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Survived the Holocaust But Not a Plague

Malvina Shabes, known as “Visia” to friends, was only 10 years old when she, her parents, and a nurse fled her native Poland to Siberia. It was 1939, and the Nazis had just started the war. The family had been trying to make a living, but later found out that they were in concentration camps in Siberia. Malvina died in Toronto on November 10, 2020, as corona virus he set fire to his retirement home. He was 93 years old.

Despite the fears of his youth, “he was probably one of the kindest people you could ever meet,” their son Jeff Shabes told BuzzFeed News. He is always worried about everyone but himself.

In all cases, he lived a successful life. The mother of two sons and a companion to many, did not shy away from her life story. “He was so poor that he was so eager to talk about life in Siberia and about life during the war,” Jeff said.

Born in Krakow, Poland, in 1929, she and her family fled the Nazis “strangely,” her son said.

In her articles, Malvina painted a vicious picture of the Soviet Union. Following the unilateral agreement between Germany and Russia, hundreds of thousands of maps were deported to Siberia and other parts of the USSR as a minority because they were too cold. Like other Polish men, his father had to work in a prison in which many of his countrymen did not survive.

The couple owned a small house “a little hot,” she told her son, and there was often not enough food. Malvina had to go to Russian school; it was a language they didn’t understand, even though they eventually learned it and became “accustomed to it,” Jeff said. After meeting Joseph Shabes, they rejected him because he was eight years older. He knew her through his father; both men volunteered to defy Soviet rule. “They were like prisoners, to no avail,” their son recalls. As time went on, Malvina and Joseph fell in love. They were married for 63 years when they died.

Courtesy Jeff Shabes

Malvina and Joseph Shabes

Siberia has never felt like a family home. As a result, after the war, Malvina and her husband – who were not yet married – traveled between Poland and Germany. Because the loved ones were Jewish refugees, their Canadian cousin was able to bring them home. Malvina’s husband left first, while the woman, 18, waited for him to follow her and marry her.

As a newcomer to Canada in the late 1940s, Malvina found herself learning a new language in a new environment, but this time in the country she began to love. After settling in Toronto, Joseph owned a printing company, while Malvina had a job at Simpsons, a store that he bought with the Hudson’s Bay chain in 1978. He worked until he became secretary general, a position he was proud of.

She retired after the birth of her first son, Jeff. At first, she returned to her job, but then she resigned. Jeff still remembers that moment; they kept him as he recovered. “I don’t understand why he was in bed, but I made him sandwiches and we used to watch the show,” he said.

Above all, Malvina is remembered for the band she founded in Canada, and made friends wherever she went. Over the years, she has shown remarkable resilience, even in the face of her husband and mother.

George Kovac, a married partner in his 50s, said Malvina had always been kind and hospitable. His life revolved around friends and relatives, even when he began to suffer from dementia. “The family survived a great deal of stress and depression, fleeing Nazism and the Russian system,” Kovac told BuzzFeed News, “and for me it shows how much Canada has benefited greatly from the experiences they have had.”

After the death of her husband first, and then to her dog, Pepsi, Malvina’s madness grew worse. His family decided to find a retirement home where he could spend time with them, music, and art. In November, he was one of eight occupants at his home who died of COVID-19 during the second morning. The last time Jeff saw his mother, he didn’t want to hug her.

“I called her ‘mommy,’ I told her it was okay, she could quit, that we love her,” Jeff said. “The next day at 7:30, we spoke to the doctor, and he said he was not breathing hard with 100% oxygen.”

She said it took time and effort to get her mother to the hospital, and the disease comes from the hospital staff, not from retirement. He wishes the house could have done more, issued an alarm soon, and made public the situation, which he did not know how much at the time.

“The house didn’t call to find out how he was,” he said. “The house didn’t do anything.”

After his death, told his story to CBC with the aim of appealing to people who have died of coronavirus. His request was made to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a few days later spoke of Malvina in a nationwide speech.

“Every person we lose with the virus has loved family and friends, who had morning thoughts and things they wanted to do. I think of a Toronto woman who survived a Nazi and recently died of COVID-19,” Trudeau said. “To his loved ones, I am very sorry for your death. And for the thousands of other families who have lost one because of COVID-19, my thoughts are with you. Every loss is a tragedy, and each story reminds us of what happened in the fight against the plague. ”

Malvina was a fashionista, a skilled baker, and a long-suffering woman whose hard life taught her to form a band around her wherever she went. Jeff is honored that Trudeau remembered his mother and hopes his story inspires other people to tell the stories of their loved ones who died of COVID-19.

“What kind of person would my mom be if she said, ‘I don’t want to lose my temper!’ They like to say, ‘Jeff, put yourself first,’ ”he said.

But, to explain the complexity of the plague, he did not listen to its advice.

“My goal,” she said, “was to tell my mother’s story.”

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