Zapart, Regina

Regina Zapart (1932 – 2024)

With deepest sadness, our family announces the passing of Regina Zapart peacefully in her sleep on the evening of Thursday April 11th, 2024, in her 91st year after a brief stay at Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital.

Regina was born in Poland in 1932. She was an incredibly strong and independent person – a survivor with a deep love for her family.

Regina and her family suffered many hardships during WW2 – they were taken by Soviet soldiers in February 1940 to Russian  prisoner of war camps in Siberia, along with thousands of other Poles. After a prisoner amnesty agreement between the Allies, these prisoners were released and had to find transport to a safer place. Regina’s family went by train, cart, raft and by foot southwards through Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Along with many of the male Polish refugees travelling through Russia at that time, Regina’s father and her eldest brother Henryk joined the Polish unit of the British army. Sadly, they both died during the war.  Her other older brother, Czeslaw, too young to join the army, was sent to a boys’ RAF apprentice training school in England. Regina, her mother, and her two sisters Wladyslawa and Halina continued their travels to safety through the then-Soviet Union, crossed the Caspian Sea by ship, and were transported by truck with many other Polish civilians to a refugee camp in Tehran, Iran. They suffered serious illnesses and near-starvation along their journey, but always staying together helped them survive. There were times when their mother was so ill that Regina or her sisters had to steal food so they could eat. They then were brought by ship from India to a British Red Cross refugee camp in east Africa.

They were brought to the Kidugala settlement in what was then Tanganyika, along with other Polish refugees. Regina lived in Africa from when she was 10 to 16 years old with her mother and sisters – she always recalled these years in Africa as happy and safe after years of fear and danger.

After the war, the British government re-settled the Polish refugees in England. So in May 1948, Regina, her two sisters and her mother were brought to England, where their home was a Displaced Persons settlement in Melton Mowbray that had formerly been a wartime military base. They were reunited with Regina’s brother Czeslaw in England.

Before learning English in England, Regina’s mother tongue was Polish, but during her family’s travels she had also learned Russian and Swahili. She had many fond and happy memories of her time as a young adult in England. She began working as an accounting clerk (because as she would explain, numbers were the same in any language) and enjoyed attending dances and horseback riding.

The family then began their journey to Canada. Regina’s older sister Halinka moved with her husband to Canada, and their brother Czesio also moved to the Toronto area.  Regina and her mother then came to Toronto in 1954.

While living in Toronto, Regina met Mieczyslaw (Mike) Kondracki, her first husband, as they both knew many of the same people in Toronto’s post-war Polish community. Regina and Mike married in 1955, after only a few months of dating. His family had similar prisoner of war experiences, and he had attended the same RAF boys’ school as Regina’s brother. Mike had come to Canada from England to work as an engineering technician on the Avro Arrow project. After the end of the Arrow project in 1959, Regina and Mike moved from Toronto to Winnipeg, where Regina’s mother and sister Halinka had moved. In Winnipeg they had their children – their son Edward, followed by their daughter Barbara. They then moved to Ottawa as a family in 1967, when Mike began a job with the Government of Canada.

In 1976, Regina as a single mother moved back to Winnipeg with her two children to be closer to her mother and sister. After having retired from many years of work at the University of Manitoba in 1988, Regina moved back to Toronto to leave Manitoba winters and begin new adventures. There she met Walter Zapart, who she had formerly known years before in Toronto, and they were married from 1989 to 1995.

In 1995, Regina moved to Oakville, Ontario to her beloved apartment on Kerr Street where she lived for almost 30 years until her passing. She was very proud of her apartment and her modest but fascinating life. She enjoyed sharing stories about her life in Poland, Russia, Africa and England.

Regina was extremely proud of her family – her children, grand-children, great-grand-children, nieces and nephews, in Ontario, Manitoba, BC and England. She felt that her family was her best accomplishment and life’s blessing. She always loved family get-togethers and celebrating life events and holidays. Her sisters and brother held a special place in her heart her whole life, and she cherished them deeply. Regina was always well-dressed and carried herself with pride.

Regina had many friends and visitors over many years. She was grateful for the support and recreational activities at her home on Kerr Street, and in her later years for the professional care from personal support workers in her building. These supports helped her maintain the independence that was so important to her.

Following her expressed wishes, a private family cremation has taken place with no funeral service. The family thanks our many friends for their support, and also thanks the compassionate and caring teams at Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital and Tranquility Burial & Cremation Services.

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