Malvina Shabes, referred to as “Visia” by friends, was only 10 years old when she, her parents and her nanny fled their home country of Poland for Siberia. It was 1939, and the Nazis had just invaded. The family survived but found themselves locked up in a labor camp in Siberia.Malvina died in Toronto on November 10, 2020, as coronavirus Through her nursing home. She is 93 years old.
Although she was full of fear when she was young, “she may be one of the kindest people you have ever met,” her son Jeff Shabbs told BuzzFeed News. “Except for herself, she always worried about everyone.”
In all respects, she leads an extraordinary life. As a mother of two sons and a friend of many people, she never shy away from her life story. “In terms of her willingness to talk about life in Siberia and life during the war, she is rare,” Jeff said.
Her son said that she and her family were born in Krakow, Poland in 1929, and “miraculously” escaped the Nazi attack.
In her story, Malvina paints a grim picture of the Soviet Union. Under the non-aggression treaty between Germany and Russia, hundreds of thousands of Poles were deported to Siberia and other parts of the Soviet Union because of sparsely populated areas and cold weather. Like other Polish men, her father had to work in a labor camp under conditions where many of his compatriots could not survive.
She told her son that the family has a small apartment with the “lowest calories” and that there is often not enough food. Malvina had to go to a Russian school; Jeff said it was a language she didn’t understand, although she eventually learned it and “somewhat used to it”. When she met Joseph Shabes, she rejected him because he was eight years older than her. She knew him through her father; both were committed to resisting Soviet power. “They were a kind of loose prisoners,” her son recalled. Over time, Malvina and Joseph fell in love. At the time of his death, they had been married for 63 years.
Siberia has never been a place where families can make their homes. Therefore, after the war, Malvina and her unmarried husband traveled between Poland and Germany. Since the lovers were Jewish refugees, a cousin from Canada was able to bring them to the country. Malvina’s husband left first, and she was 18 years old at the time waiting to marry him.
As a new immigrant to Canada in the late 1940s, Malvina once again found herself learning a new language in a new place, but this time in a country that she gradually fell in love with. After settling in Toronto, Joseph ran a printing company, while Malvina worked for the Simpsons, a department store acquired by the Hudson Bay chain in 1978. She has been the manager’s secretary along the way, a position she is proud of.
After the birth of her first son Jeff, she took a break from work. Initially, she returned to work part-time, but resigned completely after a miscarriage. Jeff still remembers that time; he stayed with her during her recovery. “I don’t understand why she is lying in bed, but I will make her sandwiches and we will watch soap operas,” he said.
Most importantly, Malvina is remembered for her community in Canada, and she can make friends wherever she goes. For many years, she was a determined matriarch, even though she cared for her husband and mother before they died.
George Kovac, a friend of the family for more than 50 years, said that Malvina is always kind and warm. Even when she started suffering from dementia, her life was centered on friends and family. Kovac told BuzzFeed News: “The family survived the tremendous pressure and pressure, and escaped from Nazism and the Russian system. To me, this shows how Canada has benefited a lot from their experience.”
After the deaths of her husband and her dog Pepsi, Malvina’s dementia got worse. Her family decided to find a retirement home where she could socialize, music and art. November, She is one of eight residents In her home, she died of COVID-19 during the second wave of outbreaks. When Jeff saw his mother for the last time, he did not have time to hug her and say goodbye.
“I call her’mother’ and tell her it’s okay, she can let go, we love her,” Jeff said. “At 7:30 the next morning, we talked to the doctor and he said that she could barely breathe with 100% oxygen supply.”
He said it takes time and energy to send his mother to the hospital, and that the positive diagnosis came only from the staff of the medical center, not the staff of the nursing home. He hoped that the family could do more and sound the alarm earlier to make the situation more transparent. He did not fully understand the situation at the time.
“The family didn’t call to find out about her,” he said. “Nothing is done at home.”
After she died, He told her story to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation The goal is to humanize people who have died from the coronavirus.Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listened to his request, and a few days later he Speaking of Malvina in a national speech.
“Everyone we have lost because of this virus has family and friends who love them. They have plans and things they want to do for tomorrow. I think about the one in Toronto who survived the massacre and recently died of COVID-19. Women,” Trudeau said. “To the people she loves, I express my deepest condolences for your departure. To the thousands of other families who lost their loved ones due to COVID-19, my heart is with you. Every loss is a tragedy, Each story reminds us of the risks we face in the fight against this epidemic.”
Malvina is a naughty fashionista, a skilled baker, and a woman who can stand the test. Her difficult life taught her to build a community around her wherever she goes. Jeff is honored that Trudeau remembers his mother and hopes that her story will inspire others to tell the stories of relatives who died of COVID-19.
“My mom is the kind of person who says,’I don’t want to be concerned, don’t make a fuss about me.’ She always said,’Jeff, put yourself first,'” he said.
However, in order to explain the losses caused by the pandemic, he did not follow her advice.
“My goal,” he said, “is to tell the story of my mother.”