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‘I’m strong and I’m happy,’ says Vernon woman on her 100th birthday

Olga Andrushko has defied the odds after doctors told her she was unlikely to survive a blood clot in January 2023

Known for her “million dollar smile,” Vernon’s Olga Andrushko was positively beaming as she celebrated her 100th birthday with many friends and family members Saturday, Feb. 24.

“I’m strong and I’m happy,” Andrushko said at the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans Club Saturday, where she was treated to live music and the company of over 100 people who came out to celebrate her centennial year.

It’s a miraculous milestone for Andrushko to reach. Last January, when she was 99, Andrushko was hospitalized due to a blood clot. Doctors gave her two options: to amputate her right leg, or to go through the Medical Assiatance in Dying (MAID) program. She chose neither, and was sent to hospice.

The message from her doctors was bleak; her daughter, Martha Cooper, was told it would be a miracle if Andrushko were to live more than three months longer.

The hospice did in fact call Andrushko’s family three months after she checked in, but it wasn’t to give them the news they had been dreading; instead, they were told Andrushko was doing so well that she no longer qualified to stay in hospice.

Andrushko now resides at Creekside Landing retirement home in Vernon, where she “enjoys her life and the excellent care she gets.”

Born to Ukrainian parents who settled in the village of Sandilands in Manitoba in the early 1900s, Andrushko was the third eldest of 14 siblings.

Asked what advice she has for younger people, Andrushko said, “don’t refuse a job, just do it,” and indeed, she’s had many jobs over the years. She lived through the Great Depression and left home at age 15 to work to support her family, and her first job was at Lake Louise, Alta., where she worked as a chamber maid. She moved back home to help her mother while she was unwell.

Andrushko contributed to the war effort, busily sewing and repairing sewing machines. She later worked for De Havilland as a carpenter building airplane wings.

Andrushko was always a stunner; in 1943 she won a beauty pageant and was crowned Ms. Winnipeg. She was so shy at the time that she gave the crown to the next runner up, her friend Editha.

Andrushko and her husband, Morris, were married in Winnipeg in 1946. They had three children there before moving to Waterford, Ont. where they lived on a 50-acre farm with no electricity or water. There, they had two more kids.

The Andrushkos lived together at Heritage Assisted Living in Vernon for over 11 years. Morris passed away in 2018 at age 97. They had been together for 71 years.

Known as an “unbeatable” crib player, Andrushko has stayed busy in her later years; she was still hemming and fixing clothes at age 92.

Andrushko received a special birthday shoutout from one of her famous friends, Luba Goy, who starred in the comedy troupe, the Royal Canadian Air Farce.

“I was happy to learn that Olga and husband Morris watched and were fans of the Royal Canadian Air Farce on CBC TV,” Goy said. “At their family functions, Olga and Morris made me feel like the luckiest Ukrainian Canadian Comedienne in Canada.

“Olga brings out the best in people with her kindness and depth of understanding,” Goy continued. “One never wants to disappoint her. A patient listener, non-judgemental, curious, witty, and loved by all who knew her, she is the sunshine of her family.”

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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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