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Tatjana (Tina) Daschko.courtesy of the family

Tatjana (Tina) Daschko: Wife. Grandmother. Holodomor survivor. Believer. Born April 17, 1924, in Krasnosilka, Ukraine; died Jan. 2, 2019, in Toronto, of heart failure; aged 94.

Tatjana Pastoshchuk’s happy childhood – born the third-youngest of eight brothers and sisters – was shattered by the Soviets and then the Nazis.

First, farm collectivization led to the death of her father, forcing her to leave school after Grade 4 to help support the family. Then came the Holodomor. She never forgot how, many months into the genocidal famine, her five-year-old brother, Volodia, ground his teeth in hunger. The next morning, he was dead from starvation. She carried that dark night with her for her entire life. Her mother would die in her arms shortly before the Nazis invaded Ukraine. In 1941, Tatjana was sent to Germany in a cattle car as an Ostarbeiter (slave labourer). In Bielefeld, on the first day of work, she met Jurij Daschko, who translated their foreman’s instructions. After the foreman left, Tatjana’s German co-worker asked through gestures, “Do you dance?” As he watched them waltz, Jurij thought, “What an extraordinary girl! Her first day and she is dancing.” Before long, Tatjana and Jurij fell in love and, in 1945, they were married in a bombed-out cathedral in Hanover.

In 1950, Jurij brought Tatjana to Canada, where he had immigrated almost a year earlier. Within 12 months of her arrival in Hamilton, Yuri was born. Over the next eight years, Walter and Alexander arrived. Tatjana and Jurij worked hard: Jurij in a foundry and Tatjana, at different times, in a shoe factory, a cotton mill, a chainsaw manufacturer, she would clean houses and did back-breaking work in greenhouses. The family would move five times, always to more comfortable homes with bigger gardens.

The horrors Tatjana experienced early in life left their mark on her memory but not on her outlook. At 74, during a family outing to the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, she met a former Lancaster gunner. He mentioned the cities he bombed, including Bielefeld. “Oh, you bombed our parents,” one of us said. After an uncomfortable silence, Tatjana spoke up: “It’s a good thing you did; Hitler had to be stopped!”

Tatjana was certainly pragmatic but she also cherished beautiful things. The colours and patterns in her precise embroidery – either for traditional Ukrainian folk shirts or pillowcases for family and friends – created a beauty both delicate and powerful. To help her children learn the language, she spoke only in Ukrainian. Once, on a Hamilton bus, a passenger took offence and demanded that our family “speak white.” Tatjana decided discretion was the better tactic at that moment, but she remained resolute. We learned to speak Ukrainian and traditional folk dancing, we joined Ukrainian scouts and took Saturday cultural classes, we learned how to prepare Easter baskets and the 12 meatless courses for Christmas Eve dinner. Less successfully, she signed up her oldest two for accordion lessons. But in the 1960s, accordions were decidedly not cool; the lessons stopped within a year.

For Tatjana, no day started nor ended without a heartfelt, generous prayer. Over 65 years in their “golden Canada,” Tatjana and Jurij passed on a devotion to family, culture, justice and building a better world. During the last decades of her life, she would speak at Holodomor memorial services in honour of her little brother and the millions who were murdered.

Yuri Daschko, Walter Daschko and Alexander Daschko are Tatjana’s sons.

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