Irena was born on March 24, 1934 in Poland. As a child, she was deported to Siberia with her parents (Leontyna and ?) and sister Kazia. Irena does not remember the place they ended up in, but her father worked cutting trees, and her mother worked in the kitchen. Irena and her sister attended Russian kindergarten.
Released on ‘amnesty’, the family made their way to the southern USSR where the Polish Army was being formed. They were not provided any transportation, so they had to fend for themselves. Her father took on the role of leader at this time – he got everyone together, he found food for everyone, he found work for them on the journey, he took care of all the arrangements necessary.
They ended up in Teheran, Persia (Iran), where they spent 3 months in a tent. Meanwhile, her father joined the Polish 2nd Corps, and served in the Italian Campaign as Staff Sergeant.
Irena, her mother and sister reached Karachi, then sailed to Africa. They spent six years (1942-1948) in Massindi in Uganda, Africa.
While in Massindi, Irena attended school, and remembers classes held outdoors. She was a very attentive student and boys often asked her to copy her homework. When she refused, they threw rotten papayas at her!
Her mother earned some extra money in Massindi by helping to build more huts. She would stomp on the mud in her bare feet, and this mud woiuld then be used for the walls of the hut.
At the age of 8 or 9, Irena designed a flowering garden in the shape of a star in front of their hut. She also recalls starting to draw while in Massindi. She spent a lot of time reading, singing, and composing her own songs.
In 1948, they sailed to the UK on the Carnavon Castle – a very luxurious ship. They reunited with her father in England, and lived at Camp McCaul, near Liverpool. Irena attended high school in Stowell Park. She learned intricate needlework at this school, and later learned dressmaking.
She met Edward at Camp McCaul as they lived in the Nissan hut next door. After their marriage, they lived in Birkenhead in a big Victorian house that they purchased with her parents. They later moved to Chester.
Edward increasingly wanted to move to Canada, so Irena eventually agreed. They decided on Winnipeg because it was in the middle of the country. They arrived in -30 degrees in February, and thought they were back in Siberia ! They are very happy to have decided to move to Canada.
Irena is an avid gardener, and a talented artist. A gallery in Winnipeg that represents and sells her work.
They have 3 children (Marian, Isabella, Adam , 7 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren.
Irena in 2013