Goodbye, Baba.

Sophia Jacyszyn PortraitSophia Jacyszyn Passport Photo

On Wednesday evening (8:53pm) my Ukrainian grandmother, Sophia Jacyszyn died. It wasn’t totally unexpected, and none of us really thought she’d live through to the end of the year for a variety of reasons, but in the end it all happened in such a rush I think we were taken a bit by surprise.

We think it was just her time. It wasn’t completely sudden, as she was admitted to hospital in the early hours of Monday morning, but it came as a bit of a shock when the decision was almost immediately made to cease all treatment and all nutritional intake and just give her morphine as needed and wait for the inevitable.

She had the opportunity to be awake for some of the Last Rites on Monday afternoon, and though her voice was almost gone, she could get some words out to say goodbye. She knew it was the end and she was ready for it to happen.

Baba had a sometimes terrible but also amazing life. Her mother died in childbirth, and her father immediately abandoned her. The Polish regime was harsh on the Ukrainians and there were many times my grandmother couldn’t afford the basics – like shoes.

She survived the Russian invasion of her village and was taken by the Nazis as a teenager and sold into slave labour.

The British Army put her and many other Ukrainians on a train at the end of the war, lying to them about where they were going. The Ukrainians had to hijack the train and stop it before they crossed the border into the Soviet Union to be executed by the Russians.

She (and my grandfather) had no idea what or where Australia was, but they had to take the chance and move here as displaced people. Britain and some other countries wouldn’t take them (some things never change!). She was widowed back in the 1970s and went on to own a nice house, drive a little red sports car, and go on many holidays with her daughters and with me.

Sonya Heaney Sophia Jacyszyn 26th April 2013

I was as close to her as most people are to their mothers, and I was glad to be there when she died. She opened her eyes, looked around, and then closed them and… went…

This is the reason I haven’t been able to be around. We were at the hospital day and night, and now we have a funeral etc. to arrange.

Sonya Heaney Sophia Jacyszyn Oksana Heaney Varenyky January 2015

I hope to get back to regular blogging and reviewing by the end of next week, but I haven’t even picked up a book for more than a week, for a million reasons but especially because it would be unfair for me to make judgements now.

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