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How It All Began.....

by Ann Shinkewski

(From the 1998 Reunion Recipe Book)


       Our parents came to Canada.  Dad came in 1926 and Mom, Irene and myself came in 1929.  It was a very hard life for our parents.  Dad worked for 50 cents a day from sun rise to sun down with no days off, only Sunday.

       I know all of you want to know why our parents came to Canada.  Dad was in the army.  He was 17 years old and he came back after 5 years.  He was a prisoner.  When he came back it was Poland.  Dad went with the Ukrainian army.  He always had to report to the Polish police as to where he was going and when he would get back.  He was tired living like this.  He got married and wanted a better life for himself and his family.

       We left Poland and all of our family and never saw anyone again.  Irene and I grew up with no aunties, no uncles, or grandparents.  All we had was only Mom and Dad.  It was a hard road to travel.  The ocean was rough and the trains had no water.  The train would stop and people would get out to get water to drink.  Mom prayed that we would get to Canada safely because if anyone died, they would just throw the body overboard.

       When we got to Buchanan, Mom lost her trunk.  We had nothing.  We had two ladies make us quilts.  Mrs. Gonzola gave us a shack with one room to live.  We spent a winter there.  The next spring Dad built a two room log house plastered with clay.  He finished it one day, and the next day we moved in while the clay was still wet.  Dad made us mattresses filled with hay.  We got a cow that Dad bought for $75 that took him a whole summer to pay off.  So now we had milk, butter, and cheese.  Dad built a clay oven and Mom would bake bread. We grew a big garden and had lots to eat.  During the winter, Dad would go hunting for jack rabbits and prairie chickens.  Now you don't see them.

        Anywhere we had to go, we walked.  Then Dad bought a horse.  He sold five head of cattle at $15 to pay for one horse.  When we needed a few groceries, we would carry a pail of eggs to Mr. Chicorli who was a mile from Rama.  He would pay us 5 cents a dozen and then we would buy what we needed.  Then we would walk the 8 miles back home.  I was just about 12, and Irene was 10 years old.  We walked to school 10 miles.  When I started school, I didn't know a word of English.  Dad and Mom bought us clothes from a second hand store.

        Peter, Bill, and Terry were born in Canada.  It was a little easier for them.  Dad was happy that he had three sons to help pick roots, clear the land, and pick stones.  When I grew older, Dad bought a car and was learning to drive.  One day he was driving and he was wanting to stop, but he hit the gas pedal instead of the brake and drove the car into the barn.  Some clay fell off the barn but no damage was done to the car.  So Dad said to Mom, "Mary, let's go the Gondzola's" and Mom said "No, you need a barn to drive into because you don't know how to stop the car!".  Our parents worked very hard.  Mom passed away at 51 years in 1954, and Dad in 1968 at age 68.


This is Aunty Ann's handwriting. Gido was 42 in the photo, and it was taken in 1942.