“Wasyl rode along a sandy country road with Mr. Turchyn, the pig farmer. He peered back across his family’s small farm to see his father holding a hoe, and his older brothers and younger sister, Marusia, waving to him from a distance. He knew that there were tears in his sister’s eyes because she dabbed at them with the embroidered handkerchief she had sewn recently. She had also embroidered a new hankie for him to take on his long journey to Canada for good luck. His mother was not there. She had died when Wasyl was only nine years old, but he still remembered her soft green eyes and gentle ways.”
So begins Mary Ann Lichacz-Karwatsky’s captivating memoir about growing up in Montreal in the post-war years, as the daughter of a Ukrainian-born father and a Canadian-born mother. My Father’s Store is both a testament and a tribute to the author’s parents, and to their generation, who were determined to give a good life to the family through hard work, and instill solid lifelong values in their children.
Mary Ann Lichacz-Karwatsky’s stories take readers inside her father’s grocery story on Beaubien Street, which for decades provided locals with a unique taste of Europe, to various areas around Montreal, to Rawdon, where the family owned a country home, to life as a student at McGill, and to places beyond.
Along the way, the author introduces readers to a panoply of colourful characters who, in one way or another, influenced the person she would become. My Father’s Store is ultimately a historical document, a series of snapshots of life in Montreal, when electric trams ran on city streets, and the North-East End was being transformed from farmers’ fields into residential neighbourhoods.