Час не тільки лікує – але й забирає найдорожчих і найрідніших. Забирає людей, котрі боролися за Україну – і будували частинку України на новій Батьківщині. І цей номер газети ми хочемо присвятити саме їм – людям, котрі створили для нас острів рідного краю в Америці. Наприкінці квітня відійшла у Вічність Марія Тюн. Про неї можна багато згадувати і багато писати, але так, як розповідає про Маму її Син, не скаже ніхто. Отже, спершу – слово Володимирові Тюну…
«Ya ye Ukrainka»- «Im Ukrainian», its what mom said when asked by the person processing her documents whether she was of another nationality, as she was being sent to Germany. That person again wanted to process her as another nationality, but she refused insisting that she be indicated as Ukrainian.
That’s mom, a Ukrainian patriot, proud of who she is regardless of hardship.
Mom was the oldest of 4 children born to Leonid and Paraskeviya Steckowycz on December 21st 1921. Her parents farmed lands near Mishanyets, in the Starosambirsk region of Ukraine, an area west of Lviv and near the Ukrainian Polish border. They were called Boykos- or Boyoviy Liude a term that means Fighting People. There she went to school and helped on her family’s farm.
Moms family had a great influence on her and her sense of community and patriotism. Moms father and uncle were both members of Sitchovi Striltschi, or Sitch Riflemen, a society formed to defend the lands of western Ukraine.
The Ukrainian writer Ivan Franko frequently visited the area and was a friend to the family stopping by often in the early 1900’s. Mom’s father was also a writer and poet. He taught mom many patriotic songs and wrote out for her a book of poetry called Dzvinotchok. Literary authors from Lviv commissioned poetry from mom’s tato. Its no surprise that mom shared her parent’s love for poetry and country, as she loved to recite and write poems and sing patriotic songs.
In 1942 the war caused her to be taken to Bavaria for forced labor and worked in the town of Rotenburg Ob Der Taiber, in Frankonia. There she worked in a large restaurant called VistovnsonBlocke. While in Rotenburg she also sang in a Ukrainian choir. At night, she would often cry wanting to be back home. Mom recalled sleeping a under frost covered blanket there with a large hot water bottle to keep her warm, given to her by the kitchen staff manager.
After the war, Mom wrote a letter to home and her father helped arrange for her uncle Ivan Stetskovycz who lived in America. Ivan belonged to the Ukrainian patriotic society of Vilnoho Kozatstva He agreed to bring mom to New Jersey. During her stay in Carlstadt, at a Ball she met my tato Anton.
Mom listened as he spoke of his time in UPA, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and how he was wounded, and she was interested in his fight for Ukraine’s freedom. Mom felt his fight for Ukraine, and his sacrifices were similar to hers and when he asked her to marry him, she said yes.
They married in September of 1951 at St. John the Baptist Ukrainian Catholic Church in Newark, New Jersey. At that time of her wedding, mom said that her father and uncle fought for a free Ukraine as Sitchoviy Stritchi, and now her husband, a little later, also fought for a free Ukraine as a member of UPA, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.
Immediately after the wedding, mom moved to Chicago where tato lived and found work mopping floors and later at the second nite shift at Hammond Organ. They had me in 1955.
When I was very young mom would come home from work after midnight and she would lie down with me. Id awaken and spin her hair around my finger till falling back asleep. Sometimes mom would give me a bottle full of warm tea, sugar and milk- after midnight.
Mom would always sing and recite poetry to me.
From her experience in Bavaria, she became an excellent cook, and prepared wonderful dishes whenever she had time to. Growing up, mom tried her best to get me to eat healthy foods. At about 5 years of age, she encouraged me to drink freshly made carrot juice with the promise that carrot greens would grow out of my ears, I remember drinking a little, then running to the washroom and hoisting myself up on the sink to check the mirror for green things coming from my ears- and frustrated when nothing was seen. Moms Knidliey, a large grated potato and bread dumpling stuffed with meat and covered with gravy were my favorite, along with butter topped paska. And most Saturdays, in the bag from the grocery store, mom would have pashtitivka which I loved.
Mom and Tato were heavily engaged in Chicago’s Ukrainian community and helped with the building of Sts Volodymyr & Olha UCC in Chicago. Mom also sang in their church choir.
They moved to Wood Dale in 1964. Mom became active in the Palatine division of the Organization of Defense of Four freedoms of Ukraine, a group that worked for Ukraine’s independence and sang in the Palatine Ukrainian choir.
When Vera and I married, Mom and Tato did all they could to support us, mom loved and admired Vera. When our son Mark was born, she and tato were so happy for us, they loved Mark unconditionally and did all they could to make us all happy. Mom and tato would stop by almost daily to baby sit Mark, at either our home or they would bring him to their home where there was an abundance or toys and food. All through Mark’s school years, they would watch in admiration how he grew.
Mom was always so very proud of her grandson.
Mom was very active in the Ukrainian community in Palatine. When Tato died in 2014, mom lived alone for over a year until needing help to be at home.
When I attempted to have her join a regular senior citizen group at a local church, during the initial visit, she sat at a table where other seniors were playing 10,000 dice. She sat there and after a while excused herself from the table, walked over to me, I was speaking with the organizer at a table nearby, excused herself for interrupting us and said in ukie to me that «chomu me to ye, ya nemayou chas bavytishya ti durniy ihre, bo mayou vashnu robotu u doma» translated «why are we here, I don’t need to play these silly games, I have important work to do at home».
One spring day when I stopped by her home, she was not inside but I found her, at the age of 93, in the back yard with a shovel, in the drizzle digging up the garden. I asked her whether she realized it was drizzling, she said yes, that its easier to dig up wet soil.
At 93 mom would forever be asking me if there were any job openings for her, and I kept explaining that the job market was not too good for seniors, but that I will keep on looking. I eventually found her a volunteer job St Andrews Cathedral in their church kitchen, and among her friends.
Mom would often recall how things were in Ukraine during the war and praying for her family there, the people and the nation, that it would shake off the yoke of oppression. She would recite poems and sing about Ukraine’s plight and hope for a free Ukraine, where people would all care for one another regardless who they are or what their beliefs are, she did so almost daily, for nearly a century now, to the end.
Mom I will always love you and promise to hold you and what you stood for close to my heart.