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‘It’s not every day you turn 104’

Olga Luchka’s milestone day a cause for celebration at Wild Rose in Boyle
Olga Luchka celebrated her 104th birthday at the Wild Rose Villa March 22. Her nephews Walter and John Yakowchuk were among the 30-plus people who turned up for some cake and a kind word with the woman everyone calls Baba.

BOYLE – If there’s any sort of celebrity in the Wild Rose Villa, it’s the lodge’s oldest resident, Olga ‘Baba’ Luchka.

The centenarian celebrated her 104th birthday March 22, with many of her friends, neighbours and facility staff taking time to stop in, eat a piece of cake, and catch up with the woman who everyone said is still as sharp as ever.

Baba is beloved by all at the Villa, according to activity coordinator Virginia Barker. The nickname Baba, a shortened form of the Ukrainian word for grandmother, is used by residents and staff in equal measure.

“She’s a happy person, she loves being around, she loves playing games,” said Barker. “She likes to make jokes with us all the time.”

Luchka was born in the western half of Ukraine in 1920. Her nephew, Walter Yakowchuk,  said she moved to Canada with an older sister in the early 1930s — possibly in 1933 — after both of Luchka’s parents passed away during the Soviet Famine.

“She eventually got married, and her and Anton ended up farming,” said Yakowchuk, who still visits his aunt every week with his brother John. “The best (memory) is that she was a tremendous cook. When we used to go visit, the first thing was you got to eat, it's that old Ukrainian custom.”

While she was in Grassland, Luchka would cater with many of the other Ukrainian immigrants.

“At that time all those years ago, everything was done voluntarily,” said Yakowchuk.

“It’s a great honour to still be able to come see her,” said Yakowchuk, who is in his early eighties himself. “She hasn’t had any major health issues. It’s nice to visit, she always looks forward to seeing us.”

Luchka has been at the Villa for eight years — she lived in a self-contained unit after her husband Anton passed away, before needing to move to the assisted living facility at the age of 96 — but this year’s birthday was the first big celebration she had been able to have since turning 100. COVID disrupted her 100th birthday, and a fall in the early spring of 2023 ruined plans for a casino trip.

The fall limited her mobility, but it certainly didn’t dampen her spirits according to Barker. Before, she would spend much of her time gardening, but she traded in her spade her a new hobby: jigsaw puzzles.

Luchka spends much of her day sitting at a desk by a bay window in the front of the lodge, where she’ll work her way through a variety of jigsaw puzzles, which she said keeps her mind sharp as a tack.

“She is the main person here,” said Barker with a laugh. “We go to her for a lot, we ask her questions, just trying to keep her busy. We all look after her a lot, and we should be — she’s very, very special.”

Cole Brennan

About the Author: Cole Brennan

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