On July 14, friends and family gathered to wish Maria Nikitiuk a happy 101st birthday! Maria, worldly and wise, waved as guests took photos. When we asked her how it feels to be 101, she replied with a soft smile, “So far, so good.”
Tenants and Toronto Community Housing team members came together to give her a lovely celebration. Children in her community even took care of all the beautiful décor, complete with a VIP table for Maria. She opened presents, cut the cake and made jokes about how old she had become.
While Maria enjoyed the celebration, we spoke to her caregiver, Marsha Tavares, who visits her weekly. “She gives me guy advice,” Marsha says with a laugh. “She was once in love with a doctor but the family wouldn’t let him marry her because she was considered lower class. I think she carries that in her heart because she still talks about it. She shares her experiences. I have learned from her.”
Maria’s son Mark told us that she was a very talented dancer, a tango enthusiast. “During the war when the army boys would get off schedule, she would go to the same bar and all the guys wanted to dance with her, they waited for her, they looked for her.”
Maria is still quite independent. Mark says that’s because, “she grew up at a time where you had to be independent or you didn’t survive.”
When asked what advice she would offer people having lived through hardships and heartbreaks, Maria replied, “Save your money and never give up.”
Photo: Maria as a child and young woman