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Marian Antoni Dominik.

Courtesy of family

Marian Antoni Dominik: Pole. Cook. Hard worker. Dad. Born June 12, 1950, in Prudnik, Poland; died Aug. 28, 2020, in Hamilton; of complications from cerebral aspergillosis; aged 70.

When I was a child, my father, Marian Antoni Dominik, would disappear for weeks beyond the Communist borders of the small town in southern Poland where we lived. The mission was always to acquire goods that were otherwise impossible to obtain with ration cards in the empty stores of the early eighties. Once he left wearing three pairs of brand new Levi’s, one on top of the other. When he returned, the jeans had been traded on the black market for jewellery, which he concealed in the rims of his car. There was always chocolate, too, and sometimes surprises for his daughters, such as jelly shoes – shimmery, perfectly fitting gems.

With lots of uncertainty, Marian, my mom, Barbara, my older sister, Margaret, and I left Poland in the mid-1980s. Marian – always happy to drive – was at the wheel, while his wife led the mission from the passenger seat. After stealthily navigating the zigzag border crossing at the Berlin Wall, we temporarily settled in Bremen in West Germany and a year later landed as legal immigrants in Canada, the one-way plane tickets a parting gift from the German government.

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I don’t know much about my father’s upbringing or what life really handed him. His parents didn’t speak much about the past; in fact, no one in our family did. History tells me that my dad was born five years after the Second World War ended, the third son followed by a sister a decade later. He was born to Catholic parents who lived through the unthinkable. They witnessed their neighbours taken away, never to return. Six million Poles died. Yet with few resources and much stigma, the psychological impacts were neatly swept off the balcony with the hope the wind would carry them away.

It was heartbreaking to be his daughter at times. As I matured I came to recognize that my dad was as complex as the scrambled Rubik’s cube he once gave me. He was unpredictable, from whistling to himself in the kitchen as he masterminded the perfect recipe for cheesecake, to yelling about something I didn’t know I had done. What always followed these outbursts were agonizing periods of silence – days, weeks, sometimes even months of not even “pass the salt.” I know he loved me, but the fortress of silence he marooned himself in was impenetrable and heart-rending.

Yet today, as I look into my seven-year-old son’s sparkling hazel eyes, I can clearly see my dad’s contribution to this world. What he did and who he was – it was just enough. It was just enough of a crack in a dark lineage that has allowed me to break through. I feel forever grateful to my father for the pain he quietly endured so that I, his daughter, my own child and all our descendants can live in the blinding rays of the sun.

Magdalena Dominik is one of Marian’s daughters.

To submit a Lives Lived: lives@globeandmail.com

Lives Lived celebrates the everyday, extraordinary, unheralded lives of Canadians who have recently passed. To learn how to share the story of a family member or friend, go online to tgam.ca/livesguide

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