Our mother passed away peacefully, at home, surrounded by her loving family, in her 95th year. Predeceased by parents Konstantin and Ekaterina Skepko, sister Irene Skepko (2018); loving wife of 65 years to Ivan (2016). Born in Osa, Ukraine, Volyn Oblast, northwest of Lutsk. Greatly beloved mother of Lilya, Ruslana (Eugene) Zahrebelny, Olga (Kevin) Cascone, and Victor; much loved Baba to grandchildren John and Michael Zahrebelny (Donna).
Soia was born shortly before the Holodomor of 1932-1933 in Ukraine. She talked about an idyllic life on the family farm with a father who was a master carpenter and furniture maker, and a gentle and soft-spoken mother. She remembers that her parents never argued. Soia was educated in a Polish school and spoke Polish fluently. When WWII broke out they fled to Salzburg Austria where they were registered as POWs in a German forced labour camp. As a result of sleeping on floorboards she developed an infection which plagued her for the rest of her life. When the war ended Soia and her family found themselves as displaced persons along with many other Ukrainian refugees. They were accommodated by a family near Kapuzinerberg, Austria, who provided housing, education and work. Our mother fondly recalled caring for the children of the landowner. Only years later did she reveal that she was actually born in 1928, her age impacting whether she would be sent away from her family to work elsewhere. It was at the DP camp that she met Ivan, our father, a young, handsome, active community member. Soia remained here until 1948, at which time Soia and her family decided to emigrate to the United States. She remembers travelling north through Germany to Hanover, then to a ship on the coast that would transport them to Ellis Island NY around 1948-49. Ivan emigrated to Canada and worked on a tomato farm near Winnipeg. Soia and her family were sponsored by a farm owner in South Carolina where they lived and worked picking tomatoes.
Although it is unclear, somehow Ivan and Soia stayed in touch in their adopted new lands, and eventually came together in Toronto, where they married at St. Volodymyr Cathedral on Bathurst St. on July 22, 1950, on her birthday. They settled in a rented house with other Ukrainian families on Hepbourne Street. Soia was a talented seamstress and worked at Eatons sewing menswear. Ivan worked in construction. In a few years daughter Lilya was born followed by Ruslana. By 1956 they moved to Gladstone Ave. and Ivan worked at Cadbury Chocolate. In 1958 they moved to Benton Harbour, Michigan where Soia’s parents and sister lived. Irene had become a nurse and worked in Chicago. Daughter Olga was born here. Soon they moved to Coloma, Michigan, where they shared an apple farm with a former partisan army colleague and lifelong friend, Dmytro Dmytruk. It was a difficult life for Soia, it was very hard work, and the lodgings were primitive. In the fall of 1962, they moved back to Toronto, staying with relatives on Russett Ave., which provided an opportunity to stabilize their lives, obtain work and schooling. Soia stayed home to raise her family until finding full-time work at a Q-Tips factory in Etobicoke. They soon moved to a duplex at 42 Algie Ave. Toronto. Soia worked the evening shift and Ivan worked days, ensuring someone was home with the children. The basement of the duplex was unfinished and empty, on many occasions our parents held family parties here, and washed dishes in the laundry sinks. These family get-togethers continued in their new home when in 1965 they purchased a house on Parthia Crescent in a suburb of Mississauga. Soon Ivan and Soia welcomed son Victor. Soia was quite happy here. Soia found work at Consumers Glass on Kipling Ave., which eventually became Domglass and relocated to Brampton. Ivan was now working at the Rexall Drugs factory on Stanfield Rd., and he retired shortly after the company was sold to Webber Pharmaceuticals. Having only one vehicle, Ivan came home at lunchtime, Soia drove him to work so that she could drive herself to work in the afternoon. Ivan often walked home. Soia’s job required her to stand on concrete for 8-to-12-hour shifts. In later years she suffered from painful osteoarthritis in her hands, knees and feet. In 1979 Ivan and Soia bought their first new house in a brand-new subdivision at the end of Bloor St. Mississauga, moving in 1980. It was a large house with a fruitful garden, and where Ivan planted apple, cherry, peach and plum trees. Soia canned peaches, preserved beets and pickles every year. Soia was a great cook, preparing traditional homemade foods from scratch. She especially loved to bake, with yeast-raised sweet breads (perohy), Easter babka, Ukrainian honey cake, apple platzok, among many of her wonderful creations. During her lifetime Soia displayed many artistic talents such as sewing children’s clothing, Ukrainian embroidery, in addition to cooking and baking. She had great intuition and was an excellent judge of character. She was very proud of her Ukrainian culture. She lived for her children and worked hard to achieve a better life for her family. In 1993 Soia retired from Domglass. She happily tended her garden, lovingly cared for her grandchildren, and baked often, as she always needed to keep busy.
Soia’s health started to decline due to a pulmonary embolism in 2014, which affected her kidney function. At the age of 89, dementia started impacting her mobility. In the next few years her children decided that she would remain in her home, where she was lovingly cared for by amazing and intensely dedicated caregivers Lilya and Victor, who always strove to respect her dignity and provide that quality of life that she so deserved.
Friends may call at the Turner & Porter ‘Neweduk-Erin Mills’ Chapel, 1981 Dundas St. W., Mississauga (east of Erin Mills Pkwy), on Wednesday from 5 – 8 p.m.
Funeral Mass will be held at All Saints of the Ukraine Chapel, 1280 Dundas St W, Oakville on Thursday, March 9, 2023, at 11 a.m.
Interment St. Volodymyr’s Cemetery.
A beautiful, elegant, gentle soul, our beloved Baba, we love you and miss you so very much!
3 Lyubov Lilya, Syanka, Olya, Bikmop, Ivacyk and Myhacyk