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KIERZEK, Jozefa (Joyce, Josie)

KIERZEK, Jozefa (Joyce, Josie)
August 19, 1919 – March 9, 2017

Born into a beet patch in a sleepy little farming village near Krakow, Poland, her mother gave her the name she brought, Jozefa. St. Joseph’s Day is celebrated on March 18th. Jozefa’s unofficial birthdate became August 18, 1919. 58 years later a search of the birth/baptismal record in the village church set the official birthdate at August 19, 1919. She never accepted the official word and frowned on birthday celebrations on the 19th. She preferred to celebrate her saint’s day on March 18 simply because it is a cherished Polish tradition and it matched what her mother said.

The Eastern Territory was ceded back to Poland after WW I. Her family settled there and eventually developed a prosperous farm. She married and had two little boys. But WW II exploded in September 1939. In February 1940, late at night Soviet soldiers kicked in the door and Jozefa along with most of her family were herded as slaves to Siberia in the Soviet Union. This left an indelible mental scar on Jozefa. Her husband, sons, mother, father and a younger sister perished of starvation in Siberia. She sawed tress near Archangel, built bunkers around Moscow, and picked cotton on a plantation in southern Soviet Union. Jozefa was released from slavery into Persia on Easter 1942. After processing, she was put on an overland transport headed for Karachi in the British colony of India. Near Karachi she was diagnosed with Hepatitis and hospitalized. A jeep load of Polish soldiers on leave visited her. One admiring soldier gave his name, rank and serial number. Little did she know she had met her future husband, Walter. She recovered and sailed from Karachi to Darussalam, Tanganyika (currently Tanzania) in Africa and eventually settled in the British refugee camp at Rafundi. For 6 years Jozefa and Walter communicated, he in Egypt and then Italy and she in Africa.

After the war, Walter settled on a farm near Nanton, Alberta as a contracted farm labourer. He sponsored Jozefa to Canada and she arrived in the late summer of 1948. Walter extended his contract for another two years and together they raised their own prize bull and their own flock of turkeys. They married in 1949 and moved to Calgary with enough funds to put a down payment on a house in 1950. Together they raised three sons, Ted, Richard (Ricky, Rick) and Roman.

Jozefa retired in 1984. Her life did not change. Walter was front and centre. She was his medical care giver. When he was in hospital, she was there every day, all day. His passing created a big hole in her life.

Sewing, reading and gardening were her 3 all-time favourite activities. She sewed her dresses, skirts and curtains. She mended holes in jeans and darned socks. When her grandson, Michal, was working at Zellers, she mended his black pants on a weekly basis.

Jozefa read religious magazines, the Calgary Herald, recipes on boxes, novels and her Bible. When I was in high school she read Polish novels to me. I wrote up the book review and the English teachers found that perfectly acceptable.

Gardening was a skill both Jozefa and Walter had mastered as kids. Home grown potatoes, carrots, onions, beets, peas, and more were so tender and sweet. Her indoor and outdoor plants received the same care. One could tell she loved her craft.

Jozefa was a Gramma with Gregory, Chrissy and Althea. When Michal, Michelina and Julianna came along, there was another name change. Babcia, Polish for Gramma, became more common than Mama. Six great grandchildren, 4 generations all in Calgary and Jozefa was the lynchpin.

Throughout her life the scene of Soviet soldiers kicking in the door and forcing everyone out, tormented and haunted Jozefa. Wherever we visited, Poland, Reading England, Utica New York, Radium BC, Creston BC, Victoria BC, she never slept at night. She sat on the bed and prayed. Her sister in Reading pleaded with her to go to sleep. In Radium I told her I want to go to the swimming pool tomorrow. No one could reach her. The fear was too great. She could only sleep in her own bed.

Jozefa was a devout Catholic. Her favourite prayer was the Hail Mary. Together with Walter, Sunday was always observed as holy. During May and October, church was a place to be every day. The devotions to Mary were so important to her that one did not say no. She had a big hand and a long reach. Since Walter died getting to Sunday mass was not easy. I became her Eucharistic Minister. She appreciated this and would ask, “Did you bring Holy communion for me today?” It is no surprise she wished that her prayer book and rosary be buried with her.

Jozefa (Josie, Joyce, Mama, Babcia) Kierzek passed away on Thursday March 9, 2017 at the Calgary Foothills Hospital at the age of 97 years.

Relatives and friends are invited to Prayers and Tributes at McINNIS & HOLLOWAY (Crowfoot Chapel, 82 Crowfoot Circle NW) on Friday, March 17, 2017 at 8:00 p.m.

Funeral Mass will be celebrated at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church (2111 Uxbridge Drive N.W., Calgary) on Saturday, March 18, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. Graveside Service to follow at Queen’s Park Cemetery. Condolences may be forwarded through

In living memory of Jozefa (Joyce, Josie) Kierzek, a tree will be planted at Fish Creek Provincial Park by McINNIS & HOLLOWAY FUNERAL HOMES, Chapel of the Bells, 2720 CENTRE STREET NORTH, Telephone: 403-276-2296.

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