by GERRY PORRIER AND EVAN MATTHEWS
Eighty-five-years-ago, Anna Sofia Kolida arrived in McBride. It was spring.
It was around Easter, she remembers, because of her outfit.
“I remember because my mother made me wear my fancy red skirt and a beautiful black embroidered vest,” says Anna, who goes by Ann, and her last name is now Porrier after marrying George Porrier in 1941.
Ann remembers being nine-years-old at the time, and not knowing any English.
A circus was on its way to McBride, and by the time Ann and her family got to McBride, the circus was there to greet them.
“Dad bought us all ice cream… that was the first time I every tasted ice cream,” says Ann.
“I still love it to this day,” she says.
A lady was speaking Ukrainian, Ann says, and she asked Ann if she belonged to the circus.
“I’m pretty sure it was because of my red skirt and flowered vest,” Ann says, chuckling while she remembers.
Ann’s father, Paul Kolida, along with her eldest brother Roman, worked for the Canadian National Railway, she says. They would send money back to Poland so the family could come to Canada too.
“Dad… met us in Edmonton so we could all ride home to McBride together on the train,” says Ann.
Because her father and brother worked on the railway, a lot of the time they weren’t home, she says, leaving Ann, her two brothers, and her mother, Agatha Orskey, to work the farm.
“That was a hard time for us,” says Ann, noting her mother never learned any English.
“She had to run the farm and take care of us kids alone, with nobody to protect her,” she says.
Her mother Polish and her father Ukrainian, Ann says her family was from a small place called Sokal near the Ukrainian and Polish border.
It wasn’t so much of a village, as it was two long rows of shacks with a barn and a garden, she says through a laugh, with all dirt and mud roads.
Now 95-years-old, Ann’s family says she is the oldest person living in McBride.
“I don’t know if I’m the oldest. I’m only 95 you know,” says Ann, in addition to another big smile.
“But, I’m sure there’s no one left that came before 1931. If there is you better go find them, because I sure would like to see them,” she says.
Ann never left McBride, she says, after her marriage in ’41, she had three kids: Gerald, Jeanette and Georgina.
This past August, Georgina brought her daughter, Ann’s granddaughter, Marley, by train all the way from Prince George to McBride to visit Ann, who is now living in the Long Term Care Center of the McBride Hospital.
“She is sort of famous in McBride,” says Marley. “I hope she likes these flowers.”
Visiting with her granddaughter meant the world to her, Ann says, as she says the train made her think reminisce.
“That was a surprise, coming by train. Just like the old days,” says Ann.
“Too bad there was no circus to meet her, but we did have ice cream.”