Doris Chonstke, 88, and Netti Kulik, 94, might hold the record for the most re-gifted present ever.
The two friends have been sending the same birthday card to each other for over 50 years.
Not your typical Hallmark greeting card, Chonstke and Kulik’s card is printed on a paper bag, like the kind you’d put your lunch in. It features a smiling cartoon cat and a cute message that reads "So here’s birthday greetings on this paper sack, when mine’s due you send it on back."
And so, that’s what they did and have been doing for half a century.
"Each time we send it to one another, we write a new note. Then we ran out of space, so we added on some more paper," says Chonstke, who grew up in Komarno, Man., north of Teulon.
Chonstke says it was Kulik — a former Winnipegger who now lives in an assisted living facility in Kelowna, B.C. — who first sent the card. She’s not sure where the card came from, only that it was bought in Winnipeg.
Upon asking her if paper sack greeting cards were common 50 years ago, Chonstke swiftly replies "No".
"It’s the only one I’ve seen or heard of. It’s an antique," she says. "I don’t think they made anymore. If they did, they’d be losing a lot of money."
Chonstke says she was friends with Kulik long before they started sending the card back and forth, meeting each other through cousins.
The pair accompanied each other on a May long weekend trip to Falcon Lake early on in their friendship, and would go on to spend many fun weekends together at Chonstke’s cabin on Eleanor Lake in Whiteshell Provincial Park.
The friends both lived in north Winnipeg for many years, with Kulik working at the old Royal Trust Company and Chonstke and her husband Frank operating a cafeteria in MacDonald Brothers Aircraft (now Bristol Aerospace), hotel businesses in Hamiota and Altona, Man. and Doris’ Perogies (now Karen’s Home Cooking) at McPhillips Street and Aberdeen Avenue.
Sadly, Frank passed away in January, and a month later their daughter, Sharon Moncek, died of multiple myeloma after a four-year struggle with the disease. She has two other children, Eleanor and Michael, grandchildren and a three-month-old great grandchild.
She also still has her cabin in the Whiteshell and visits it often.
"There are lots of things I can do here (in Winnipeg) but I don’t want to play bingo or cards, I want to do something that’s more strenuous," Chonstke says, noting she likes to keep busy, which includes cooking at Saint Andrews Ukrainian Catholic Church.
As for the birthday card, Chonstke says she’s sending it to Kulik very soon, as she’ll be turning 95 on Oct. 25. Chonstke’s birthday is Jan. 17.
"I get to keep the card the longest," Chonstke brags.