Obituary of Irena Gatowski
April 5, 1933 - November 22, 2020
After one last visit with her loved ones, Irena Gatowski (née Świryd) passed away peacefully in her sleep on November 22 at the age of 87. A longtime resident of Nanaimo, British Columbia, Irena had recently made the move back to the Niagara region, where she had raised her family.
Irena was born on April 5, 1933 in Brześć-nad-Bugiem, Poland (now Belarus) to Pawel and Maria Świryd. For a short period of time she and her older brother, Witold, enjoyed a peaceful childhood with their parents in Wołczyn, where her father was commandant of the local police station. But the Świryds faced trauma and tragedy as the Second World War erupted in their homeland. After her father was captured and among the 22,000 executed on Stalin’s order in the Katyn Massacre, Irena and her family were seized by the Soviets and deported to Siberia. Through perseverance, hope, and unwavering faith, Irena, Witold, and their mother survived starvation and harsh living conditions and eventually found refuge in Palestine. After the war, they emigrated to England, where Maria married Zbigniew Alimurka and gave birth to a daughter, Krystyna, in May, 1949. Two years later, the family was bound for Canada aboard the steamship, Canberra. They eventually settled on a farm they purchased in Wellandport. Not long after her arrival in Canada, Irena married Edmund Charlinski and they raised three sons in St. Catharines.
Later in her life, Irena was awarded the Siberian Exiles Cross by the Polish Government in recognition of her strength and resilience in the face of adversity.
Despite leaving her homeland at the age of eight, Irena never forgot her Polish heritage, thanks in part to her teachers in Palestine and England. She remained true to her language and happily shared a history lesson with anyone who showed interest. Best of all, she fed her family and friends from a vast menu of delicious Polish foods, and gave many pierogi-making lessons to her grandchildren.
Irena loved to entertain and have a good time with friends. She and Edmund hosted many parties at their home on Vine Street over the years, and there was always music, dancing, and lots of laughter through the night. An avid gardener, she enjoyed tending to flower beds and vegetable gardens throughout the seasons. Irena also had the travel bug, criss-crossing the globe and delighting in the people and places that greeted her over the years.
Always quick to lend a hand, Irena was a dedicated member of the Royal Canadian Polish Legion 418 Ladies Auxiliary, serving her community for many long years. She was also strong in her faith and was a loyal parishioner at her church in St. Catharines and later in Nanaimo. More than anything, Irena was a loving and devoted mother to her sons Chris, Adam, and Mark and raised them with a gentle hand and a full heart.
Irena found happiness the second time around in her marriage to Anthony Gatowski and her new life with him in Nanaimo, British Columbia. Over the years, they welcomed many visitors to their lovely home, but by far their happiest moments were with their children and grandchildren.
Irena will be greatly missed by her sons Chris (Marisa), Adam (Hong Wei), Mark (Jhan), and her stepdaughter, Sophie. She is cherished Babcia to Stephanie (Rob), Tristan, Samantha, Ryan, Addison, Sequoia and Jasper. Beloved sister of Krystyna and aunt to Cameron and Tamara. She will also be fondly remembered by her nephew John Borysewicz, and nieces Anna Pierroz, Renata Strickland, Eva Riddel, and Yvonne Szuty and their families.
Our hearts feel the ache of her loss, but our memories are rich with her love.
Memorial donations may be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Visitation will take place at the GEORGE DARTE FUNERAL HOME 585 Carlton Street, St. Catharines on Thursday November 26, 2020 from 2:00PM - 4:00PM with prayers at 3:00PM and from 6:00PM - 8:00PM. A funeral mass will be held in Irena's honour at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, 5 Oblate St., St. Catharines on Friday, November 27 2020 at 11:00AM. Inurnment to follow to Victoria Lawn Cemetery.
As per the Province of Ontario Covid-19 regulations - visitation is limited to 30% building capacity. Funeral attendance is limited to 100 guests. All guests attending the visitation or funeral must wear a mask and must call in to make an appointment (905) 937 4444
Eulogy For Irena:
Today we honour our beloved mother and babcia, Irena Gatowski.
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