Holdina Stanko, age 90 of Upland, CA died March 22, 2022 peacefully while living with her family in Cambridge, MN since January. No services to be held at this time.
Jan, 2, 1932 – Mar 22, 2022
By Eldest Son
Born in Klevan, Ukraine (due to border disputes with Poland and Ukraine’s desired independence from Russia and Poland, her birth certificate reads Klevan, Poland). A survivor of the Holomodor famine in 1932 -1933, Holdina was the oldest of five. Wanda was second, then Lydia and Adolf (fraternal twins), and a number of years later Waldamar, were all born to German father Ferdenand and believed to be Ukrainian born Olga Bednarz (who lived in her younger years in Siberia with her retired Cossack father, name unknown).
When Stalin was just 10 kilometers away from their farm in Klevan reclaiming the Western parts of Ukraine for himself and while Ferdinand was serving in the German army (which Holdina would always characterize her father was not a Nazi), the family knew that if they were able to worship their savior Jesus Christ secretly with blankets over windows, Hitler may not notice and therefore they hoped to be safe. Hitler killed the Jews, Christians, and the mentally ill. So, knowing Stalin and his murderous heart would kill anyone without favorites or prejudice, Olga, her fi children, her brother and his family, and other family members, 14 in all, in the middle of an October night, abandoned their 850 acres of farm land telling their 25 farm workers to take what they needed and save themselves 11 year old Holdina and her family immigrated west through Poland to Odagsen, Germany where their aunt and uncle Kubacki lived.
Their faith kept them going and after 4-5 months of travel when they got to the Elbe River in Germany, two guards stopped them at the checkpoint of the bridge. When Holdina’s mother asked if the 14 family members could be allowed through to go to Eibeck/Odagsen, one soldier asked to see who all were on their wagon. As they looked, they saw Holdina (now 12) and said, “The family could go through if we could have Holdina for 1 hour.” Olga declined and the family camped down stream a bit. The family set up their bare essentials and Olga baked a loaf of bread with a campfire. Later that night, when Olga looked, she saw 2 new guards warming themselves at a large drum of fire, she approached them and asked if they would accept a bottle of vodka and a loaf of bread for the passage of her 14 member family on a flat bed pulled by 2 horses. They gladly agreed and the family crossed eventually making it to Odagsen. That was told to Holdina’s children as an illustration of God’s provision. And there is not doubt, millions of like stories exist today, not only in Ukraine, but around the world.
Holdina and her husband Pete, a transmission mechanic, had two sons Randy and Gene, both named after the TV cowboys Randolph Scott and Gene Autry. Holdina raised her boys in rural Maple Lake area outside of Moscow, and south of Scranton, Pennsylvania. The setting was ideal for the boys and their friends with a baseball field across the street and Maple Lake only a 10-minute walk through the woods. She was proud of her two sons having acquired college degrees, with Randy in the same career of 39 years, and Gene has been a machinist, an electrician, and a real estate agent.
With a number of medical challenges over the years and after Pete died one month shy of 66 years old, Gene and his wife, Rosa, and 2 children, Amber and James, were invited to stay with Holdina helping her with whatever she needed since Pete was gone, and receiving Holdina’s gracious offer of a place to recover providing a way to make a future while having a live-in Oma.
Holdina was known as a “Giver”. She gave anything she had and especially worked hard at cooking and baking for others. Feeding others was Holdina’s way of loving others. Family and friends loved to come over and be doted upon by Holdina’s food and hospitality. She learned a lot from the early years of being immigrants from Ukraine into Germany when her mother cooked on the trail and while a teenager in Germany.
Holdina graduated high school in Germany fluently knowing Ukrainian, German, English, Russian, Polish; she also knew some Latin and Spanish. She immigrated to the United States in the early 1950s with her immediate family members emigrating from Germany one or two at a time. Ferdinand and Waldamar decided to stay in Germany, but Olga came with the children into Statin Island, NY.
Holdina met Pete at a Slavic Assembly of God church in Newark, NJ not long after she emigrated from Germany. They sang in the traveling choir together and even made a vinyl LP record. They were married in 1954 with Randy coming in ’57 and Gene in “62 when they moved out of Scranton in the north part of the Pocono Mountains.
Holdina enjoyed watching the boys play, climb trees, build forts, ride bikes, a mini-bike, and even a motorcycle. The Easter egg hunt was especially fun as Adolf often came with his family and all the kids played looking for Easter eggs. Another especially wonderful yearly activity was picking blueberries from the tall variety across the street. Pick 1 or 2, eat 3, 4, 5; pick 2, eat 4, 5, 6. She would get so frustrated for it taking Randy and Gene so long to pick a coffee can of berries. She had a blueberry “kuchen” to make because people were coming over in a few days. A short cake with blueberry compote was a special favorite. And, Oh my goodness, the heavily garlic’d “pigs feet” . . . my, my, that was a wow! Pete hunted and yearly brought home venison for the freezer. Holdina was able to fool everyone with serving wild game that tasted like the beef she made as well.
Another long journey took place when Holdina’s boys were gone. She and her sister Wanda, who was also an empty nester, and who lived in NJ with her husband Steve (who by-the-way, was also Pete’s cousin; and oh, he is a story as well, a story that was often shared around the table when the families got together). The two sisters with their cousin husbands packed up their 3-dimensional jigsaw puzzle into the largest moving truck they could drive and moved to “Sunny Southern California” in 1986. Holdina couldn’t watch Pete and Steve pack, she had to just trust him to take care of her stuff.
Randy was already married to Mary since 1981 and in 1989 Holdina became a grandmother for the first time; the little boy was called Jonathan David, and in 1992 came her second grandson, Stephen Peter. But, heartbreak came when her son and daughter in-law moved to Colorado. They did visit for a few years, but then in 1996, her husband Pete would not get up off the sofa to come to the table to eat dinner. Alas, it was his forth heart attack, the one that took his life. His first heart attack was when he was 40 and when he was 41, he had heart surgery where they removed 1/3 of his heart. Pete was forever heard saying to Holdina, “I gave you ½ my heart what else do you want?” She couldn’t argue. On his very last hospital stay, Holdina was pleasantly shocked to hear the doctor say that the surgery Pete received was expected to only give Pete a life of five to ten extra years maximum. She was heard thanking God for giving Pete back to her for 26 more years.
While one set of grandsons were “taken” to Colorado, and while Gene had earlier married Rosa, Gene and Rosa gave Holdina a granddaughter, Amber, and a few years later another grandson James. Holdina was thrilled, as she was able to be the live-in nanny for her youngest grandchildren.
She loved every minute with Amber and James braggin’ about them to all the relatives. Time went on and she had gotten weaker, giving up driving, still cooking when she could. Having rare visits from Randy and his family as they were living in Colorado. But! She was able to go to Wisconsin to see Stephen marry Victoria, then a few years later she was able to go to Colorado to see Jonathan wed Janeth.
The years unfolded, her body began to breakdown, as she needed a knee replacement, hearing aides, better glasses, and the ever funny for grand kids, the “partials”. She loved the grandkids. Then dementia set in and Alzheimer’s shortly after that. Life circumstances changed, and as Gene and Rosa became less able to care for Holdina, Randy and Mary came and retrieved Holdina back to Minnesota. Holdina’s first words coming out of the airport in Minneapolis was, “Oh, my! It’s like Siberia!”
No one expected that in just 11 short weeks, Holdina would take her last breath at 10 am on March 22nd, 2022. While Mary had been up with her all night for the previous two nights giving medications every two hours, the nurse came in to give Mary a break to sleep. Mary had been gone out of the room five minutes and Holdina was still breathing peacefully, though the breathing was rough. Holdina had not opened her eyes for almost two days. Another hospice person arrived doing what they called a “hospice vigil”. The nurse went to the door, and while Randy had been at his office having left the house at 6 am, Holdina breathed her last, as she was usher up into the presence of her Savior that she had known since Klevan, Ukraine. Thank you Holdina for your life with us. Thank you God for gifting us with Holdina.