Natalia & Stanley's Story

In their late teens both Natalia & Stanley were taken from their respective homes by armed guards.  After many days travel in over-loaded cattle trains they arrived at a slave labor camp in Germany.

While there, Natalia had to wear an armband that had an “R” for Russian on it.  It was in this slave labor factory, amid the sadness and tragedy of war that she met Stanley whose armband was stitched the letter “P” for Polish.  Although Natalia could not speak Polish and Stanley could not speak Russian they fell in love – when asked “How is that possible?” Natalia would always reply “Love needs no words”.

Their time at the slave labor camp called upon great courage.  One night, for example, Stanley had to hide Natalia in his barracks overnight by bribing a guard as the Russian soldiers were looking for all Russian citizens to be returned to Russia. 

Eventually, Natalia & Stanley escaped the camp; not wanting to return to either Poland or Russia because of the communist occupation, they crossed the English/Russian zone as French men with the help of a French prisoner.  Bobczyk and Bobczya as they lovingly referred to each other were married on May 8th in a field by a French colonel - they eventually remarried in the church on September 15th.

Landing in a Polish camp in West Germany, Stanley became a chauffeur for the International Refugee Organization from 1945 to 1948 – it was through contacts here that they were able to get to Canada.

In May 1948, after overcoming many obstacles, Stanley left for Canada – the land of “milk and honey” as he called it, while Natalia and their two small daughters Teri and Lucy stayed in Germany.

Upon arrival in Canada, Stanley found work in the Carmen area as a farm hand, and eventual employment with D. Cohn & Sons Limited beginning his association with the fur industry.

Stanley longed for his girls and was very grateful when Mr. Cohn guaranteed him work which enabled him to sponsor his family to join him.  In February 1949 (9 months later), Natalia along with Teri and Lucy, came to Canada, landing by boat in Halifax, then travelling on to Winnipeg by train.  Their family of four grew to a family of seven, with the addition of Steve, Helen and Peter.

They built a good life for themselves in Canada, with tenacity and strength of character, a little bit of luck and the good will of others (they remained forever grateful to people like the French prisoner, the Harrisims, the Cohn’s, the Metcalfs, the Vernons, and their life-long friends the Humniski’s, among others).  Within just two years, Natalia and Stanley managed to scrape together a down payment on a house.  Stanley, it would seem, always worked a second job, all the while maintaining his attachment to the fur industry.

In March 1957, Natalia and Stanley received their Canadian citizenship which they were very proud of.

In 1967, after 16 years with the Cohn’s, Natalia and Stanley began their family-ran business.  Many times, Natalia would pack up the kids after school to go and work alongside Stanley at their shop, which soon filled with immigrants much like themselves, from Polish, to Portuguese, to Vietnamese refugees - “International Fur Dressers” indeed!

While Natalia worked hard to keep the home fires burning, she gave freely her love and support which enabled Stanley to make his work his life, next to his family.  Stanley was always first to open at 5 a.m.; he would sit and play cards, smoke his beloved cigarettes and greet the many who crossed over his threshold.  The business grew and for many years before he died Stanley enjoyed working with his family from his sons-in-law Ken and Norm, sons Peter and Steve, daughter Teri and grandsons Jason and Jeff along with the younger grandchildren who at one time or other worked during school holidays before he passed away on May 8th 1993.

Natalia was very proud of their company, and rightfully so.  She would often hand out her business card that read Natalia Stepien – President”, and of course, on the back she would tape coins and write a “good luck” message.   “Keep me, never go broke”.  Natalia spoiled her family with homemade holopchi, perogies, capusta buns, borsht and apple pie - no birthday was celebrated without her famous cherry tarts.  Sadly she passed away on January 24th 2011.

Natalia and Stanley were amazing people; their courage, strength, generosity, determination, wisdom and resilience were second to none.

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