"I am a very lucky and fortunate person.
I've been blessed by God
with opportunities to serve others"
There is no
exact definition of what exactly angels are, but in our perception they are
associated with sacred amorphous spirits that act as the messengers of God and
look over human beings from afar. They are essentially our guardians who bestow
their protecting shields in the time of need upon each and everyone.
How would you
feel about meeting an angel in real life? Sounds a bit unrealistic, but in fact
it is not. There is one angel that by some superior will of God has decided to
plant itself among people and guard us while living alongside. This angel is an
81 year old lady named Patricia Kuzmak. Pat has devoted her entire life to
serving community and being useful to others.
A native of Denison, Iowa, Pat comes from the humble
German-Irish middle class family. Pat was the only child. When she was 12 her
beloved father passed away. Pat's mother had a very hard time raising her
daughter alone, and very often they both lived off of cereal and popcorn.
However even in those days of hardship Patricia never felt deprived. Later,
Pat's mother remarried and started a family restaurant business with Pat's
stepfather. Since the family was not able to have more biological children,
they decided to adopt. They got Pat's sister Marie when she was 9 days old and
much later became the foster family to 12 and 13 year old brothers Richard
(Dick) and Robert (Bob) who have lost their parents. Pat was very excited to
have siblings and until today is very close with them (Marie has since died
from cancer, but lives forever in Pat's heart).
Patricia was a
good student and took special interest in religion classes. At the age of 18
she decided to become a nun and has joined a Franciscan convent. Her mother was
very supportive of the daughter's decision and served as a great mentor to her.
Pat enjoyed being a nun immensely. As a music teacher at the convent she taught
classroom music and piano lessons in both private and group settings. Patricia
has spent 16 years at the convent before she came to the realization that she
would be more useful serving others outside the church premises. At the age of
34 Pat left the convent and soon after has found a job as a music teacher in
area first at a catholic school and 2 years later - at a public school. Being a
teacher at a public school was extremely rewarding; Pat felt like she was
finally making a difference working with kids from middle class families with a
variety of faiths or no religious background.
In July 1971 Patricia
met a very special man Wally, who became her husband less than a year later.
Wally was 9 years older than Pat and was the love of her life. He was of
Ukrainian origin and has always been deeply involved in Ukrainian diaspora in
in general and Ukrainian Catholic Church life in particular. His skills of a
real estate broker and builder had come in handy when his Ukrainian Chicago
parish was looking for a new home in early 1990-s. Wally helped design the
construction plans to build the church and assisted with finding the right
architect. His big dream was to have a basement underneath the church with
ample classroom space for children to study. This dream unfortunately did not
become a reality. The construction of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Ukrainian Catholic Church was finished in 1993. It became a true attraction of
the southern Illinois suburb of Palos
Wally was elected to be an honorable member of the Church Council and Pat - a
teacher of the catechism class at the church.
Pat and Wally
were not blessed with children. Pat's students helped fill the void. After
retiring from teaching in 1993 Pat spent a lot of time looking after her sick
mother-in-law, who moved in with them per Pat's suggestion. She especially
needed help after having a stroke. When Wally's mother passed away in 1997 Pat
devoted her time to taking care of her own mother as she became needy as well.
Pat would often fly or drive to Iowa
to help or visit mom. Her mother died in 2003.
With the loss of
parents on both sides Pat and Wally recovered by travelling. Pat became a
travel agent and had an opportunity to bring along her husband when going to
different parts of the world. They enjoyed their trips to France, Russia,
Mexico, and Bermuda a lot. But their absolute favorite was the family
trip to Wally's motherland Ukraine
in 2003. Pat has very fond recollections of their visit to Turka, a little town
in Lviv oblast where Wally's father was born, and the river cruise from Kyiv to
Wally's mom's native city Odesa.
away in February 2009. It was the greatest shock and loss of Pat's life. The
parishioners of Nativity of the BVM Ukrainian Catholic Church were very
supportive in helping Pat overcome her tragedy. She will be forever grateful
With time Mrs
Kuzmak has sold her big house in Oak Lawn and moved into a smaller condominium
in Palos Heights
to be closer to the Nativity Church.
She split her time between volunteering for the parish, administering
medication to her blind wheelchair bound elderly neighbor, dog sitting for her
friend Rosemary (little Maggie enjoys Pat's company a lot!), occasional
waitressing for the local banquet hall Aviana and meeting with friends for tea.
During one of
the tea gatherings in February 2016 Pat found out from her close friend Irene
Gajecki about the wounded Ukrainian hero Volodymyr Hera who has rescued 400
servicemen defending Luhansk airport on August 31, 2014 in the war zone in the
East of Ukraine and as a result became paralyzed. He happened to be on
rehabilitation in Chicago
and was in need of a place to live. Pat thought for a brief moment about the
minimum requirements one had to meet in order to shelter Volodymyr (one floor,
no stairs, extra bathroom, extra bedroom) and realizing she is meeting each of
them immediately volunteered to take him in. Volodymyr Hera and his father
Jaroslav spent half a year living in Pat's condo and very quickly became a part
of her family. Volodymyr's girlfriend Olesya, who has arrived a little later,
also turned into Mrs Kuzmak's close and dear friend. Pat empathized with Volodymyr,
went to different social events with him, showed him around and did all she
could to make his stay in the USA
as productive as possible. Volodymyr Hera, his father and girlfriend left Chicago in July 2016 after
completing the therapy treatment. Now that Volodya is back in Ukraine they keep in touch and talk
on Skype every weekend. As a matter of fact, Pat is planning her trip to Ukraine
to visit Volodymyr and his family in August this year. When asked if she would
host a wounded soldier from Ukraine
ever again, Mrs Kuzmak responds "Yes!" without any hesitation.
And indeed she
means it! On May 8th 2017 Pat volunteered to shelter a paralyzed
hero Roman Havrylchak from Lviv, Ukraine.
Roman was severely injured on February 12, 2015 as a
result of massive shelling of Russia
backed separatists in town Debaltseve in the East of Ukraine. The soldier came
to the US in a wheelchair
accompanied by his mother Kateryna and is currently undergoing intensive
therapy treatment in Willow
Mrs Kuzmak is thrilled to have her new guests over and is grateful for the
opportunity to be able to serve them.
Ukrainian wounded heroes because she is convinced that the duty of each human
being is to help those who are in need. As a matter of fact, nationality is not
key for her. Pat treats all people regardless of their ethnicity, race and
color equally as they are all God's children. "God does not ask us what
nationality we are", - insists Mrs Kuzmak - "All I do is what a good Christian
should be doing, nothing else".
Pat is truly a
person of exemplary conduct and virtue. She has two artificial hips and knees,
lung problems but you would never hear her complain; instead she is always
cheerful and all smiles. Her integrity and charisma are mesmerizing. Mrs Kuzmak
is very selfless and humble. She lives to serve others. She is a living angel.
Mykola Buryadnyk, pastor at St. Joseph Ukrainian
Catholic Church in Chicago
Mrs Kuzmak is a wonderful Irish lady with a big Ukrainian
heart. She is a very gracious, sympathetic, giving and caring person. People
like Pat are those that make a difference and inspire others to do good deeds.
Humble and selfless are the best adjectives to describe Pat. Mrs Kuzmak is an
example of how true Christians should live their life. May the Almighty God
bless this kind lady with good health and many years of continued faithful
service in His honor!
Cook, Pat's friend
When there is a need in the Ukrainian
community people just respond to the need. At Nativity of the Blessed Virgin
Mary the go to person is often Pat Kuzmak. She is a gracious individual who
makes friends easily. People just gravitate to her. They know her kind
disposition. I find her always welcoming.
When it was time to find someone who
might open their house to a soldier who was wounded in the war zone in Ukraine
and his father, Pat was quick to volunteer her help. She has opened her heart
and her home to a young soldier and his family. Pat worried about his health
and went out of her way to help him feel welcome and create a home-like
atmosphere. Pat truly has a kind and generous heart. I am so grateful to have
her as a friend.
Irene Gajecki, Pat's friend
Pat Kuzmak is a very loyal and dedicated
parishioner of Nativity of the BVM Church in Palos
Park. After marrying her
husband Wally she became a very active member of the whole church community.
Among her many duties, she taught catechism for years and led the Sisterhood as
a president. Pat is generous with scholarship money in memory of her late
husband and assists with the duties around the church.
She is always ready to help in any situation. Being a very
caring and unselfishly person, Pat has offered hospitality to the wounded
Ukrainian soldier Volodymyr Hera and his father for a lengthy 6 month stay. She
gave freely all her time to them, often letting them use her car for
transportation, her house and everything that was in it.
Pat cares very much for her family, is constantly connecting
with them and supporting their welfare. She is a real, genuine "do
gooder". Pat always listens to everybody's problems and helps out in every
way she can.
Havrylchak, Ukrainian wounded hero
When my mother and I arrived at Mrs Kuzmak's house she did
not simply wait for us to knock at her door, but came outside to greet us with
a big smile on her face, which made us feel instantly welcome. Pat struck us as
a very level-headed, humble and pleasant lady. She told us right away that we
could use all the rooms at her condominium, eat all the food that we find in
her fridge, and even gave us the password to her computer!
Mrs Kuzmak does not let my mother clean the house since
she has a cleaning lady coming in from time to time but when she happens to see
my mom occasionally cleaning, she rushes to help her right away. She would
never raise her voice or lose her temper and is ready to drop everything and
drive me to the store whenever I may need to buy something. Pat even had a
handyman come in and install a shower hose with a shower head in the bathroom
to accommodate my needs.
Mrs Kuzmak is very active. She has a lot of friends
calling her all the time and visiting. Pat finds time for everyone. She is
always inviting us to all the social events that she attends. It is clear that
Pat cares about us as though we were a part of her family.
We only know Mrs Kuzmak for a couple of weeks and she has
already done so much for my mother and me. We could not be more grateful and
appreciative of her kindness, support and sincerity.
Hera, Ukrainian wounded hero
I vividly remember meeting Mrs Kuzmak for the first time:
tall thin lady looking at me with a wide and a little uneasy smile. She asked
me what my name was, and after I responded it was Volodymyr, Pat got very happy
as her late husband's name was also Volodymyr (Wally). She would tell me
numerous times afterwards that I remind her of Wally a lot.
I was surprised to find out that in spite of her elderly
age Mrs Kurmak knows how to use a smartphone and drives a car (and not some
minivan, but a pretty good size hatchback). She would often stand by the
kitchen stove cooking for me and smiling as though her arthritis and two
artificial knees were not a bother to her but rather an asset. I liked to tease
her by saying: "Mrs Pat, how are your fake knees doing today?"
She often showed me her books about birds. Mrs Kuzmak
adores birds and hates squirrels, but I have no idea why?? I used to joke
repeatedly: "How can you like birds and dislike squirrels?" Each time Pat was
laughing at my joke as if she heard it for the first time.
She was very much worried about what I liked to eat and
even more worried that I won't like what she was cooking for me. But everything
she made was delicious.
For some reason she reminded me of an aristocrat lady. Pat
always had everything planned out ahead of the time; she regularly balanced her
checkbook; her kitchen and entire house were always spotless clean.
Mrs Kuzmak has a huge desire to learn Ukrainian language
to be able to understand and talk to Ukrainians who are close to her. She likes
Ukrainian people because we talk a lot, and when we want to say something
important we almost scream not because we are angry but because we want to get
a message across. Pat even mentioned that she enjoys Ukrainian disorganized
habits. She thinks it is more interesting to live that way J
Despite her age, Pat is not a homebody. She is constantly
on the go visiting interesting places, meeting with friends and attending
various events. Mrs Kuzmak is taking care of her blind neighbor Gloria. On
Easter my father offered to invite Gloria to Pat's house and organized her
transportation. Mrs Pat was so excited because her neighbor did not leave her
house for years! Pat was thrilled that with my dad's help Gloria had a chance
to share Easter celebration with us.
Pat went sightseeing with me. She showed me Chicago downtown area; we
have been to the last floor of the tallest skyscraper together.
During my stay at Mrs Pat's house I have learned one very
important thing - no matter what, you should always be kind and compassionate
to people. This is how Pat is. She, on the other hand, has learned from me, my
girlfriend Olesia and my father that you should do what you want, eat when you
want, go to bed when you feel like it and go out whenever an opportunity
Thank you for everything, Mrs Pat! Your name is engraved
in capital letters in my Book of Life.
Teodoziy Ilnicki, pastor at Nativity of the BVM Ukrainian Catholic Church in Palos Park
Pat Kuzmak is a very faithful parishioner of Nativity of
the BVM Ukrainian Catholic Church in Palos
Park, IL. Her
generosity and devotion to the parish are very much appreciated. Pat takes an
active part in the Sisterhood activities and is a dependable, well respected
member of the Church Council. We are honored to have Pat Kuzmak as an integral
part of Nativity of the BVM family, and pray for the God's blessings of
healthiness, longevity and mercy to be bestowed upon this worthy lady.
Mariya Katrych, Pat's friend
Mrs Kuzmak is a very special person. She is sensitive to
people's problems, and is always eager to help. I have never met anybody in my
life that is as selfless as Pat is. Whatever she may do, she does not expect a
reward or praise in return; Pat does good deeds because she enjoys making other
people happy. Her goal in life is to serve others, and she does a marvelous job
at it! If there were more people like Pat on the earth the world would be a
much better place to live in. I am much honored to know this amazing lady, and
wish her best of luck in everything she does.
Natalie Kulchytsky, Sisterhood president
Pat Kuzmak is a woman filled with a
heart of gold and compassion for people. She is soft spoken and one of
the most sincere ladies I have ever known. She has great love for
children and enjoys teaching them kindness, sincerity and life values.
Pat is respected as a teacher and as a friend. She is a lady of dignity,
style, intelligence and love, and it all shows right when you meet
Rosemary Lambert, Pat's friend
In February 2016, my amazing friend Pat Kuzmak welcomed
two strangers from Ukraine
into her home for a six-month stay. Although she seemed just a bit
apprehensive in the beginning, she warmed to the task and before long the "guys"
were a part of the family.
I have never known anyone to welcome strangers with such
complete trust and openness. She did her best to learn to speak to them
in their native tongue. She tried to learn preparing Ukrainian food, but
finally left that to her guests who were more experienced with cooking.
The longer her visitors were with her, the more attached she became to them and
they - to her. Pat helped them find their way to China town for
chiropractic treatment until they were comfortable going on their own.
By April Pat's guests were acclimated to living in Oak
Hills. They had their own schedule, going to school, visiting friends, and
sometimes Pat went along with them. It was clear that she was having a
wonderful time with her new family....and they were the family! The
summer flew by and Pat made sure that they saw plenty of Chicago highlights. As July came to an
end, Pat was dreading their departure. It was a sad day when they left,
but I know she continues to Skype with them and hopes to go to Ukraine
for a visit sometime this year.
Annette Matt, Pat's friend
Pat Kuzmak is my very dear and close
friend. We've been together through a lot, and have very strong friendship. I
get goosebumps when I think about her, and how much good she has done
throughout her life. I had eye surgery a couple of days ago, and she cancelled
all her plans to take care of me and put drops in my eye. This meant so much to
me! I am truly appreciative of her constant support and guidance. Pat makes
this world a much better place and I am so honored to have her as my best
by Nataliya Serafym