Anastasia Belbas was born in Ukraine during World War I. She is 104 years old.
When she was twelve, she moved to Canada with her mother and three younger siblings.
She still remembers the harrowing boat ride over the Atlantic Ocean.
“I remember it being so windy and dark with the ship making loud noises that scared me,” she says. “The sea was so rough and the boat went up and down with water splashing everywhere.”
She thought that she would die.
When they arrived, they were reunited with her father who had settled outside of Winnipeg. Anastasia began living a normal childhood in Canada that included going to school. But, this would be short lived.
An aunt, who lived on a farm a few hours away, had suddenly died when Anastasia was 14 years old. Her mother sent her to live with her uncle, and help care for him and his five young children, one of which was a newborn baby.
Barely a teenager, she left school to clean their house, cook all meals and care for the family and animals.
“I didn’t know anything,” she remembers. “The first time I baked bread, my uncle told me it was like a rock.” But she recalled watching her mother bake it many times, “and so I just kept trying until I got it right.”
The following year her uncle remarried and Anastasia was able to move back to live with her family. But, she never returned to school.
Years later, she married and moved to Toronto to begin a new life. She volunteered with the Ukrainian community, raising funds to build St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Church on Bathurst Street, among many other initiatives.
She rose to become President of the Ukrainian Canadian Council and traveled extensively in this role.
When asked what she credits her longevity to, her answer is simple. “Waking up every morning with a goal, kept my brain alive and active, and it gave me a purpose.”
Her strong faith also guided her through every experience.
“I don’t know how I didn’t go crazy,” she says. “God gave me life, and I just knew that everything that I went through, was meant for me to do.”
Anastasia is now 104 years old and continues to tell amazing stories