Perhaps the fact that she was born in a Displaced Persons camp in southern Germany at the end of the war played a role. Her parents and other relatives were fleeing Stalin's scourge of their Ukrainian homeland when Anastasia Maria Shkilnyk was born near Wasserburg, Germany on August 22, 1945. Her father, the much-respected Judge, Mikhialo Shkilnyk had been renowned for his scrupulous fairness in every matter he adjudicated; not the kind of person the Soviet regime wanted around. His strong belief in absolute justice certainly had an effect on the developing mind of the young Anastasia.
Undoubtedly, the seemingly unlimited caring, compassion and Christian charity that her mother, Maria (Salamon) Shkilnyk gave to the world's downtrodden also played a role. Even as the family eked out a meagre living in Winnipeg, where Anastasia lived from the age of two until she left for the University of Toronto, her parents managed to help others less fortunate than themselves. This capacity for caring and clear concern for social justice certainly made its mark on the young Anastasia.
Her upbringing shaped her life into one which was itself devoted to helping those whose lives had been damaged by others.
Anastasia graduated with honours from the U of T in 1966, where she majored in Eastern European studies. She went on to earn a Master's degree from Yale University (1968) and a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the field of Urban Planning (1982). Along the way, Anastasia worked with the Ford Foundation in Santiago, Chile helping to direct scholarships to the most-deserving students and grants to projects which would assist people in need. She also worked in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, helping with the resettlement along the Suez Canal of those who had been displaced by the 1973 war there. While working on her thesis, Anastasia moved to the Grassy Narrows Reservation on the English-Wabigoon River system in Ontario. Here she saw, researched and wrote about how the insensitivity of the European culture had damaged Ojibwa life there. Her book on the subject, A Poison Stronger Than Love, has seen many printings since its publication in 1985 and still serves as a seminal work for university students trying to understand the forces that have shaped the lives of North America's aboriginal people since the arrival of the Europeans.
Despite debilitating battles with breast cancer and stomach cancer in 2000 and 2009, Anastasia continued to work for social justice. She established and funded The Light of Justice Award which recognized moral leaders in Ukraine, and organized fund-raising events to raise consciousness about the need for moral leadership in the world and to provide scholarships for young people in Ukraine who showed promise as future moral leaders.
And in the midst of a terrible battle with oesophageal cancer, Anastasia continued to work for the downtrodden, this time raising funds to support the child refugees of the conflict in Syria. Her battle with oesophageal cancer could not be won, and she succumbed to the disease on May 13, 2014. She is survived by her sister, Maria Leshchyshyn of Rochester, New York and husband, Jim Kingham of North Saanich, British Columbia.
There will be a sung Ukrainian Requiem Divine Liturgy and Panakyda service at 7:00 PM on Friday, June 6th and an Anglican Funeral Service at 2:00 PM on June 7th, both at Holy Trinity Church, 1319 Mills Road in North Saanich (Corner of West Saanich Road and Mills Road). While Anastasia loved flowers, her recognition of their transient nature and her appreciation that resources could more usefully be directed to humanitarian needs, suggest that contributions be made in lieu of flowers to Save the Children Canada, 4141 Yonge St., Toronto, Ont. M2P 2A8 / www.savethechildren.ca
Published in The Times Colonist from May 24 to May 26, 2014