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Polish diaspora, Refugee memoirs, Poland in WWII, Polish-Canadians, Family memoir, Survival narrative, Canadian immigration

The Soul's Journey
Remembering a legacy of heroism & resilience.
by Mary (Grabowski) Shumilak

“The Soul's Journey is a compelling and moving tale of a Polish family migrating to Canada after WWII and building a life for themselves in a prairie town in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. Mary Shumilak beautifully contextualizes her parents' lives in the complex history of wartime Poland, the hardship of forced labour camps, the confusion of being a displaced person, and the challenges of moving across an ocean and making it in modern small-town Canada.

Having grown up in the same town (Selkirk) and attending the same Roman Catholic Church (Notre Dame), her vivid stories reminded me of my own family history and brought to life patterns of prairie society, from presentation lines at weddings to the joys of winter sledding. This book will have a broad appeal to those descended from Eastern European immigrants, as well as those who grew up on the Canadian Prairies.”

- Dr. Carolyn Podruchny, Professor of History, York University, Toronto, ON

This is the powerful story of one family’s escape from decimated post–World War II Poland, the life they built as newcomers to Canada, and the legacy of hope that endures for their descendants today and for generations to come. A must-read for those seeking perspective on that era of history and its common threads with today’s ongoing refugee crisis.

After growing up in her hometown of Selkirk, Manitoba, Mary (Grabowski) Shumilak earned her Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Winnipeg, majoring in English, History, and Psychology, and later, a certificate in Adult Education from St. Francis Xavier University. Mary and her husband, Tony, have lived in Saskatoon for the last eight years of their thirty-nine-year marriage. They have previously lived in various communities throughout Saskatchewan, where they raised their two sons, Reagan and Geoff, and where Mary spent twenty-nine years as an elementary school teacher.

After retiring from teaching, Mary worked in professional development and instructional coaching for several years before retiring for good in 2018. Since then, she has enjoyed reading nonfiction, keeping up with politics, taking university continuing studies courses, joining writing groups, staying active and spending time with her husband and their sons’ growing families, which include daughters-in-law, Marla and Vivien and grandchildren Ryker and Elly.


Mary (Grabowski) Shumilak

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