The monthly Community Champion feature is submitted by Respect Works Here, which is an initiative of the Social Planning Council of the North Okanagan. It is also the host agency for the Local Immigration Partnership Council and the Thompson-Okanagan Respect Network.
Special To The Morning Star
Nadine Poznanski came to Canada after the Second World War with her husband, a Polish displaced person, and has been an active part of the Vernon and area community for more than 30 years.
She was nominated as a Community Champion for her work with the local Amnesty International chapter, which she founded, along with her late husband Wojtek, in 1986.
Still actively involved in her church and several other community projects, it is an absolute pleasure to visit with this lovely, spirited and strong woman, and to learn about her trials and tribulations in establishing herself and her family in Canada.
Nadine grew up in Belgium and studied sciences at university. There, she met her future husband, previously a prisoner of war who was studying to be a medical doctor.
“There was not much future and some danger for a Polish refugee in Belgium,” she said. “I had a very forward-looking husband and we thought we could make a living in a safe country like Canada.”
They made their way to Halifax, under the auspices of the International Organization for Refugees on an old war ship, then on to Winnipeg for Wojtek’s internship.
Their war-time experiences helped fuel their lifelong passion for fighting for human rights.
Nadine got a job immediately as a researcher working for a cancer agency. Wojtek’s internship schedule kept him extremely busy and she felt very alone and isolated. However, her resilience and strength carried her through this difficult beginning and after one year in Winnipeg they moved “to the end of the road,” to the small town of Fisherbranch, Man.
Having grown up as a city girl, Nadine had trouble fitting into the very rural setting, but otherwise, she found the people welcoming. From Manitoba, they moved to Wainwright, Alta. and then on to Ottawa, where they lived and worked until their retirement.
After a three-year medical mission with the United Church in northern B.C., they settled in Vernon in 1985.
Now Nadine’s volunteer work began in earnest.
Along with co-founding Amnesty Vernon and serving as its Okanagan field worker for 25 years, Nadine has been active with the Canadian Federation of University Women, locally advocating on behalf of the homeless, incarcerated women, and sex trade workers; organized educational events for the Society for Open Learning and Discussion; and tutored children in French. Her passion for fighting injustice hasn’t waned and she continues to be active advocating for people everywhere.
She does not regret the move to Canada, but she admits: “It was hard, leaving all my family and friends, believing, in those days, I would never see them again. But I had a good reason for coming — my husband.
“Every time you move, you lose something and you gain something,” she says nostalgically. She raised two children and now has five grand- daughters who all are fluent in French and who she is obviously close to and proud of.
She continues pragmatically — “I became more Canadian thanks to my children.”
Vernon is very fortunate to have gained the person Nadine became on her journey here.