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"SMU" 2006 Obituary


SMUK o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2006-10-20 published
SMUK, Walter
Suddenly at his residence, on October 18, 2006, in his 77th year. Beloved husband of Margaret. Loving father of Mary and her husband David NORRIS and Robert and his wife Judy. Dear grandfather of Timothy and Rianna. Loving brother of Anne HYLAND. Lovingly remembered by many family and Friends. At Walter's request, a celebration of his life will be held on Monday, October 23, 2006 at 1 p.m. at St. Andrews- Humber Heights Presbyterian Church (1579 Royal York Road). Cremation has taken place. Donations may be made to Kipling Acres Volunteers, 2233 Kipling Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M9W 4L3. A reception will follow.

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SMUTNA o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.toronto_star 2006-10-20 published
Poet loved her homeland
Reminisced about home country, lost freedoms
Czechoslovakia never forgotten after fleeing in '49
By Meghan WATERS, Staff Reporter
Georgina STEINSKY- SEHNOUTKA fled communist-controlled Czechoslovakia as a young woman, but her children say she never stopped lamenting her lost homeland.
Their mother was a prolific poet who expressed her sadness through verse. She wrote in Czech under the pen name Inka SMUTNA, which translates to "sad Inka." Her poetry was both romantic and personal, and ranged from dark to whimsical, her eldest daughter Georgina STEINSKY- SCHWARTZ recalled.
She wrote of her adopted country, too, about spring coming to the Leaside neighbourhood or an ode to Toronto called "A Song From Her People" -- a poem that was presented in honour of Mayor Nathan Phillips in 1961.
Daughter Georgina STEINSKY- SCHWARTZ read the poem aloud at its presentation, including the lines, "How we love to see your tallest structures/ Scraping sky in distant autumn haze!/ We're coming home in time for Exhibition/ Refreshed again by northern holidays."
Two of STEINSKY- SEHNOUTKA's poems were included in an anthology of Czech writers in exile called Taste of a Lost Homeland. Vera Borkovec, a retired professor from American University in Washington D.C., edited the compilation. She said STEINSKY- SEHNOUTKA's poems were reminisces of her home country and lost freedoms.
STEINSKY- SEHNOUTKA was never fully comfortable in her adopted country, her children said. She came to Canada in April 1950 via Pier 21 in Halifax after fleeing Czechoslovakia in 1949 with her husband and oldest daughter.
They'd spent nine months in a German refugee camp after their escape, orchestrated by her father-in-law, following the 1948 communist revolution in Czechoslovakia.
Dozens of family members fled, but not STEINSKY- SEHNOUTKA's mother or grandmother.
If they had stayed, however, STEINSKY- SCHWARTZ said her father and grandfather would have been jailed -- they were considered capitalists because of their thriving textile business.
"She knew she'd done the right thing, because her children would have a better life," said STEINSKY- SCHWARTZ.
STEINSKY- SEHNOUTKA's second child, Jane, was born in 1951. John, the family's "happy accident," was not born until 1965.
"Her first duty was always to her husband and her children. It was not a hedonistic or narcissist approach to life," said STEINSKY- SCHWARTZ.
Apart from her poetry, STEINSKY- SEHNOUTKA edited Canada's Czech newspaper, Novy Domov, which means "new homeland." Every Sunday, she would spread the New York Times out on the dining room table especially its "Week in Review" section -- and look for articles that might be relevant to the expatriate Czech community.
"She had a really uncanny ability to have a sense of when something significant was happening in the world," said her daughter-in-law Brenda STEINSKY.
Although STEINSKY- SEHNOUTKA sorely missed the country she left behind, the fall of communism in 1989 brought her little solace.
STEINSKY- SEHNOUTKA had been missed during the years of communist rule. Her daughter said there was a network of her mother's childhood Friends who published a book of her poems: "A whole network that never forgot her."
Her mother was glad to be reunited with her Friends, STEINSKY- SCHWARTZ said, "but she was like a lost soul. It was not the world she knew."
As a young girl, STEINSKY- SEHNOUTKA was the apple of her grandparents' eye. Her father, an academic, died when she was young.
The bright and serious girl learned the classics, Greek, and Latin from her grandfather.
She lived by a Latin saying that means, "A sound mind and a sound body." She excelled in her studies and was accepted to medical school just before World War 2. Then the Nazis took over and shut down the universities.
"They didn't want the population to get too smart under their watch," said her son John STEINSKY.
STEINSKY- SEHNOUTKA was also a standout athlete named to her country's national swimming team. She planned to attend the 1940 Olympics, but they were cancelled after the start of the war.
As a young woman, STEINSKY- SEHNOUTKA awoke every morning to the clatter of horses' hooves on the cobblestone streets outside her window.
She later learned that an avid horseman -- who would later become her husband -- was responsible for the clatter; his family kept a stable of horses beside the car garage in their town of Hradec Kralove.
The two attended the same liberal arts-oriented high school, and they met through dancing lessons.
Their first date was at a skating rink in December 1940. STEINSKY- SEHNOUTKA did not show up for a second skating rink date, but the pair met again at a dance in March 1941.
Jan STEINSKY proposed later that year and they were married in 1945. The wedding should have been a lavish affair, but it was held quietly, in a private chapel to avoid the communists' ire, STEINSKY- SCHWARTZ said.
The pair was married for 61 years before STEINSKY- SEHNOUTKA's death this month, at age 83. She leaves her husband, three children and five grandchildren.

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