She survived the Holocaust but not the pestilence


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Malvina Shabes, known as “Visia” to friends, was only 10 years old when she, her parents and nanny fled from their native Poland to Siberia. It was 1939, and the Nazis had just conquered them. The family managed to survive, only to find themselves in labor camps in Siberia. Malvina died in Toronto on November 10, 2020, Basem Corona Virus Her retirement home caught fire. She was 93 years old.

Despite the horror of her youth, her son Jeff Shaps told BuzzFeed News, “She was probably one of the most nice people I have ever met.” “She was always worried about everyone but herself.”

By all accounts, she lived an extraordinary life. She is a mother of two sons and a friend of many, and her life story has never stopped. “She was rare in that she was willing to talk about life in Siberia and what life was like during the war,” said Jeff.

Her son, born in Krakow, Poland, in 1929, said she and her family fled the Nazis “by some miracle”.

In her stories, Malvina painted a bleak picture of the Soviet Union. After the non-aggression pact between Germany and Russia, hundreds of thousands of Poles were deported to Siberia and other parts of the Soviet Union where they were sparsely populated and frozen. Like other Polish men, her father had to work in a labor camp under conditions from which many of his countrymen had not escaped.

The family had a small apartment with “minimal heat,” she told her son, and there was often not enough food. Malvina had to go to a Russian language school; Jeff said it was a language she did not understand, although she eventually learned it and became “somewhat acclimatized”. When she met Joseph Shaps, she turned him down because he was eight years older than her. She got to know him through her father. Both men were committed to resisting the Soviet system. “They were kind of a prisoner,” her son recalls, loosely. Over time, Malvina and Joseph fell in love. They were married for 63 years when he died.

Courtesy Jeff Shaps

Malvina and Joseph Shabs

Siberia never felt like a place a family could make their home. So, after the war, Malvina and her husband – whom she had not yet married – traveled between Poland and Germany. Because the lovers were Jewish refugees, a cousin in Canada managed to bring them to the country. Malvina’s husband went first, while the 18-year-old waited to follow him and marry him.

As a new immigrant to Canada in the late 1940s, Malvina again found herself learning a new language in a new place, but this time in a country she loved. Joseph settled in Toronto and ran a printing company while Malvina had a job at Simpsons, a department store that the Hudson’s Bay chain bought in 1978. She worked her way up to becoming a director’s secretary, a position she was most proud of.

She took a break from work after the birth of her first son, Jeff. At first, she returned to her part-time job, but quit completely after experiencing a miscarriage. Jeff still remembers that time. Keep her company while she heals. He said, “I didn’t understand why she was in bed, but I was going to make sandwiches for her and watch soaps.”

Most of all, Malvina remembers the community she built in Canada, making friends wherever she goes. Over the years, she was a determined mom, even as she looked after her husband and mother before they passed away.

George Kovac, a family friend for over 50 years, said Malvina was always nice and welcoming. Her life centered around her friends and family, even when she started developing dementia. “The family escaped from the Nazi regime and the Russian regime,” Kovac told BuzzFeed News: “It shows me how Canada has benefited greatly from their experiences.”

After her husband died first, followed by her dog Pepsi, Malvina’s dementia got worse. Her family decided to search for a retirement home where she would have social interaction, music and art. In November, She was one of eight residents In her home, who died of COVID-19 during the second wave outbreak. The last time Jeff saw his mom, he didn’t say goodbye to her.

Jeff said, “My mom called her and told her it’s okay, she can leave her, and we loved her.” “At 7:30 the next morning, we spoke to the doctor, and he said she was breathing with difficulty with 100% oxygen supply.”

He said transporting his mother to the hospital took time and effort, and the positive diagnosis only came from the medical center staff, not from the retirement home. He wished the house had done more, raised the alarm sooner, and be more transparent about the situation, which he did not know its full size at the time.

He said, “He did not call the house to find out her condition.” “The house didn’t do anything.”

After her death He told her story to CBC With the aim of humanizing people who have died from the Coronavirus. Days later, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heard his call He spoke about Malvina in a patriotic speech.

“Everyone we lose because of this virus has family and friends who love them, and they have plans for tomorrow and things they want to do. I think of the woman in Toronto who survived the Holocaust and recently died from COVID-19.” “To their loved ones, my deepest condolences for your loss. For the thousands of other families who have lost someone to COVID-19, my thoughts are with you. Every loss is a tragedy, and every story reminds us of what is at stake in the fight against this pandemic.”

Malvina was a fun fashion designer, a skilled baker and a constant woman whose tough life taught her to build a community around her wherever she went. Jeff is honored that Trudeau paid homage to his mother and hopes her story will inspire others to tell the stories of loved ones who have died from COVID-19.

“My mom is the type who said, ‘I don’t want attention, don’t make a fuss about me. “She was always saying, ‘Jeff, put yourself first,’” he said.

But to explain the outcome of the epidemic, he is not responding to her advice.

He said, “My goal is to tell my mother’s story.”


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