Gustave and Mary Slobodnick, Pioneers with Stamina.

By Anne (Slobodnick) Girard.

Slobodnick, Gustave & Mary.
Children: Theodor, Josephine, Helen, Vilma, Stephen, Mary, Joseph, Anne, John.
Hearst Relatives: Girard, Holinaty.

Back through the years, I was recalling once again the days of my childhood, remembering many stories told to me by my mom, Mary Tishlar, and my dad, Gustave Slobodnick. My parents were from Blazve, Czechoslovakia. Dad was born on May 4, 1892, and Mom on February 8, 1898. There, in the Old Country, they raised four children -- Theodor, Josephine, Helen and Vilma. Times were hard, and Dad decided to venture to Canada in 1924, to make a better living for his family. He left Mom and the four children with relatives, who cared for them as best they could. Mom got a job housekeeping and gardening to earn a living for her family.

In Canada, Dad travelled across the country, like many immigrants, working on the grain harvests in the Prairie provinces, but eventually returning to settle in Hearst. He cleared some land, then built a log cabin somewhere between Bradlo and Kendall -- Lot 14W, Concession 2, which is now Bradlo Road. He cut and sold pulpwood to make a living. Finally, seven years later, in 1931, he sent for his wife and four children. Several weeks later, on August 9, the boat Doric, White Star Dominion Line, arrived at the port of Quebec. Mother and the four children then travelled by train with other eager immigrant families, eventually arriving in Hearst. Here, Mary and the children settled in Dad's small cabin. Eventually, they moved closer to Hearst. Moving closer to town meant they had to clear more land and build a larger, log home. Mom soon was pregnant and had a boy, Stephen.

Mary, Stephen, & Gustav Slobodnick

Mary, Stephen, & Gustav Slobodnick.

A few years later, at the age of three, tragedy struck. A tree that had been cut fell in the wrong direction, taking Stephen's life.

In the isolation, and with no immediate family to share their grief, my parents dealt with their sorrow alone. But life had to move on.

Mom kept working alongside Dad, helping him with piling pulp. She also had to feed her family -- haluska (dumpling) soup, sauerkraut and bean soup, perogies, potato pancakes and other homemade yummies. Because time was a critical factor, she never did much baking, as she was always busy cultivating her large garden and picking berries for jams and preserves. She baked bread and buns and, on special occasions, would bake poppy-seed and walnut rolls. When her supply of flour ran out, she walked five miles (they had no means of transportation) to town and back carrying a sack of flour. Then, when she got home, she had to do the chores -- feed the chickens and pigs, milk the cows. Pigs were their main meat supply for the winter, with the butchering done at home.

In time, my sister Mary was born, followed by Joseph two years later. Two years after that, I, Anne, was born. Our last sibling, John, came eighteen months later. We were now a family of eight. I can remember my brother Theodor walking to work at the Department of Highways office.

Bosnick, Slobodnick, Jaraback

Back: Elia Bosnick, Ann Bosnick, Mary Slobodnick.
Front: Anne Slobodnick, John Slobodnick, Millie Jaraback.

During the Christmas holidays, we had a houseful. We cut down a tree, decorated it with Christmas balls and other homemade decorations. We didn't have any electricity, so we had no lights on the tree. The morning meal consisted of homemade bacon, fresh eggs and homemade bread. Supper was always special with yummy food Mom prepared -- homemade garlic sausage, ham, chicken (no turkey), mashed potatoes, homemade pickles and fresh buns. Dessert was poppy-seed rolls, potcova (sweet yeast bread), walnut-chip cookies or pies. "Christmas came and Christmas went, Christmas was a heaven spent." Because we had no electricity, we used coal-oil lamps.

As we grew older, we attended HPS. We travelled in a canvas-covered wagon in the spring and summer, drawn by horses. In winter, the canvas-covered sleigh was equipped with a small wood stove in the corner to keep us warm, but our feet were always cold. One day, when the celluloid window caught fire, the horses panicked and we all jumped out of the sleigh. To keep warm, we played musical chairs so everyone got a turn close to the heater. The driver was Mr. George Sobrak, and when he retired, George Bosnick, our neighbour, took over the school route.

Children in front of the Bosnick-Slobodnick horse-drawn bus

Children in front of the Bosnick-Slobodnick horse-drawn "bus".
Back: Mary Slobodnick, Oliva St. Charles, Ann Bosnick.
Front: Marcel St. Charles, Ted Bosnick, Bill Bosnich, Elena Bosnick, John Slobodnick, Anne Slobodnick, Joe Slobodnick, Sam Bosnick.

After Grade 9, I went to work at St. Paul's Hospital, then moved to Thunder Bay to live with brother Theodor and his family and work. Following that, I moved to Toronto for a year, before returning to Hearst to work at Nevala's Grocery Store. It was here I met my husband, Stan Girard.

 Slobodnick & Bosnick kids

Back: Ann Bosnick, Mary Slobodnick.
Front: Anne Slobodnick, Elena Bosnick.

One after another, my siblings left home to start their families. Theodor married Blozena Raffaie. They had five girls: Jane, Martha, Kathy, Debbie and Judy. Josephine married Kalman Jarabak, and also had five children: Steve, Ileen, Latislov, David and Ricky. Both families live in Thunder Bay. Helen married Fred Holinaty and they have three children: Mary, Julie, and John. Vilma married Stan Pimek and had one son: Paul. Mary married Max Skryzpek and had five children: Gustav, Mark, Loreen, John and Danny; they live in Thunder Bay. Joe remained a bachelor, living in Hearst. John married Florence Davey and had five children: Brenda, Cindy, John, and twin girls, Jody and Jony. They also live in Hearst. I, Anne, married Stan Girard in 1958 and had four children: Larry, Carol, Linda, and Sandra. Years flew by, they all married. Larry married Ginette Dupuis and they have one son: Derek. Carol married Pete Martel and they have one son: Bernie. Linda married Jean-Marc Gosselin and they have three sons: Chris, Trevor and Nicolas. Sandra married Mario Hautcoeur and they have two sons: Kevin and Kory.

Stan and I are grand­parents to seven wonderful, healthy grand­sons. Maybe, someday, a great-granddaughter will be added to the family. Stan retired some time ago, but keeps busy with his two horses. A hobby for him, he cuts the grass and hays in the summer. He also enjoys taking me fishing. As for myself, my favourite hobbies are baking, cooking and knitting.

We take life one day at a time. We enjoy what we have and have lived in the same place for the past forty-nine years. Our families all live nearby; we have them over often. We recently celebrated our golden anniversary. Our lives are full, with much love, happiness and good health. We would not change a thing. Hopefully, the good times and good days are here to stay. I often think of all the sacrifices Mom and Dad endured, so their children would have a better life in Canada.

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