My parents were 20th century heroes


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/04/2021 (769 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Having my meals delivered daily to my suite during the COVID-19 pandemic takes my mind back to the farm where I was raised.

I suddenly, poignantly, think of my mother and ask myself, “How did she ever manage to raise four children, with no electricity or running water, especially during the Great Depression of the 1930s when we children were small? And what did she feed us?”

We did lose my 18-year-old sister to meningitis in 1937, I remember. At a bit over age nine I  truly did not realize its finality nor the guilt my parents felt. But they stoically carried on, never talking about it, and three of us survived.

Supplied photo Grandson Matt shares his “borscht” with neighbours at a socially-distant back garden soup fest in Brooklyn, New York, in 2021.

Today’s delivered meals smack of pampering, unlike those of my childhood years. We fed off the land – pioneer land ‘bought’ for 10 hard-earned dollars in the rocky, swampy interlake, south of Arborg.

Still, through hard effort and perseverance – and devotion to family – my parents saw to it that there were root vegetables stored for the winter in the root cellar (a dug-out) under the floor; that there was milk and bread and treats of cranberry or rhubarb jam; that there were chickens and pigs in the “henhouse” to provide those never-ending eggs for summer meals and butchered pork and chicken meat for more substantial meals come late fall and winter.

And always potatoes, even for breakfasts, but I haven’t forgotten their deliciousness when served with a creamy sauted-onion sauce, while we dipped into the barrel for good ol’ garlicky dills.

I also envisage Mother’s chicken soup with home-made noodles and the mouth-watering aroma of onion and dill-weed filling the air. As well, her beet soup, or borscht, and cabbage soup, or kapusta, made from home-made sauerkraut often sated our tummies as we asked for more.

And the story of perogies is one I’ve told a hundred times – I refused to make them once I left home because I was tired of having to endlessly roll out the little circles of dough on Sundays.

Yet I started making them again once I noticed how ravenously my husband enjoyed them when we’d visit his or my parents’ homes. And I’ve been very happy that all my family and their wives have shown an interest in preparing these dishes.

I’m recording these stories so that our great-grandchildren will know and appreciate  what life was like for their forebears at one time. Posthumously and publicly, I hereby elevate my mother among 20th century heroines, just as Father was a hero among heroes as together they laid the foundation for bettering the lives of their progeny.

COVID -19 would try to ruin us, but our parents taught us survival.

Anne Yanchyshyn is a community correspondent for St. Vital. Email her at

Anne Yanchyshyn

Anne Yanchyshyn
St. Vital community correspondent

Anne Yanchyshyn is a community correspondent for St. Vital.

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