The Life Story of Sophie Letinsky
Interview with Sophie Letinsky - Includes Photo Slide Show
The Life Story of Sophie Letinsky (nee Mazarsky)
Born in Russia, May 1, 1912. Died at the Sharon Home, Winnipeg, September 29, 1995
As told by Ruth Riesenbach (nee Letinsky), his Daughter. 2008.
1960's: Sophie gathering crab-apples from her tree in the back-yard of 652 Inkster
Sophie Letinsky Early Years
Sophie was the second of four daughters born to Eta and Azriel Mozarsky. Her father was killed in World War One while her mother was pregnant with her fourth child. The family struggled alone during the communist regime and in 1927 Sophie had an opportunity to come to Canada using her sisters credentials.
She arrived to Winnipeg sponsored by her mother's sister and her husband Mr. and Mrs. Beloff. Sophie was always a high spirited outgoing and fearless person. Her mother used to say that she was the one in the family who should have been a boy. She was the typical “Greena Cusina”, the popular song at the time when she arrived to Canada. The lyrics suited her perfectly she was beautiful and vivacious and won the admiration of all who met her.
Separated From her Russian Family
She was determined to sponsor her mother and three sisters to Canada and worked hard in the sewing factory to save “a penny to a penny” in order to bring them here. Her burning dream was to reunite the family in the “Golden land” which she appreciated so much. But fate did not allow her to realize her dream. Immigration laws at the time did not permit a single sister to bring a married one here and since her older sister was already married and with child it meant that her mother would have to leave her alone while coming with the two younger ones. She refused to do that and in the interim the Second World war was imminent.
In the meantime, Sophie met her “Bashert “. Always popular, loving to sing and dance, she had many bows, but Sam stole her heart away. She often told the story of their courtships. They lived only a block away from each other, and he would come to call at her aunt and uncles house with his balalaika and youthful vigor. He enchanted the five Beloff cousins with his good looks humor and music and before long asked her uncle for her hand in marriage.
1931 or 1932: Sophie and Sam Letinsky Engagement Photo
Photo late 1940's: Sophie, Sam, Ed and Ruth
Marriage and Family
It was the depression years and they paid for their own wedding scraping together their meager wages. Sophie continued working in the factory living in one room at her in-laws . Times were tough but they had love and hope and soon their first-born daughter arrived. Sophie was ecstatic to have something of her own and she delighted in her motherhood. She and Sam struggled together through hard times moving often to find a better accommodation. She dreamed of a home of her own and worked as a seamstress at home to earn extra money.
Their second child a son was born at the outbreak of World War Two. Many times over the years Sam was out of work and Sophie scrimped and saved always frugal to make ends meet. Finally, in 1943, they bought their first house. Sophie took in boarders and roomers to help pay for the mortgage. Later when they brought their second home on Burrows Ave , the tree-lined Boulevard St that Sophie loved an always wanted to live on, again she rented rooms out, took in orphans from the Jewish Orphanage to help pay off the loans. These children came to regard her as “mother “ calling her Ma and keeping in touch with her to this day.
Helping Those in Need
She was always kind and gentle full of good humor wise and clever. Had she been born in today's world with the opportunities of today's youth she would have been the consummate entrepreneur. She knew how to deal with people how to earn and save a dollar and everywhere she went people adored and admired her. Her home was always open to anyone who came to her door. Always cooking and baking offering everyone to try her specialties borsht and “arbes”, kenishas, cinnamon buns, soups and stews. The larder was always full and every person was equal to her young and old gentile or Jew, white or coloured. She was the true “Good Samaritan“ who could never turn her back on those in need whether it be monetarily or emotionally. She be friended straight people as well as animals and love nature and the world and they in turn loved her back.
Photo 1960's: Sophie and Sam in their kitchen, 652 Inkster
1960: Sophie Visiting Her Family in Russia. To the left, her Uncle Aaron Schneiderman, to the right, Sophie's mother Eta Mazarsky (nee Scheiderman)
Returning to Russia to Visit Family
After her children were grown, she went back to work in factories and later retail stores never sitting idle. If she wasn't taking care of her home and family, she would sew knit crochet. She enjoyed playing cards and was a champion bridge player. She had her group of lady friends who played together for 40 years. Almost always she would come home and announce that she won first prize - the big pot of $0.25.
In 1959 she realized her life ambitions to visit her mothers and sisters in Russia. She had lost contact with them during the war and miraculously got word that they had all survived. It took years of savings and she was one of the early tourists to visit behind the then “Iron Curtain “. What a trip that was for her period she traveled by boat and train and when her mother saw her she couldn't believe that it was really her till she showed her a birthmark to prove she was really her daughter. The pictures and stories she brought back were incredible and she presented them to local groups for a long time after until travel to the USSR became more commonplace.
In 1972 she again visited her family but by this time her mother had already passed on. By this time Sophie had four grandchildren whom she thrived on and who adored her. Her beloved son, Ed, had graduated from University as an architect fulfilling one of her cherished dreams in life that of higher education which she so dearly admired and lacked.
In 1978 she contracted encephalitis a disease which proved the beginning of her later illnesses.
And then, in 1980, tragedy struck. Her only son was killed accidentally on his property leaving a wife and child. Sophie was devastated and never fully recovered from the shock.
1970's: Ed and Sophie Letinsky. Ed died in a tragic accident on his farm in 1980.
1990: Sophie and her great-grandson, Ariel Riesenbach visiting Ruth and Joe's condo in Hallendale, Florida
But life went on and she bore her burden like a trooper, suffering in silence and trying to continue on. Then in 1990, due to poor circulation from which she suffered for many years, she had to have a leg amputated. Even this did not faze her sense of humor her family remembers that when she woke from the anesthetic her first words were:
“I asked the doctor what happened to my foot – I wanted to use it to cook a Pichea (Cholodetz)”
Becoming Frail, But Full of Spirit
Months of recovery and physiotherapy followed. She was fitted with and artificial limb, and even then her determination to enjoy life at all costs did not deter her from going to the Rosh Pina Seniors and the Gwen Secter programs, which she looked forward to being with friends and interacting with people. Two years later she had to undergo more surgery on her arteries and again along hospital stay with slow recovery. By this time, they sold their “dream bungalow“ on Inkster Blvd and moved into the Bait Am (a seniors residence). She resisted selling her home, which for her represented security and independence.
A few months later while in hospital for observation she was stricken with a stroke which took her way her ability to speak. Months of rehabilitation finally led her to the Sharon Home where she was a resident for 1 1/2 years. When she was still well she attended the outpatient program there and often told her family that when the time came that she would no longer be able to care for herself, we shouldn't hesitate to take her there because she enjoyed the atmosphere and staff.
In April 1994 she became a resident of the home. There was an adjustment, but most of the time she enjoyed the musical programs clapping her hands and swinging in time to the music. Always grateful for any help given, her cooperative and cheerful nature, the staff and other residents adored her and called her there “favorite”. She delighted in occasional outings to her former apartment, her children's home, and most of all visits by her grandchildren.
1995: Celebrating a birthday while a resident at the Sharon Home
Throughout her life she gave of herself unselfishly to friends and family sacrificing her own comfort and her dearest possessions were her “jewels” her children and grandchildren as she used to call them. Her son-in-law (Joe) cared for her and like a true son and he was “Mineh Yoselle“ to her. She lived to escort two grandchildren under the Chupa and was blessed with five great grandchildren, attending the oldest’s “bar mitzvah“. She was truly a woman of valor – courageous, generous, and caring.
She leaves us a legacy of pure gold to remember her. She never had a bad word to say about anyone and always excused others who were being criticized for their shortcomings. Her blue sparkling eyes shone with unconditional love for everyone she came in contact with.
End of Ruth's Biography of her Mother, Sophie