was building a church there. The church is now on the Manitoba list of historic places. This church building activity invoked in him a loathing of all things ecclesiastical, a feeling that he passed on to his wife and six children and became a kind of family trait.
Despite this shared feeling, my grandparents separated when my mother was about four or five years old, and my grandmother, with several of the younger children in tow, moved to Winnipeg. She began using the name “Harrison” an Anglicized version of her maiden name, but given her rudimentary knowledge of English, no one was fooled, and my mother remembered the bigotry shown to the Ukrainian kids in school.
Partly to escape that, partly to escape her oppressive home life, my mother got involved in music. She joined a mandolin orchestra, took piano lessons, and sang. It was the last skill that changed her life. She won several singing competitions, and by the time she graduated from high school she had representation. For the next 15 years her life was controlled by agents and managers. As she told me “I never had to decide what to wear”. She formed a Duo with fellow Winnipegger Jeanie Pullock, and together they sang on USO tours, on the radio, in the early days of television, and in Vaudeville.
For a number of years, they were based in New York and were both very popular and highly sought after. My mother also sang in the first New York production of Kurt Weill’s “How Green was my Valley”. Her deep contralto voice was very well-suited to Art song and Lieder and she became increasingly interested in this repertoire and studied with a student of Lilli Lehmann. She was booked to do a one-woman show at a
On this day 100 years ago, in the unincorporated village of Valley River Manitoba, just outside of Dauphin, my mother was born to Ukrainian immigrants Petro Grodzik and Afesia Hryhoryshen. They were in Valley River because my grandfather