A Tribute to Baba from the Grandchildren
Natalie Krawchuck, was born on September 10, 1918 in Rife, Alberta . NATASKA became her name when her first grade teacher nicknamed her this and it stuck with her from then on. Our family gathered this past September to celebrate a milestone - her 91st birthday.
Baba was one of 12 children born to Helen and Fred Krawchuck. Her siblings – some near, some far, were always in her heart. She had a special bond with her sister Doris, who she spent countless hours with, as her and Mike lived nearby. Baba spent most of her life in Glendon, but also lived in Toronto and Victoria. While in Glendon, she met George Wizniuk. Gido told us a story about when he met baba, he wanted to walk her home from church – well he walked her…9 miles there and 9 miles home – he hoped after the long walk he would get just a kiss, but NO kiss! On February 9, 1941, Baba married her best friend and life companion George. Baba and Gido celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary this February. They stayed true to their vows....they took care of each other, for better or for worse.
Baba and Gido raised their four children – Georgette, Ted, Shirlee and Daniel on a farm at Giford, and in 1951 moved to their long term residence on a farm outside of Glendon. Baba loved the farm – she spent hours in her beloved garden – she always made sure she had tons of peas for the grandkids to shell under the shady tree by the house but heaven forbid we got caught eating any. She always had plenty vegetables and made sure her family could take some home when they visited. All of us have fond memories of spending summers out at the farm with baba and gido – helping with the chores, taking a hot lunch out to gido in the field ,somehow she always knew where he would be around lunchtime, helping in the garden, picking berries and mushrooms, and tending to or often sleeping with the baby chicks. She also took good care of the farm dogs – she was the only person who would ever take the time to make chop for them daily.
Baba loved all the holidays – she made them so special as our huge family would travel to the farm at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas and pack into the house to celebrate. Somehow it never seemed that full as everyone always had a place to sleep and a belly full of her wonderful cooking – and no one got away without the Kutya on their plate at Christmas. She always had treats for the kids too – homemade baking, candies in the squirrel dish, or gum in the medicine cupboard. Baba also made each of her grandkids a special Easter basket with Paska in them and led us on a Easter basket hunt every year. Baba also never forgot a birthday – she never missed a phone call and a card on anyone’s birthdays. She especially liked her 7:00 o’clock Sunday morning phone calls.
Baba was always busy and always surrounded by family and friends – whether she was curling at the rink, floor curling at the Seniors Hall, painting every piece of outside furniture, or wood she could get her hands on, fishing ,especially when her grandkid tagged along, gardening, playing cards or picking berries and mushrooms so she could have mushrooms and cream for supper. She could have spent all day picking berries and mushrooms in the bush. She also loved her “stories” and often made time in the afternoons to catch up on what was happening in all her soaps. She also loved watching sports – often tuning it to the ball games so her and Gido could watch together. Baba and gido had many good friends and would spend hours visiting, eating, having a drink, and playing cards with these treasured friends. Baba also never missed the opportunity to participate in the Glendon parade or take her grandkids to the church on the hill for Ukrainian Easter.
Baba’s biggest claim to fame was her perogies. Without a doubt she made the best perogies in the world. She always had perogies ready for every family gathering or for 600 people at the hall as the Head Cook for the Glendon Catering Club. She wasn’t just great at cooking perogies though – she was great at cooking anything she made, especially when she could add tons of garlic. We will never forget her chicken soup, borscht, nachingka, pidpenky, studnatz, homemade oreo cookies, pampushky, and cinnamon buns. She loved to cook...and her family loved to eat her cooking!
Baba was also very crafty. Her most cherished creation was her Ukrainian Easter eggs. She made the most beautiful Ukrainian Easter eggs, but was often modest about the details of her creations. She even started making Ukrainian ostrich eggs and made one for every member of her family (14 eggs in total!) so we would have them as a keepsake. Her other talent was her Korovia’s – Ukrainian wedding cakes. Her cakes were so amazing they went all over the world. She made one for all her children and as many as she could for her grandkids when they got married.
Baba was a selfless person – she always put her family first. Even when her health was ailing and we would ask how she was, her response was always – “not too bad”, and then before you could get another word in, she was asking questions about your family and how they were doing. It was always about someone else, and never her.
Baba was also a worrier – a love kind of worry as she was always looking out for the people she loved. If you were fishing, she wanted to make sure you were being careful, if you were ski-dooing, she wanted to make sure you didn’t go too fast, if you were traveling she always wanted to know when you left and when you arrived. She always worried until she knew her loved ones were safe and sound. I still remember every time we traveled to the farm she would be waiting at the window for us to pull up the driveway – it was always a sense of relief to her as we walked down that long path up to their house.
All four of Baba’s children and their partners, ten grandchildren and the eleven great grand children she had a chance to meet, had a special place in her heart. Family was the love of her life and she would have done anything for us from killing moths in the middle of the night under the bed, spending hours making cabbage patch dolls one year for Christmas, buying our warts from us for 25 cents so we didn’t have to suffer from them, spending countless hours playing 31 and marbles, even giving us the nickels from her change purse to play and letting us keep our winnings. She would french braid or put rags in our hair in the evenings. Baba also told great bedtime stories to help us fall asleep.
Baba hardly refused a babysitting request from our parents – she didn’t want to miss an opportunity to spend time with her grandkids. We all spent a lot of time at the farm and as we look back and remember our time spent with her – we all wonder how she handled us! She was a strong woman and it showed. It was always a great trip out to the farm....until we spent more than a weekend there...suddenly baba wasn’t so patient anymore! I think we all heard Baba’s famous saying “Don’t be so stupid” or “eah” – yet she always had a little smirk on her face when she said it. She was always yelling at us to go to bed or not to have any pop before bed so we kids would’nt “pee the beds”, cleaning up ashes covering the entire basement from the old stove when the boys got into it, cleaning up our messes from going through her old clothes and playing fashion show, tidying up the beds after we were jumping on them, and we all felt terrible when we broke the hands off her glow in the dark Jesus figurine. We all knew Baba meant business when she would pull open the kitchen drawer – we knew that meant out came the wooden spoon and we would scatter! We always knew we were in trouble and that she had had enough when her and Gido started bickering in Ukrainian so we wouldn’t understand them.
No matter how much trouble we caused her, baba loved every minute of her time spent with her family and the days when we all gathered at the farm. It was her remarkable strength that became the glue for our family and the reason we remain such a strong family today. We all have so many great memories of our baba. She brought traditions into our family that will be passed down for years to come as our family continues to grow.
When we reminisce about Nataska we will remember her dark black hair that never completely turned to grey, her warm smile, her helping hands, her sense of humor, the special bond she had with her friends, the smell of her kitchen, her many talents, her love of the farm, her strength, her children , her grand and great grandchildren whom made her world go round and the long and loving relationship she had with her life partner George.
As Ryan said, today isn’t about mourning the loss of this special woman – Baba wouldn’t have wanted that. Instead, we are celebrating the life of a strong, selfless, and beautiful wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend.
We would like to thank the staff at the Bonnyville hospital and extended care home for taking such good care of our baba over the past few years, as it became her home. On behalf of our family, thank you all for being here to help us celebrate the life of Nataska Wizniuk.