Celebrating the Life of Joseph Bereznicki

BEREZNICKI, Joseph Stanley
1932 – 2023

It is with profound sadness we announce the peaceful passing of Jozio “Joe”. He is survived by his devoted wife of 66 years, Christine “Krysia”; daughter, Teresa (Richard Korol); and sons, Henry (Jane Drake), and Mark (Ursula Jedrasik); grandchildren, Jackie (Luke Johnson), Christopher (Kelsey MacLeod), Kaitlyn Korol, Catherine (Husein Moloo), Caroline (Peter MacLeod), and Darlene Bereznicki; great-grandchildren, Isaac and Ewa; together with numerous cousins and a large extended family. He was predeceased by his loving parents, Mikolay and Karolina; and brothers, Walter and Mikolay Bereznicki. His third brother died as an infant.

Joseph was born in Studzianka, Poland, a village not far from Lwow (Lviv). In February 1940, when he was seven years old, Joe’s life was uprooted when the Soviet army forcibly removed his family (together with hundreds other Polish families) transporting them to “gulags” in Siberia. When Russia was attacked by Hitler’s armies in 1942, the Poles were released from captivity. Joseph was forever grateful to his mother, Karolina, and father, Mikolay, awed by their ingenuity, sacrifice, and determination, in forging a path from Siberia, through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Persia, and finally to a camp near Bombay, India named Valivade Kolhapur. By then, Joseph and Walter had already served as cadets in General Anders’s army and had experienced dysentery, famine, and desperation.

The next five years (1943-1948) were spent in India where bouts of malaria were a problem. At Valivade, Polish schools were established, and a community was formed. In 1948, the refugees were informed that the camp was being closed but returning to war-torn Poland, now under communist control, was not viewed as an option. The family boarded a military transport ship and headed to Mumbasa. Incredibly, a former neighbour sponsored the family’s emigration to Canada.

After eight years of having been displaced, the family settled in Edmonton, and were soon joined by Paulina (Karolina’s sister) and Mikolay Leszczynski, together with their three sons, Carl, Frank, and Joseph. The two families pooled their resources, and by 1949 were able to buy a house together, renting out some rooms to increase income.

Joseph gained admission to the University of Alberta in 1952, where he studied Civil Engineering. In the summer of 1955, Joseph met the love of his life, Christine (Krysia) Strobel. By Christmas they were engaged and on November 10, 1956, they were married at the Holy Rosary parish in Edmonton.

Joseph and Christine formed a good team and enjoyed building together, be it building a family, a home, or building lasting relationships. In December, 1957 they had their first child, Teresa. Joseph highly valued a strong education and furthered his studies by obtaining a master’s degree in science (in Civil Engineering) in 1959. He enjoyed a brief academic career, first as a graduate student, then as an assistant professor. (Later in life he was pleased to see his children and grandchildren pursue higher education as well.)

Reunification of the family remained an important goal and in 1960, sisters Karolina and Paulina managed to relocate their mother, Maria, and their brothers, Joseph and Frank Bereznicki, together with their wives, Marysia and Stefania, and seven children to Edmonton.

In January 1960, Joseph’s first son, Henry, was born and in August 1962, Mark arrived completing the family. Joseph was working for Universal Construction, a company headed by Mike Domecki, and was promoted to general manager in short order (1961) and later president (1962). Within five years, the company was competing for tenders in the order of $25 million, with projects including the Peace River jail, and the University of Alberta Biological Sciences complex.

Joe took pride in envisaging and completing projects. Early in 1970, Joe decided he wanted to venture out on his own. Together with various partners, including Clarence Vaage and Chris Ronenkampf, Irene Domecki, Erwin Schmidtke, Rudek and Ella Strobel, and Bob Wekherlein, Joseph built and co-owned numerous apartment blocks, an office building, and two warehouse complexes.

Family was always very important to Joe, who took pleasure in the arrival of six grandchildren. By 1990, Jackie, Christopher, Catherine, Darlene, Kaitlyn, and Caroline were born in rapid succession. Thanks to Joe’s foresight, the grandchildren grew up together, spending summer vacations at the cabin Joe built at Pigeon Lake.

Joseph and Krysia enjoyed winter vacations immensely. Hawaii became their second home, and they made many lasting friendships. With Krysia’s encouragement, the couple were always generous entertainers, hosting numerous parties at their home, in Hawaii and at the cottage.

Joseph also felt the need to give back to the community and took on projects with many Polish organizations. He was proudest of his service with the Canadian-Polish Congress from 1991 through 1999. In 1995, a large project came to fruition – the 100-year Celebration of Polish Settlement in Alberta.

Joseph was proud of his Polish heritage and wanted his Canadian family to meet those in Poland. In 2014, Joseph took almost two dozen Canadian family members to Poland where they met dozens of Polish relations for a multi-day celebration, culminating at a banquet at the Smilowice castle.

Joseph enjoyed sports. In his youth he enjoyed playing soccer, and in his golden years he took up golf. At the age of 55, he scored a hole-in-one as witnessed by his two sons. He, together with Walter Yakimec, and Fred Smith were celebrated as being some of the most senior members at the Windermere Golf and Country Club. Joe played his last few holes at the age of 90!

The family would like to thank Dr. Hilda Morales for her compassionate care during our father’s final days.

Joseph leaves behind a legacy of love to his wife and cherished family members and friends. A private funeral mass will be held for the immediate family. As a tribute to Joseph, a Celebration of Life is being planned. In lieu of flowers, we are honouring Joseph by planting trees.