• Jill

A Daughter of Ukraine


The youngest of 5 and the only girl child, my grandmother immigrated from Odessa, Ukraine with her parents when she was 2 years old. They bore the journey in steerage in a large transatlantic steamer, where my grandma's mother died on board before their arrival in America.


Thus, the family arrived with 4 sons, 1 little girl, and their father, but without a mother. The sons made their way across America to rural areas in South Dakota as farm hands. The father, my great grandfather, settled in Aberdeen, South Dakota with my grandma.


But life was difficult for immigrants in the city, and my great grandfather became despondent and succumbed to alcoholism, which caused him to be inattentive, and neglectful of his little daughter, Mary.


Hungry, and unsupervised, my grandma began to wander the alleys near their home, to dig in the trash and look for food to try and feed herself. One day, a Czechoslovakian immigrant, Anastasia Svoboda, found my grandma digging in the alley trash and took her in, fed her, and began to care for her as a mother would.


And because of her, because of a stranger who took pity on a little lost child, newly immigrated, hungry and uncared for, I am here today.


It is surprising to think of how history repeats itself, even in small family lives, where strangers reach across borders to help those that they don't know, feed those they have never met, and house new immigrants that have fled their homes and need a family to care for them.


It's been rough two years, and now we face another unimaginable crisis. The purpose of this blog has been to provide cheer and respite through these difficult times. But today we cannot look away. Our neighbors across the globe do not have the privilege of looking away, and so we must stand still, and virtually hold their hearts and their hands, and send them the strength that they need to endure. As Anastasia did for my Grandma Mary so many years ago.


And so today I share my spring garden with them, and with you. For calm. For strength. For good.


Ukrainians, including my dear Grandma, Mary Kom Palank, have taught us so much. How to endure, how to resist, and how to fight for survival. We must follow their lead.