), and rivers and lakes as far afield as the Athabasca River, Milk River, Oldman River, and Waterton River, as well as St. Mary's Reservoir and pretty much every lake in the rectangle formed by Vulcan, Milk River, the U.S. border and the Alberta Rockies.

Maria and her husband moved to Edmonton in 1991 to be closer to their children and grandchildren.

As Maria and Stephan grew older, they spent more time travelling abroad together. Their two favourite destinations (each of which they visited many times after 1991) were their homeland of Ukraine and Hawaii, which they considered to be paradise on earth. When travelling overseas, they often went with large groups of their friends. Aside from family activities, these were among the happiest times of their lives. Maria and Stephan spent much of their time with relatives whenever they visited Ukraine and showered them with gifts and financial assistance. In 2007, they travelled to Ukraine and Germany with their son Bohdan and his family, and met up with their son Orest and his family in Kolomyya where one of Orest's children (Matthew) was participating in a Ukrainian dance concert tour of western Ukraine. It was a magical time for Maria and Stephan to visit the land of their birth with several of their own children and grandchildren.

Maria loved her family above all else. She was also a woman of deep religious conviction, a proud Canadian citizen and an equally proud daughter of Ukraine. Prior to Ukraine's independence in 1991, Maria spoke out frequently, both individually and through the many Ukrainian-Canadian community organizations she volunteered with, against Soviet Communist oppression in her homeland and to advance the cause for a free and democratic Ukraine.

Maria had many gifts. The most extraordinary, however, was her ability to instantly recall not only the date of birth but also the time of day and day of week of birth of every person she ever met or heard about. At family gatherings, she could equally amuse and amaze everyone with her prodigious memory for hours on end.

Maria's credo in life was to always be kind and provide a helping hand to the weak, the infirm, the dispossessed, and the disabled for their lot was not of their choosing. In her world, it was always the underdog that required our support.

Maria is survived by her children, Bohdan, Vera and Orest and their respective spouses, Barbara, Craig and Susan, and five grandchildren Stephania, Matthew, Alana, Larysa, and Maksym. She also leaves two younger sisters, Oresta and Kathryn, and their respective spouses, children and grandchildren.

Maria will be deeply and profoundly missed by her family and all who knew her. She will live in our hearts forever.


Memorial service (panakhyda) at St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, 10825-97 St NW, Edmonton, at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 18, 2018. Funeral service at the Cathedral on Friday, October 19, at 10:00 a.m., with interment to follow at St. Michael’s cemetery, 137 Ave and 82nd Street.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in memory of Maria Romaniuk to either of the following two charities: (1) The Shevchenko Foundation www.shevchenkofoundation.com or (2) The Ukrainian Catholic University of Lviv, care of the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation at www.ucef.ca. People wishing to send a cheque instead of making a payment online should mail their cheque to either (1) the Shevchenko Foundation, 202-952 Main Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba R2W 3P4 or (2) the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation, Suite B-02, 770 Brown's Line, Toronto, ON M8W 3W2 but, in the latter case, with a note indicating that the funds are intended for the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. In both cases, please add the line “Donation in memory of Maria Romaniuk” below the mailing address on the envelope. Tax receipts will be provided for all donations in excess of $20.00

Вічна їй пам'ять

Prayer Service

When Thursday, October 18th, 2018 7:00pm
Location
St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral
Address
10825 - 97 Street
Edmonton, AB

Service Information

When
Friday, October 19th, 2018 10:00am
Officiating
Cathedral Clergy
Location
St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral
Address
10825 - 97 Street
Edmonton, AB