Nature 09

Mary Kolisnyk

September 8, 1928 ~ December 10, 2020 (age 92)


The family of Maria Kolisnyk are saddened to announce her passing on December 10 at age 92 years due to complications of Acute Leukemia.

Maria was predeceased by her husband, Emil Kolisnyk, her parents, Jan and Anna Stepkowski, her brother, Kazmir Stepkowski, and her sister-in-law, Anna Stepkowski.

Maria is lovingly remembered by her daughter Alma (Dan) and son, Peter (Melodie), 4 grandchildren (Gina, Lynda, Corinne, Jaime), 8 great-grandchildren (Tara, Cassie, Levi, Josh, Jordyn, Katchen, Nikita, Sebastien), and 3 great-great-grandchildren (Karstyn, Kaydence, Kaizer) as well as numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Maria was born on September 8, 1928 in Dobreluvka, Poland. On February 10, 1940, at gunpoint in the middle of the night, her family was ordered by the Russians to leave their home and be put on cattle trains banished to a Siberian concentration camp. The family remained at the concentration camp for 2 years. Food was scarce and Maria and her brother, Kazmir, had to line up for bread and pick wood while their parents worked. Maria got Typhus and was pronounced dead and taken to the morgue. Being the survivor that she is, she revived in the cool temperature of the morgue. Many people died in this slave camp.

Stalin promised amnesty to the Polish people in 1942 if the Polish army would assist allies in the fight against Germany. Maria’s dad and brother went into the army and Maria and her mother and all the other Polish women and children were transported by train to Caspian Sea and then to Iran. While in Iran, Maria again contracted Typhus and was put in the morgue but once again, she fought back and was revived.

From Iran, Maria and her mother and all the Polish women and children were moved to Bombay, India by trucks and trains, and then eventually by ship to Tanganyika. They stayed there for 5 years during the Second World War. The adventures in Africa were many as you can well imagine - everything from seeing herds of giraffes and zebras to finding a boa constrictor under her bed, to seeing people killed by lions, and monkeys swinging from trees. Anna worked in a kitchen and Maria went to school. She studied to be a seamstress and was also part of Girl Scouts. Maria contracted malaria several times in Africa.

After the war ended, the family reunited in England and then settled in Alberta. They started off by working for farmers, then rented land, and then eventually bought their own farm.

Maria met her husband, Emil, and they married in January 1949 in frigid -40 winter. They lived on a small farm by Waugh and then purchased a bigger farm nearby. Work on the farm was very hard and involved long hours. Maria milked cows, helped with the harvest, did housework, cooked, washed clothes with a wringer washer, and then late at night, canned vegetables and fruits. Life was without electricity, indoor plumbing, or telephones.

Daughter, Alma, was born in 1950 and son, Peter, was born in 1955. Maria and Emil retired from farming in 1978 but still lived on the farm until 1986 when they moved to Thorhild. Emil passed away in 1999.

Maria moved to a senior’s condo in Thorhild around 2006 and really enjoyed her life and many friends there.

The year 2020 was a very tough year for Maria in many ways. She was hospitalized for many weeks several times and finally made the decision to move to the New Thorad Senior’s Facility in September.

Unfortunately, her health declined and she developed acute leukemia. She put up a heroic fight but succumbed to the illness on December 10.  

Those who knew Maria felt her ever-present love, caring, and kindness for her family and those in her community. She was a skilled gardener and great cook who made the best bread, doughnuts, perogies, cabbage rolls, nalysnyky, horseradish, and potato pancakes.

Maria was a survivor that was tremendously resilient and resourceful through all the hardships she encountered. She was a woman of strength, courage, sincerity and great faith. She was integral to her church community and found great comfort in her religion. She was incredibly smart and had a sharp memory until her last days.

Maria had pride in her appearance and surroundings and was meticulous about maintaining a clean house and yard, presentable appearance, and keeping her grey hairs at bay! She would say “What will the people think?” Well, the answer is, we think it is an honour, privilege, and blessing to have had Maria in our lives. Her large stature housed the biggest heart, the strongest will, and her fierce belief in all of us left the deepest impression, which will stay with us throughout our days.

Special thanks to the staff at Redwater Hospital and New Thorad Senior’s Centre for their excellent care and kindness to Maria Kolisnyk.

A small private family funeral will be held on December 17. A celebration of Maria's life will be held at a future date, when gathering can be done safely. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the St Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, RR 1, Site 9, Box 13, Legal, Alberta T0G 1L0.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Mary Kolisnyk, please visit our floral store.


Private Service

Waugh Ukrainian Catholic Church
Waugh, Alberta unknown


St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church
RR1 Site 9 Box 13, Legal AB T0G 1L0

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