The family story I heard from Mother and her sister Anne is that you were working at a hotel in Winnipeg saving your money to be married to your unnamed fiancé in the photograph. When fire broke out, you escaped somehow but ran back in to retrieve your $800 hidden under your mattress. You never came out. Were you overcome by smoke in that firetrap? Did the fire spread much faster than you anticipated? Or were you just a naïve girl who didn’t understand the danger and could only think of your hard-earned savings and your future going up in smoke? Eight hundred dollars in today’s dollars would be a lot of money. Brave or foolish, you lost your life in that fire.
I searched for a long time for your death and burial records. I searched newspapers for reports of a hotel fire but there were many hotel fires in Winnipeg in those days especially in the long cold winters. Photos are legend.
|Scott Bathgate - February 15, 1917|
K. Elder Collection
The Firefighters Museum of Winnipeg
What would it have meant to me if you had lived, Michalina? You might have been like a Baba to me. I never knew my Baba, your sister. She died when I was 2 ½ . I saw her only once when I was 1 ½ and have no memory of the visit or her. You were 13 years younger so I might have known you. Maybe you would have moved to Oshawa where your older brother John lived for many years. He also died before I was born but his wife lived for many years. I knew her well and in fact was named, Frances, after her.
|John Huckan and Frances Ross Huckan|
The only photos I have of Baba are taken when she was older, aged and toothless before her time. When I look at photos of my grandmother, your older sister Marya and you, Michalina, I see what she must have looked like as a young girl. I think she must have been as pretty as you when she was a young woman. I feel closer to her somehow. Closer to her youth.
|Marya Huckan Zarecka|
Copyright © 2010, Ruth Zaryski Jackson