Pharmacist, selfless wife, mother and grandmother. Born May 18, 1920, in Matiiv, Volyn, Poland (now Lukiv, Ukraine), died Oct. 19, 2012, in Toronto from a stroke, aged 92.
Despite more than 60 years of quiet life in Toronto, Ludmilla Makaryk lived with an unforgettable underlying sorrow.
She was born in the “bloodlands” of Europe, the eldest of four children of Varvara Dubyna and Petro Cichonski.
During what she called in her memoirs the “turbulent years” of her youth in the Second World War, her homeland came under attack from all sides: regular Soviet troops, Red Army partisans and Nazi Germans.
The roof of her family home was riddled with holes from bombs.
Ludmilla saw many horrors, and she never got over a great loss: Her 19-year-old brother Evhen was betrayed by a neighbour, tortured and murdered by the NKVD (the precursor of the KGB).
Ludmilla herself received a large shrapnel wound and, as a result, endured a terrible operation on the kitchen table.
Under Soviet occupation, her family’s goods were confiscated and she was forced to work reporting train movements to Moscow. She watched helplessly as queues of long black rail cars filled with people headed for Siberia.
Under the Nazis, Ludmilla risked her life by carrying messages to Ukrainian insurgents through the forests of Volyn at night.
On July 3, 1943, the Nazis forced her family from their home at dawn.
In 1944, fleeing her homeland for Bavaria by rail car and cart, Ludmilla was sustained by her Christian faith. She firmly believed her fervent prayers saved her from death.
In Munich, Ludmilla took up the opportunity to attend university sponsored by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. She completed a masters degree in pharmacy in 1948.
Her dissertation dealt with medicinal properties of a family of plants, which led to a lifelong interest in herbal and folk remedies. She published articles in journals and popular magazines on these topics long before herbal medicine became a mass trend.
She worked hard to pay for her crossing to Canada, where she met Eugene (Evhen) Makaryk, a man with a golden heart – for which she married him. He helped sponsor her parents, brother, sister, brother-in-law and niece to come to Canada.
Scarred by her close-up view of the viciousness of humanity, Ludmilla chose a quiet and politically disengaged life. She was happy to work as a pharmacist from 1953 to 1985, especially enjoying her contact with people.
At Sanitas Pharmacy in Toronto, the multicultural clientele allowed her to use her six languages, and she’d regale her family later with anecdotes.
Inspired by her granddaughters, she frequently published poetry for children in a Ukrainian women’s magazine, usually signing off cryptically as “Baba L” or Baba L-M.”
She was, above all, a selfless wife, mother and grandmother. Before she was felled by her last stroke – a few days before her death – her last words to her family were “Pa-pa” (bye-bye) as she gently waved a tremulous hand.
Irena Makaryk is Ludmilla’s daughter.