Maria Barszczewicz held her left hand to her chest in shock as she entered her surprise party on Tuesday afternoon, but the real surprise, her family says, is that she made it to the party.
The Oshawa, Ont., woman turned 110 years old on Jan. 8 — making her one of Canada’s few supercentenarians — and dozens of her friends and family members crowded the party room at her retirement home to celebrate the incredible milestone.
“A couple of times, they said she would never make it and next thing you know, she did,” said Bonnie Emerson, who calls herself Barszczewicz’s adopted daughter, as the supercentenarian never had any children. “I think that she’s very strong-minded.”
Barszczewicz is now living at the Chartwell Wynfield Retirement Residence in Oshawa, but she is originally from Liège, Belgium. That is where she met her late husband, Jean, from Poland, and the pair later worked for the Red Cross during the Second World War before immigrating to Canada in 1952.
She learned Polish through her husband, and nearly 70 years later, she still speaks the language — in fact, Barszczewicz also fluently speaks French and English.
Emerson says that when Barszczewicz was 100 years old, she served as a voluntary bookkeeper for a former Oshawa cardiac rehabilitation organization.
“You couldn’t put a penny past her,” said Emerson.