I was recently contacted by 2 cousins that I did not even know that I had – the Ukrainian side. They sent me photos of my great-grandmother and all sorts of other aunts, uncles and cousins.
The woman in this photo is my great-grandmother, Annie Batura. My mother’s grandmother. This is a photo taken at a wedding, it should be a happy, joyous occasion. Annie looks like she’s at a funeral. There were other photos as well, from other weddings and her face is always the same, in fact, in others she appears, believe it or not, even more dour.
Mom mentioned how she never remembered Annie smiling or happy. Started me to think about what I knew of her.
She arrives in a strange country, with 2 or perhaps 3 of her children in tow, unable to speak the language. Ukrainians were treated very badly in Quebec and in the rest of Canada from what I understand.
I found our family name among those who were sent to Spirit Lake during WW1. Spirit Lake was a concentration camp for Ukrainians. Was she interned there as well? I don’t know – I haven’t had the time to go through all the records as yet. It is a given though; Ukrainians were enemies of the state and interned. After the war, Annie’s parents were murdered – brutal, horrifying rape and murder. The killer never brought to justice – crime among immigrants was not given much care or concern. Just 2 less hunkies to worry about…
Then? She loses her two sons, a daughter and her husband to tuberculosis.
So to the outside world, even to me – her great-granddaughter, she appears to be a miserable soul. It was only after sitting down and thinking about all the things she had gone through in her life that I realized that this woman was a heroine. Her determination, her courage in facing everything that had been taken from her, raises her up to be a role model for me, an example of how strong the human spirit can be when we demand it of ourselves.