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Cochrane, Brenda: Stanislova (Stella) Skowerska, my Mother-in-law

Stanislova (Stella) Skowerska, my Mother-in-law

by Brenda Cochrane, President, LGS 2012-14

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Stella in advanced years

She was born Stanislova (Stella) Skowerska on May 8, 1908 in Lagow, Poland. She was the 4th daughter of Mary (Goljat) Wojlaskinski a widow with three daughters. Her father’s name was Constantine Skowerski, she didn’t remember much about her father other than he was a tall man and died when she was young.
 
One of her older sisters, Victoria went to Russia with three other girls in search of work. Victoria found work in a restaurant and made a good wage. She was also an excellent seamstress making her own clothes as well as earning extra money making clothes for others. Living in Moscow, Victoria met her husband-to-be Michael ___ who was also from Poland. Michael was a streetcar driver and earned good money for those times. Together Victoria and Michael owned two homes renting one and living in the other.

During the unrest in Russia and Poland and starting of World War I, Victoria asked her mother, Mary who was once again a widow, to bring Stella with her and come to Russia where they could keep them safe. It took three days and several train transfers to get from Poland to Russia. At one point Stella and her mother, Mary, became separated and Stella was put on the train with their luggage; her mother had to meet her at the next station. This was quite an adventure for a young child.

Victoria and Michael entertained lavishly every weekend. There was always plenty of food and drink and the house never lacked for partygoers. Mary helped to serve the guests and they (the guests) gave her tips for her help. During their four years in Russia, Mary was able to save 350 rubles, which was a large sum of money in those days.

Stella and her mother returned to Poland during the Russian Revolution with Victoria and Michael who left all their possessions in Moscow. Victoria and Michael had asked Mary if they could adopt Stella and raise her as their own child. Mary would not allow this. When Stella was in Moscow she attended school a half day at a Russia school and a half day at a Polish school. Her sister Victoria had wanted to ensure that Stella was educated in Polish so she would not be ridiculed when she went back to Poland. After returning to Poland she continued her public school education but was not able to attend high school as only the rich could afford to be sent to the city where high schools were available.

1924 Passenger Arrival Form for Stanislawa Skowerska
A few years later with her mother Mary in ill-health, one of Stella’s other sisters, Francesca Ozinbloski who had immigrated to Canada, sent Stella $200 for her passage to Canada. Stella, at age 16, travelled from Lagow, the small city where she lived in Poland, to the seaport via railway to catch a boat to bring her to Canada. When Stella’s boat docked in Halifax, she had to travel by train to Montreal and then get on a train to Toronto. It was through the kindness of a lady in Montreal that she was able to get to Toronto as she was only able to speak Polish.

When she arrived in Toronto she lived with her sister, Francesca, who found her a job working in a laundry for $6.00 per week. Out of this money, Stella paid room and board, bought clothes and within 2 years had saved the $200 her sister had sent her for passage and repaid the loan. Stella quit the job and found work at another laundry for $9.00 per week.
Young Stella

Stella enjoyed going to the Polish Club to socialize and dance. There she became reacquainted with Walter Stachera, an older brother of a childhood friend from Lagow, Poland. Francesca encouraged Stella to date Walter, but Stella was reluctant to go out with him because he was 13 years older than her and she wanted to date someone her own age. She also felt she was young and having paid back the $200 she could now spend some money on new clothes and little luxuries that other girls her age enjoyed. Francesca’s persistence that she marry Walter paid off and on her 18th birthday, May 8, 1926, Stella married Walter. They enjoyed 62 years of happy marriage until Walter’s death on May 15, 1988. Stella died in 2001 at the age of 93.

Both from humble beginnings, Stella Skowerska and Walter Stachera although they did not have the opportunity to be educated raised two daughters, Wanda and Irene, and a son, Richard, who were all university educated.

Walter and Stella Stachera were my in-laws.

A LIFE WELL LIVED


Their descendants include:
  • Chartered Accountant 
  • Medical Doctor 
  • 2 flower judges for Canada Blooms and CNE Flower Show 
  • An amateur actress 
  • Computer Technician 
  • Corrections worker 
  • Chef 
  • Medical Researcher with several scholarships