MARIA SHTUKA

October 2, 1929 – September 13, 2008

Maria Kociolko was born in the village of Krasne, Poland, on October 2, 1929.  The firstborn child of Tekla and Jan Kociolko, she was named after her mother’s oldest sister, Marysia.  She had five siblings, only three of whom survived childhood: Gienek, Zosia, and Helena.

Maria was in grade five when World War II broke out and she survived many harrowing experiences during that time.  After the war, she was sent to school in Lublin, Poland where she studied diligently in order to prepare for high school.  When her family moved to Elblag in 1947, she continued her studies there, completing a sewing and bookkeeping program at the high school in 1950.  Maria became responsible for making clothes for her younger sisters and would often stay up late into the night in order to finish sewing dresses for a special occasion in church the next morning.

Maria accepted Christ as her personal Saviour at the age of 17 and was baptized in the Gdansk Gulf of the Baltic Sea on October 17, 1947.  She was very active in the local church, often reciting long poems by memory and singing in the church choir.  She sang duets with her mother, and when her two sisters were a little older, she would also sing with them.  Maria also enjoyed teaching a girls’ Sunday School class.

Maria attended the University of Lodz, where she studied biology and earth sciences, and found work in Elblag as a food inspector for the army.  She later moved to Warsaw where she worked for the Polish Baptist Fellowship.

It was in Warsaw that she met a gentleman by the name of Paul Brych who had travelled from Toronto, Canada in order to find a wife for himself.  He returned to Toronto with a photo of Maria and gave it to his friend, Alex Shtuka, who started corresponding with her.  Two years later, Maria arrived in Canada and on August 3, 1963, she and Alex were married at the Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Church in Toronto.

Maria was very active in the Toronto church, singing in the ladies’ choir and often reciting poems during the ladies’ services.  Alex and Maria had three children: Daniel, Nadia, and Anna.  The family often sang together in church and Maria and Alex experienced the joy of seeing each of their kids get married and have children of their own.  Maria dearly loved her seven grandchildren.

In February of 2001, Maria was advised that she would have to start dialysis treatment as her kidneys were failing.  It was an ordeal that would last seven and a half years, resulting in many challenges and struggles.  Following a valiant effort to regain her ability to walk after being hospitalized for six months as a result of a blood clot in her spine, Maria passed away at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto on Saturday, September 13th, 2008, in her 78th year.  She was undergoing dialysis in the privacy of her hospital room when her heart finally stopped and Maria passed from this earth in a very quiet and peaceful manner.  Her Lord called her to His heavenly home where she is resting in the arms of her Saviour.

Maria is survived by her husband of 45 years, Alex; their three children, Dan, Nadia and Ann along with their spouses; seven grandchildren; her sister and brother-in-law in Toronto; her brother and his family in Germany; and two nephews and their families in Trenton and Georgetown.

© Ukrainian Baptist Heritage Centre
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