Christmas Memories live on

This article was written 27 years ago for the Powell River News, December 1988 edition, and was retrieved from the archives of the Powell River Historic Museum.

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The long arm of glasnost reached into Powell River this week and touched the heart of Katherine Nassichuk, reuniting via telephone two sisters who have not spoken in more than 60 years.

“I was never so surprised and excited in my life than when I heard my sister’s voice,” Katherine Nassichuk said. “When I answered the phone and she said, ‘Hello Katherine,’ the tears just came.

“It was a miracle, my prayers were answered.”

The trans-Atlantic call was made possible through the efforts of Katherine’s son, Dr. Walter Nassichuk, who made the necessary arrangements while in western Ukraine earlier this fall.

Dr. Nassichuk is the director of the Institute of Sedimentary and Petroleum Geology in Calgary. He recently visited the Soviet Union to prepare a bilateral agreement between that country and Canada prior to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s recent visit to Moscow.

While in the Soviet Union, Dr. Nassichuk had the opportunity to travel to the western Ukraine and visit the small village of Korsiv, where his mother was born. In 1936 Katherine Nassichuk left her village to travel to Canada.

“Try to picture the scene,” Dr. Nassichuk said. “A horse and buggy arrives on a drizzly fall day to collect the young, 17-year-old girl. Her mother and uncle take her to the railway station in Lwiw, where she boards the train.

“As they wave goodbye, the train pulls out and the figures in the distance get smaller and smaller. That was 63 years ago and the last time my mother saw her mother and uncle.”

Upon his return to Canada this past fall, Dr. Nassichuk flew to Powell River to visit his mother and share a wealth of photos and stories from her old homeland.

“I went to the actual place my mother was born and took pictures of where her house once stood and the old church she still remembers,” he said. “At the graveyard I picked dried flowers, grasses and leaves to save from the grave of another of my mother’s sisters.

“When I first met her only remaining sister, Pearl simply couldn’t believe that anyone from the West would actually visit her.”

Dr. Nassichuk said the village of about 100 people has changed little since his mother lived there. There is no electricity, plumbing or running water.

“My aunt Pearl had little to give, but when I left she gave me a very symbolic gift – a carved wooden eagle she had had in her possession for more than 30 years,” he said.

In the Ukraine, which has been controlled by Russia since 1918, the eagle symbolizes freedom, independence and strength, Dr. Nassichuk explained.

“Bringing the eagle home to Powell River shows hope for the future,” he said. “They also are purported to bring good luck.”

When Katherine Nassichuk left Korsiv she was seeking a peaceful place to build a quieter, more gentle life. Today, with a telephone cable bridging the gap, she was able to speak to her sister and share with her the pain and joy of the past 60 years.

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