© Herald photo by Tyler Clarke
Retired Kalyna-area farmer Michael Berkach, centre, celebrated his 105th birthday on Sunday in the home he shares with his daughter, Wanda Bzdell, pictured left. Pictured right is his only surviving sibling, Stella Stratychuk, 93.
A man of strong faith, retired Kalyna-area farmer Michael Berkach credits “the maker” with allowing him to reach his 105th birthday.
A devout Roman Catholic, Berkach used to walk three miles to get to the Claytonville Church, his only surviving sibling, Stella Stratychuk, remembered on Saturday.
“Then we took a team of horses, every Sunday,” she said.
Until about 17 months ago, Berkach, then 103, was still living on the family homestead.
Last year, he accepted an offer by his daughter, Wanda Bzdell, to move into her home in Prince Albert.
“He’s doing a lot better than he did last year,” Bzdell said, noting that his last year included a stint in the hospital. “His health has improved and he’s enjoyed living with me.”
His mental faculties are all still there, she said -- though, Saturday’s crowd of well-wishers was a bit over-stimulating.
The living room of the home he shares with his daughter was packed full of well-wishers on Saturday, reflecting on Berkach’s life as well as his longevity.
Calling him a “good brother,” Stratychuk noted that she and Berkach made up a large group of nine siblings who worked hard on the family farm, of whom they are the only two still around.
“He was farming all his life,” she said. “Cattle, chickens, pigs and God knows what … everything.”
Although overwhelmed by the number of people surrounding him, Berkach, who speaks mainly in Polish, maintained an awareness of his surroundings, beaming a smile while his family sang “Happy Birthday.”
“He loves it here,” Bzdell said, adding that her father has enjoyed things such as regular home-cooked meals.
While he enjoys his new home, he still misses the farm -- a property he currently rents out.
“I go out to the farm every second or third week, and he went out a few times this year with us -- we took him out there,” Bzdell said. “We go out for supper every once and a while.”
Although his eyesight has waned to the point that he cannot read the Bible, faith has remained strong in Berkach, Bzdell said, noting that Rev. Fr. Maurice Fiolleau from the Sacred Heart Cathedral, visits him a couple times per year.
Farmers from the Kalyna area also pay him visits every once and a while, Bzdell said, adding that he enjoys having them “pull his leg” with some fun jokes every once and a while.
With her father well settled into her home, Bzdell said that he appears content, as long as she lets him maintain his independence.