Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Eternal her Memory - Anna Hankel Javchak - Вічная її Пам'ять - Анна Ганкель Яавчак

Today, January 9, 2008, marks 35 years of the passing of my maternal grandmother, Anna Margaret Hankel Javchak. She came to the United States from the Transcarpathian region of what is today Ukraine, in 1905, when she was five years of age. She was accompanied by her parents, John and Mary.

After they had settled in Buchanan, NY, her mother soon passed away. Eventually, Anna married Joseph P Javchak (often rendered Yafcak in the US), whose family came from the same Ukrainian region. The Javchak family, including Joseph's parents, Jacob and Mariya, were successful in the general store and gasoline business in Buchanan. The corner on which their store still stands, was known as Javchak's corners. Today, it leads to the main entrance of the well-known Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant.

Anna and Joseph Javchak raised two children, Joseph P II, and Margaret Anna. A third child, Madeline Javchak died shortly after birth. The family store was a popular spot, especially during the depression years, when many depended on the kindness of the Javchak couple and in the war years, when much industrial activity was happening in the area.

The elder Joseph died prematurely, in 1944, after which Anna continued the business, as long as was possible. Eventually it was sold to other parties. Both children married and eventually, this writer was born.

I remember so fondly, the many times over the years of my youth that I spent at "Baba's house." We laughed, we played games, we prayed and yes, we even fought. We ate great meals together, since Baba was a wonderful cook. This was one of the traits that her daughter Margaret inherited.

A person of religious and cultural conviction, Baba taught me how to be devout and how to learn and maintain our culture in the manner of the day. Since both my parents worked, a lot of time in the formative years were spent at Baba's.

She was well known in the community. People saw her coming and knew what she wanted. (And they acted to accommodate her!) She would "tell it like it is." Baba was not one for cutting corners or disguising the truth with euphemisms, and was in many ways a very serious person. I inherited some of these traits, particularly the last two.

In many ways, my grandmother was a pioneer woman, regarding the dignity of the physically-challenged. She suffered from a serious form of "Sugar Diabetes," a condition that was not as well treated in the 1960s and 70s as it is today. Consequently, she lost first one leg and then the second. Many, especially then, would have given up normal activity at this point.

Instead, from a wheelchair, Anna continued her daily routines and duties. She cooked, she cleaned, she did laundry, she made things for others. Thanks to a sliding devise made by her son-in-law Edward, she was able to travel by car to visit relatives, attend church and restaurants and other places. She did not slow down when possible. Most important of all for me, she spent time taking care her grandson.

If the situation were to take place now, many more opportunities and conveniences would be open to her. Still, she showed great bravery when faced with a condition for which society showed little accommodation.

Although it's been 35 years since her repose and I was only at the age of ten at the time, I often feel that as I had seen Baba yesterday. She left a great impression not only on me, but also for my sisters and cousins. Deservingly, she gained the title, "matriarch of the family."

My sister once said, "As long as Michael's alive, Baba will never be dead." It was in response to something I had said or done while a teenager. While it may have been communicated in a joking fashion, it also held a lot of truth. I only hope that I can live up to this estimation, in the same strong but kind, fearless, but sensitive way that my grandmother did.

Vichnaya Pamyat' Baba! Eternal Memory to you. Even though it's been 35 years, your memory is certainly alive and well in this house and in this family. I know you are still watching for us, from your place with God. Happy anniversary, with Love!

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