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Heart Health – S-ICD Implant

Eight years ago I had a heart attack. A year or so ago I had more heart challenges. Short of breath, etc. June 21, 2021 they put a second stent in and I got matched with a cardiologist. I have a low ejection fraction of 35%. (How much blood leaves your heart every beat, me – 35%. Normal is 55- 60%) Between this and past heart incidents I’m at risk. It was decided I should get an implanted device, a S-ICD or Subcutaneous Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator. Although similar, it’s not a pacemaker, but a type of ICD. They are not invasive,  rather, tucked under my armpit just under the skin.  It’s like a mini defibrillator inside me.   

I get inspiration from this short video put out by the maker of the device, Boston Scientific in part because he is also a cyclist and he likes to get his heart going.  

October 6, 2022, Jan dropped me to the hospital at 7 am.  They prepped me and at 8:08 I was lying on a bed in a room with around eight people all there for me.  Wow.  It included two from Boston Scientific,  maker of the S-ICD.  Three breaths and the next thing I knew it was 9:35 am and I was back in my original bed in short term cardiac care.  I met the B.S. rep again and they tested it..  I relaxed.. had lunch.. had a few people come by including the cardiologist installer of the device,  Dr.  Sikkel.  Every minute I knew I was in remarkable, caring hands.  An amazing day.   Jan took me home around 4 pm.   We went for a slow stroll in the neighbourhood that evening. 

I wasn’t to cycle for 2 weeks, can’t drive for a month. For a few days I felt like I was tackled by a football team, sore and bruised, but every day was better. It’s three weeks later I feel I am back at full speed on the bike. And I love to pump the bike to get the heart going. I do feel the device bounce around a bit. maybe that will fade over time. When I sleep on my side I feel like there is a $2 coin taped to my side. The bruising feeling is almost disappeared.  

I feel like it’s the end of a 16 month journey that started with the stent,  June 2021.   I take inspiration from the B.S. cyclists’ video and feel, like Rob (in the video) I can push my heart and my body.

I asked.  Around 900 ICD devices are installed in British Columbia in a year. Around 50 are the Subcutaneous ICD (S-ICD).  They are not for everyone but are less intrusive than an ICD or pacemaker and therefore less risky.  Around 150 people in BC have had one implanted, ever.  I’m a lucky man. I know the heart health journey continues but wow,  am I ever lucky.   

IMAGE. The device is under my armpit. The lead line goes from the device, just under my skin and over to above my heart. If I have another heart incident, it detects it and gives my heart a shock, just like the ambulance people do with the defib paddles.


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Happy Bidet!

When COVID started I installed a bidet. All that talk of toilet paper shortages got me thinking about it. I had experienced a bidet a few times in Europe and Japan. I always thought it would be a good idea. So I researched and ended up with a Washlet by Toto. Our condo has newer Toto brand toilets. The Washlet is the “lid” part that you install after you remove the existing lid seat. It fit our toilet perfect. I got talking to someone else this week I recommended it to and they told me they LOVE their new bidet, too. And like me, I mean they LOVE IT. The exact model I bought is here and certainly not one of the cheaper ones. But worth every cent. Toto has a fun video about bidets. And a video about how our specific model works. When I bought the bidet it was right when I sold the company in Alberta. I thought to myself “This is a gift to me for all those hard years of work in Alberta. Thanks, Alberta! I’ll always remember this.”.

Bidets are a funny thing. People look at you kind of weird when you bring them up. I’ve often mentioned renovation projects and no one bats an eye. “I installed a new closet door”. or “We painted the walls”. Nothing. Even “Wired in a new light switch”. But mention “I installed a bidet and wow do I love it” and people look at you like you are the only one in the world who would ever think of needing or installing a bidet. And – there’s so much to talk about. How you can set the temperature of the water and the air dryer. The pressure of the wash. The two wash settings. His n hers settings. The lid that auto lifts when you approach it. Remote, lighting, pre and post wash, you name it, it has it.

Your tush will thank you.

To install the bidet I had to bring in some wiring which wasn’t too difficult (to heat the water) and some minor plumbing.

Now that the pandemic is easing and life is back to normal, I look back at my purchase and think “That was one of my better investments”. When I travel, I miss it. If we ever move, it’s coming with us! There’s something magical about a toilet seat that auto lifts when you walk in the room. It’s sort of a “The Angels Are Singing” feeling when it welcomes you into the room.

If you’ve ever wondered about getting a bidet, there are an immense amount of models and styles and prices and features and benefits. We purchased a high end product and have never looked back, pardon the pun. I love my bidet.

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Saying goodbye to a comfortable friend

Cozy, reading the Victoria Times Colonist.

Damn, it’s harder than I thought it would be. I guess saying goodbye is never easy. I’m not sure how long I had this sweater but it was a favourite. It was just the perfect weight. Not too thick so it was too warm. Just light enough to have something on my arms. A year ago I had Jan sew up the armpit, good as new. Recently it was showing it’s age. Wearing and fraying and a little impossible to clean, it was time. You’d think it would be easy to replace it, but no. For months we looked. It isn’t easy finding a perfect weight cardigan. Every time we went in a store. I looked all spring.. through the summer and even fall. When fall arrived I though it would be snap. Still, nothing lived up to the perfection of my old sweater. We had been through a lot, really. I think I’ve had it for 3 or 5 years. That’s a lot of wear. A lot of time at home and travelling. When I bought it COVID didn’t exist. Imagine how many Netflix movies I watched in it. Or how many newspapers I enjoyed in it. The weight of it was perfect to go under my various jackets so I wore it out a lot. Finally though I found a few new options at The Bay. I bought a couple. One similar weight. So I think I can do it. I can say goodbye. Soon. Yes, maybe today. After all I have new sweaters to be comfortable in. Still, it’s not easy saying goodbye to an old, comfortable friend.


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Taking Back a Neighborhood

This mail box really made me mad. It was like this for months!

During the height of the pandemic there was a change in my neighbourhood, James Bay, Victoria’s oldest community. Graffiti was growing. It was everywhere. Power poles, buildings, walls, commercial buildings, bus shelters. Utility boxes. One day a neighbour said “It’s starting to look like a ghetto around here.” She was was right. I had some paint around in the condo building I live in. So I took some and painted over graffiti on a few wooden power poles. Damn that felt great. With a little effort I was beating these little $#@!)%&!#! at their game. I moved on to a few metal poles, a black park bench was easily touched up with some black paint. I wasn’t sure if I should be doing this so I got up early in the morning with my paint and touched up some more. I eventually did the metal Canada Post box with red Tremclad metal paint. Sometimes various fluids helped clean things up.

I asked my local community association if there was any guidance on this and they put me on to the City of Victoria. They were happy to help. They have a program called “Victoria Together Against Graffiti”. Not only did they okay what I was doing, they encouraged it with some guidelines and direction. They gave product and boxes to create “VTAG Kits”. The program was a formal way for community members to fight back graffiti. They asked if I could inspire others to help and coordinate for the whole neighbourhood. So I did. I wrote a letter to the editor in the neighbourhood newspaper looking for help. I used social media. Soon I had an army of around 30 people. People of all walks of life equally fed up with graffiti were armed with kits that included brushes and a few colours of paint. We had brown for the brown wooden poles and “pressure

This fine person felt so good about making the community better. And so she should!

treated green” for the green poles. Greys for concrete. Some of the volunteers told me it was a wonderful way to spend a nice summer morning, cleaning up the neighbourhood, meeting neighbours, feeling great about it.

Over the months people kept coming for more supplies, more paint, more brushes. I kept the area around my home free of graffiti. My goal was I didn’t want to see it in view of our condo, but soon, I too was painting poles up and down roads in the area. Take that! Damn it felt great. I kept communicating with

A volunteer makes a utility box look so much better.

the volunteers. As they shared stories with me I spread their good news to others. I met wonderful people. I found out several did “graffiti removal almost full time. Ken S. told me “I used to golf but I was lousy at it and it was expensive. So now I remove graffiti! It’s far more satisfying”. He funded his supplies himself until I got him going with our “official supplies”.

Once I painted some poles in front of some residences and an owner came out almost in tears, so joyous to have this #$@!*! “art” in front of their home finally removed. People just didn’t think it was possible or “allowed” to paint these poles or boxes or concrete. Some worried what others may think if they got caught! I said “What, they’d give you heck for improving your neighbourhood!?” Others tried in vain for months to have the utility companies clean their property up.

A few wondered what else they could do to improve the community? Trash pickup?

Over spring and summer we knocked back the worst of the graffiti until it was 95% gone. Soon a police constable was asking how we did this. “Could you inspire other communities to do the same?” We met with a few of the more active members with City personnel and the police. We learned both organizations have areas in their departments focused on this issue of graffiti. We learned if you keep beating down the graffiti eventually they get the message and move on or quit. And they largely have. I spoke at a City of Victoria online

Several of us meeting with Vic Police Department.

seminar for others who want to get involved in other neighbourhoods in the city.

The effort has been very rewarding. I’ve met some terrific people. I’ve receive all sorts of smiles from people walking by as I am painting a power pole. Many have thanked me. A few wondered what the hell I was doing. But when I walk up and down the streets and can’t see any graffiti it sure feels great.

The Police Chief awarded three of us a Civic Service Award”

The Victoria Police department was so happy with our work they presented a couple of us with a “Civic Service Award”. Our names will go on the wall of honour in the police department.

We aren’t done. We know we’ll have to continue to watch for graffiti tags and keep painting over. But we’ve come a long way. Now it’s minimal work ensuing we’re free of this blight. And I have a whole lot more friends in my neighbourhood!

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How low can I get the electric bill?

At first it was just for fun, then it got interesting, then kind of exciting. When we bought our condo a few years ago we asked BC Hydro what would be a good rate to set the equalized monthly electric power bill to. They analyze the old owners’ power use, take the annual amount and divide by 12. Equalized payments mean fewer surprises so I prefer this. The amount recommended was $120 a month. Once we moved in I noticed BC Hydro’s web site offered data that tracked daily power consumption. You could see how much power you consumed every day. After living in the suite for a year we could then compare this years usage with last year in an effort to lower energy use. This when the real fun began.

23 days power consumption, 2021 compared to 2020. The spikes in dark blue are last year when we used the dryer. Guess how many times we have used the dryer this May, so far? (light blue bars = zero spikes) Zero!

As you can see in the graph, some days power use spiked. The culprit? The clothes dryer! Any day we dried clothes the bar jumped considerably. We had a drying rack so we started using it more and more. It became a running gag at home. I’d say “Jan, you used the dryer yesterday didn’t you!?” After a year the power company dropped my equalized payment per month from $120 to $60! Wow! Half! What else can we do to save power? We heat via electricity but our sunny facing condo and being on the 7th floor meant we didn’t have to use the baseboard heaters much. And after seeing the blue graph jump when we did use them, we decreased the amount of times we turned them on! As the months went on we started using the dryer less and less, even for sheets which we carefully hang on various parts of the furniture to dry. Summer or winter. Open a few windows. Tip: Put your drying rack by a ceiling fan. Put ceiling fan on high! We also replaced every light bulb or fixture with LED. This also helped. Another year and the power bill dropped to $34 a month. Wow!

Something else that uses a lot of power – is your range. Fortunately we don’t bake much.

One of my friends said “I love a dryer dried towel, they are so soft”. My thinking lately is – “I love a rack dried towel, they are nice and crispy so I know they are fresh and clean!” With the kids gone and a pandemic providing time – putting clothes on a drying rack versus stuffing them in the dryer takes longer – but we have the time.

We have a natural gas fireplace which seems far more efficient than electricity to heat with. So that helps our bill, too. But between the LED lights, slashing the dryer use and minimal electric baseboard heater use – it’s amazing the difference it makes!

A few months ago I received our 3rd annual adjustment from BC Hydro. Now $24 a month. Can it possibly go any lower?

If you want to lower your power bill.. you need a partner that is on board if you live with someone. Jan certainly is. A pandemic certainly gives you plenty of time to think about this sort of thing. Sweaters on rather than cranking a thermostat up also help. So it’s largely attitude. Have fun with it. A power bill from $120 to $24 a month! Fun. I don’t think we could possibly go any lower. Unless……………… hhhmmmm…


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Missing Dad.

My Dad, Elmer.

It was sudden. Thanksgiving Sunday. October 11. He was 82. I am grateful it happened after Elmer spent Thanksgiving supper with my two sisters Heather and Debbie. The four of us Zoomed after their supper near Saskatoon. They drove him home that evening and on the way he slumped over and it was over. Every day this happens but when it happens to YOU it’s so impactful. Dad was mourning the loss of his partner of over 30 years. Just eight days earlier, Roseanne’s death was a result of cancer over the summer and fall. Dad took it hard. Maybe he didn’t want to carry on without her. The Thursday prior I Zoomed with Debbie, Heather and Dad after Roseanne’s memorial. Another time with Dad and sisters I am grateful for.

When the girls called that Thanksgiving Sunday evening from the highway so many decisions had to be made immediately. Never been through something like this, I had a lot to learn. I was executor and along with my sisters decisions started right then, that on top of the grieving. I was also about to learn a great deal more about three people. Elmer, Debbie and Heather.

Jan and I flew to Saskatoon, Tuesday. We planned a funeral of sorts for Friday but the pandemic meant much was in the air about public gatherings. More decisions about Dad’s wishes were made. With trepidation we planned a 6o minute “come and go” event for Dad. I’m glad we did. It was wonderful. No planned speeches, just a get together in the funeral home basement two blocks from Dad’s. Around 50 people came and went. One of the more touching memories was Elmer’s banker who said to me “When I heard, I just had to come. We only met once or twice a year but it was always a wonderful visit”. After the funeral we went to the graveyard where Dad’s ashes were put with Roseanne’s in a “niche”.

Next, a few of the close family members drove to Muenster / Humboldt, Saskatchewan area, where Dad grew up. We visited the church where Dad went as a boy. I remember attending myself when visiting Grandma and Grandpa’s farm. I’ll never forget Grandpa pulling my ear at church here, apparently I was being less than quiet. At the church graveyard we looked over the many Hilgers there. Humboldt is a German town and this is where the Hilgers family homesteaded. We left some of Dad’s ashes by his mom and dad’s grave and his brothers grave. We also visited Dad’s farm, now abandoned, we could still go in the house. Inside Elmer’s sister, Bernice remembered along with us, “this old house”. We creeked up the stairs and visited the bedroom I slept in with my cousins when we came for visits as pre-schoolers. Bernice told us a few more stories about her brother, Elmer. It was a wonderful day of remembering Dad.

It was difficult to leave Elmer’s home that Monday morning. This is Dad’s back entrance. Usually so full of hats and coats and shoes and – well, life. Now – empty. It was a tough morning for me.

The business of wrapping up an estate is quite interesting. The funeral event was Friday, Sunday a Realtor came over and we got into listing Dad’s home of 40 (!) years. We wondered if it was a little “quick” to put a for sale sign up – but none of us looked forward to having a home sit empty through a Saskatchewan winter. I flew home Monday. It was difficult to leave Dad’s home that morning at 6 AM for the airport, knowing I’d probably never be in the house again. Fortunately Cousin Russ got up and took me to the airport – that made it easier.

In the coming days a whirlwind of discussions with my sisters moved many things forward. I was grateful to have two wonderful sisters to work with. Hearing many stories of family challenges after a funeral – we have had a very positive journey. Living in Victoria I couldn’t be there day to day but I could pull my weight doing the paperwork as executor. Between the sisters and I we listed, sold – and possession is before Christmas for the new owners.

As a son and executor I learned a lot about Elmer. It was a big part of the healing process as I spent the next couple months going through the paperwork, Dad’s files, banking, everything. I was fortunate to have a Dad that made things a lot easier than what many people may have to go through. Dad and Roseanne kept a meticulous house. Elmer enjoyed updating it. He kept precise records and receipts. His landscaping was the envy of the neighbourhood. He built a wonderful garage. This all made it easy to list and sell. Like his home, Dad also kept a well done will and estate documents. His files made things clear and concise. I really enjoy looking at Dad’s handwriting, he kept many notes in his files. Always the banker! Dad had the same lawyer for decades, a man I would spend considerable time leaning on.

David the lawyer helped us with “probate”. Probate is a legal step that puts the estate onto paper and into a legal document so all are assured it’s handled correctly. We had no choice but to take these steps. It was quite interesting. It also gave me considerable time to pour over Dad’s notes and writings and let me get to know him better. It took a couple weeks to put all the details together for probate, the lawyer helped with the finer details and put together a document for the courthouse. While you may not need a lawyer for every probate, when property is involved it may be wise. Also, I was out of province and that added to the journey. Legal papers had to be sent to me, witnessed here, and sent back. Once done, though – the document went to the courthouse November 30, and we had probate in hand just a couple days later. The staff at the courthouse were quite pleasant with advice.

Through the process I got to know my two sisters a lot better. Living so much closer to Dad they were probably closer to Dad personally, as well. The three of us worked together to move things forward as Dad would wish. I did the paper work, they did the heavy lifting. Literally. Even furniture. Although Elmer and Roseanne lived sparsely (Elmer in particular) there were some items to sell or giveaway for sure. Not once did the sisters complain or moan (that I can recall, anyhow!) They rolled up their sleeves and we all worked together. I know Elmer would be so proud of us, to see his three kids working together like this. It was a chance to understand one another far better. This too, helped with the grieving process. I really, really miss my dad. Spending time with my two sisters and meticulously handling his estate has made me feel closer to all three of them.

A few weeks ago I realized I didn’t have a record of Dad’s voice. After some searching I did come across a small voice mail clip, the only one I have. Sometimes I play it just to hear his voice.

Dad’s voice. Nice to listen to when I miss him.

Elmer was Charter President of the Riverside Optimist Club, formed in 1984. He spent considerable time working with this service club in Saskatoon – they have a focus on serving youth.. Sadly, like many service clubs the group has struggled lately and dwindled so much that the remaining members decided to finally end the club officially, a decision Dad hinted at more than a few times recently. The pandemic made it even more difficult to continue. Their members told me with Dad gone it was easier for them to finally decide to close for good. They made a donation in Dad’s name to a local youth program, one of the club’s last decisions. My two sisters and I matched it. The Riverside Optimist Club, so much a part of Dad’s life. He was there at the very beginning and made an impact to it’s last moments.

Dad was so proud of his Optimist Club.

So much to be grateful for. A Dad I am proud to have known. Now I know him even better. I got to know my two sisters so much better, too.

Like others who go through this, I’ll never forget my Dad.


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30+ Years Ago On The Air. And 2 Coincidences.

A few weeks ago I was reading the newspaper and there was an obit for Corinne Deshaw.  Regrettably,  I haven’t spoken with Corinne for years but knew instantly it was her, a colleague from my broadcasting career.  Corinne did the traffic reports, news and co-hosting with me on a radio station in St. Albert, a suburb of Edmonton.  CKST or “1070 Gold” was a classic oldies station, and my first major league gig.  Unfortunately I lost track of Corinne over the years and did not stay in touch, but I sure thought it was a coincidence that here I was living in Victoria reading about the passing of a colleague who had many family ties here on Vancouver Island.   The 2nd coincidence though, was today when I came across an online audio file of the morning show on a website that appears to track broadcasting in Western Canada.  It popped up on my SoundCloud,  an app I use for podcast listening.  It was me – and Corinne – in 1988 – on the air.   I have pretty well zero tapes left from the old radio days – so it was quite a walk down memory lane listening to the 12 minutes or so of “cut ins”.  The trip down memory lane was made all that much more special knowing I came across this audio just weeks after the passing of Corinne.  I shared the link with her family members.  I hope it’s as special for them as it as it was for me today.  Maybe even more meaningful.  Click below for a few ditties from my (our) morning show in 1988.    Reading of Corinne’s passing in the newspaper,  I note she two children that would be slightly younger than ours.   In other words, born well after the days of 1070 Gold.   May this audio recording add another piece to the families’ memories of Corinne.

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Festive Season, 2018

A wonderful time this year thanks in part due to the first getting together of all, at Christmas, in a couple of years.  Henning joined us for a first Christmas with the Hilgers/McNeice household in Canada.   With Jasper from Toronto and Catie and Henning from Berlin, it felt special.   Click any photo to enlarge, scroll.

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The Ukrainian Village Great Grandma Walked, Over 100 Years Ago

This summer Jan and I spent two and a half months in Europe.  We visited daughter Catherine in Germany,  made it to Turkey again,  a month in Italy, and 5 weeks in Lviv, Ukraine.  One of the highlights was exploring the village my Great Grandma Polly (born Paraska Chytyck) Mykytiuk.   Great Grandma left Ukraine in 1908 when she was ten.  As a kid I remember many things about her and her husband,  my great grandfather Stefan

Polly Mykytiuk's Handwriting, Babin etc

Aunt Kerry had Great Grandma write her village name (Babin) and her nearby main centre.

Mykytiuk.   But did I ever ask “Why did you come to Canada?  How?”  Of course not.  All we knew was from records that said they were from the “Bokuwina” region, now no longer in existence.  Many years ago my Aunt Kerry had Great Grandma write down a few words about her home town and her maiden name.  Using Google Map was a challenge.  Were Polly’s words in Ukrainian?  English?  Russian?  At times the land was part of Austria and Poland!  Did the village exist today?  We knew we had to look for (we think) Hredenko and Babin, not far from Chernivsti, Ukraine.  We thankfully hired a couple who would drive and interpret.  We drove for 3 hours of rough roads to Hredenko first.  Our interpreter suggested we visit a nearby church for some community info and it was a good move.  There we met a Catholic priest who knew everyone and everything about this town of 9000.  Yes he


Notice the spelling – same as what Polly hand wrote top left in her handwriting above. Me and my Mom.

recognized the Mykytiuk name, and he offered to take us to a family with that name.  We ended up spending half a day with this fellow.  He drove with us to a local family business that shared the name, where we spent some time.  We had lunch,  he told us some history.  Fascinating.   Was there a certain link to the family?  It’s not certain, but – in a village of 9000 I suspect there was a relationship.  We heard of war times and current Crimean / Russian challenges, an amazing day with this fellow.    We spent the evening in Chernivsti and hoped to find a village – if it existed still – of Babin – the next day.

Next morning we continued to search on Google Maps for Babin. This was the village where Polly lived until she was 10.  It was difficult to find on the map due to changing borders, languages and the fact the village may not even exist any longer.  We almost gave it up, but the evening before at supper our interpretor came across the village on his map.   Babin was not far from Hredenko,  and we would drive the hour to this village.


The bus stop at Babin with Jan, mom and me. We think the language is Russian.

Babin was about 30 minutes of pavement and 30 minutes of gravel away.  The plains were similar to Saskatchewan.  No wonder the Ukrainians were comfortable on the Canadian Prairies.   Babin was a village of maybe 800, and looked like it hasn’t changed much to this day.  Again we went to a church, where a lady I referred to as “The Town Mayor” took us to a local family who may knew more.    The Mayor ended up spending about 4 hours with us,  taking us from family to family to homes where “I think they may know the Chytyk family” or “They are related to the Mykytiuks”.    (We felt Polly and her future husband came from the same region)   Here local families told us of recent “Soviet times” pre-freedom 1996.  I asked one farmer where his farm land was.  In Ukrainian he told us “I don’t know.  They divided up all the farm land after Soviet times.  I rent it out.  I do not know where my land is”.  Many times we heard “We are poor,  but we are not hungry”.    These are people who to this day, in my estimation,  survive by filling their cellars with food all summer and get through the next winter till spring,  and that’s it.   We met about five families.    All had time for us.  All knew the


Lower left, the village elder. Our interpreters and a few locals. Right, the “Town Mayor”. Upon hearing it was my Mom’s birthday in this back yard they broke into a Ukrainian version of a birthday song.

names we spoke of.  Again, too many years had passed to connect the family 100% for sure,  but a village of 800 with the Chytyk name everywhere –  I am certain they were related.   One highlight was in the village elder’s back yard.  When they heard it was my mom’s birthday,  they broke out into a birthday song traditional in Ukraine.  It was very difficult to keep the eyes dry.

We spent the entire day in Babin.  It was amazing to think “This is the village where my Great Grandma would have walked, over 100 years ago.  She would have taken the train to nearby Hredenko to shop with her family.   What was amazing was – to this day –  the locals are living month to month,  year to year.  A bit of food grown in their backyard or a plot of land.  Apparently a bit of income off farmland rented out.  Young people these days


One of the local “Babas” gives mom a hug.   Left in the background – the “Mayor”. Soviet times. Freedom. “We are not rich, but we are not hungry”. It was amazing.

prefer to live in the big city.  The population stays much the same..

In nearby Chernivsti we went to a museum that specialized in the three waves of emigration of Ukrainians.  He answered a LOT of questions for us.   Many of the Ukrainians left because the habit of splitting farmland with the next generation meant smaller and smaller farms.  These Ukrainians were really peasants, with changing borders and difficult times politically.   Then the Canadians advertised free farmland – if you cleared it first and proved yourself for a few years.  An offer too hard to resist for the brave.  It is probable that Polly, then 10,  took the train from Chernivsti to Lviv,  then onward to Germany and onto a boat.   There was a fast boat (3-4 days) or the slow boat.  They probably took the slow boat of 21 days as it was far, far cheaper for these poor Ukrainians.  Often the deal was the boats were livestock ships returning to North America.  They were cheaper fares – if the passengers cleaned the ships during the trip.  Wow.

Jan, mom and I stayed a few nights in Chernivsti.  We thought we would take the train home, a 4 hour trip to Lviv.  The dollar is very low so it was easy to afford a sleep car, a private car for 4 people with beds.    We left around 4 PM and rumbled though the


I like this picture because Mom is looking out the train window and pondering. The same window Polly would have also looked out. Except Polly knew in all likelihood she would never return to her village again.

villages and towns toward Lviv.  This was an experience in itself.   The scenery could have been Saskatchewan.

As our train rolled though the prairies and the sky turned to dark, we sipped on some vodka, made it to the diner car for a snack and a beer and enjoyed the scenery.   I said to mom “Hard to believe these are the same tracks your grandma would have been on in 1908, onward to a new land.”    Imagine what was going through this 10 year old’s mind?  She would have gazed out the same window.  She would have seen the same prairie sky as we watched.  Polly would be just as quiet as we were at times, I bet.  Quietly thinking about where her life would go.   Her train trip down these same tracks was similar to ours in some ways,  and yet her thoughts would be realizing she would probably never return to her home.   And she never did.    A friend said “How fortunate we are that these people left their homes for a better land. For a better life.”.  How true.  And how lucky were we to experience a taste of the journey over 100 years later with Polly’s granddaughter,  Nici, my mom, and Jan.

Map showing the route between Babyn and Horodenka (English spellings I believe).




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20 Questions

lg_forpaper_01abOur local newspaper Daily Herald Tribune did a “20 Questions” interview with me.  It was fun to do and it gave me  an opportunity to think about a few things in life.   I paste the story below.

20 Questions with Kevin Hilgers

Jan and I have lived in Grande Prairie for 25 years, arriving to work at what was then CFGP radio (now Rock 97 FM.) I left broadcasting 20 years ago and have since been solely an entrepreneur. GP has allowed us to positively raise a family that includes Jasper and Catherine. I have a marketing firm called Wave Media that assists business with their marketing and operates various projects. One of my larger projects is professionally managing the Rotary Dream Home Lottery, now 7 years. I handle the Gaming application aspect, sales, marketing, sponsorships, operations, ticket processing, floor mopping, all of it. It’s a year-round job. Watching it grow in success has been very gratifying. Twenty years ago I joined the Rotary Club of Grande Prairie, and it’s a big part of my life. I was President and went on to be District Governor in 2012/13. Rotary has taught me a lot. It’s given us the gifts of travel, friendships and fun. It has enhanced my leadership skills and helped me grow my business.

1. It’s Sunday morning, what are you having for breakfast?

I have porridge with berries almost every day for breakfast. Fast, healthy, easy.

2. If you didn’t do what you do for a living, what would you be?

I admire those who work at funeral homes. These are people who assist when people need it most. Some may think that business may be depressing – but you are a vital part of people’s lives when they desperately need you. They lean on you for support and guidance and expertise.That must be immensely rewarding.

3. What person has influenced your life the most?

I can’t think of any one person however I would have to say that collectively – “Rotarians” have had the most impact on my life. When you join an organization like Rotary International – you surround yourself with successful people. Often they are outside your generation and your regular circle of associates. Rotarians locally and internationally have provided invaluable guidance and inspiration and yes, “constructive criticism” when needed.

4. What is the reason you first became involved with Rotary?

Lawyer Lyle Carlstrom asked me and at the time I wasn’t sure what it was all about. I liked the idea of community service and networking. Maybe networking my young business was #1 priority at the time. But the longer I stayed the more I realized I received far more than just networking. And for that I stay.

5. Favourite movie of all time?

Naked Gun. Second fav: Naked Gun 2 ½. Guess what my third fav movie is?

6. Pet peeve?

Cigarette butt litter and profanity in inappropriate settings.

7. What’s your most embarrassing moment?

I always felt life is too short to be embarrassed, so nothing stands out. Giving it some thought though, I have had plenty of instances where my personal actions have created “learning experiences”. Like most of us, I try and learn from these lessons and not repeat them.

8. What’s your favourite TV show?

Since the kids were born we haven’t bothered with commercial television at home. We did get Netflix though and have watched The 70’s Show and really enjoyed The Crown.

9. Best thing about this year’s Rotary Dream Home?

That’s a loaded question as there are so many aspects that make it special. The staircase, the loft, the master bedroom. I would say the best thing about the 2017 Dream Home is the fact it’s built by an extraordinary builder who makes it seem easy to pull off a stunning home on time and on budget – Stonebuilt Homes and team. The sponsors are a huge help in that regard. I have a lot of pride in managing this project but the community, including Rotary members – is what makes it what it is today. OK, if I had to pick one thing – I love technology that enhances our lives. The thumb print pad to unlock the door, the garage doors that open via the cell phone, the security system I can watch on my Blackberry.

10. What’s the one thing you haven’t done that you would love to do?

I have been fortunate to travel a lot. You know those vacation ads of people swimming in crystal clear, warm ocean waters? I have yet to do that. It’s been a dream of mine to snorkel or scuba dive in a place like that.

11. Last book you couldn’t put down?

After watching The Crown I enjoyed a book on Queen Elizabeth II. My entire life I have lived in a country with one consistent leader. Amazing. And she is an inspiration. Someday soon we will lose her. And that will be very, very sad.

12. If we’re buying, you’re having…?

Well, Jan and I do not eat a lot of meat, but every now and then you just can’t beat a great steak. If you’re buying I’d ask to meet at The Keg.

13. Who was your childhood celebrity crush?

Nobody really jumps out at me to be honest.

14. Who would you love to dine with, dead or alive?

Johnny Carson. In my early days of broadcasting I studied him intensely. Not only was he an entertainer but also an astute business person, at one time responsible for 20% of the income of the NBC network. I admire how he handled his guests young and old, famous and “next door neighbour”. He understood the science of comedy and made it work for him and his audience. When he left the Tonight Show he did it “his way”, while he was still at the top. He faded out of the limelight and lived quietly in his retirement until his passing.

15. What is the best thing about the Grande Prairie area?

It’s certainly not the climate but GP has many attributes that make up for that. I think the business community is open to new ideas. It’s a nice size to raise a family. It takes minutes to cross town. After 25 years I also enjoy the connections I’ve made. If I need assistance or advice or direction I know where to turn.Rotary has been a big part of that.

16. What are you currently listening to on your iPod?

I power walk every day at Eastlink Centre and love it. I listen to Spotify on my Android Blackberry to be exact. ’70s and ’80s pop music.

17. What is your favourite sports team?

I don’t have much interest in team sports.

18. What do you do to relax?

Kindle. Coffee shops.

19. If you could go anywhere in the world on a holiday, where would you go?

I just went with Jan and my Ma to Ukraine – her heritage, that was very special. One place I’ve never been is Greece. See above for my dream of “crystal clear, warm waters”.

20. What are your words to live by?

I recently did a Ted Talk and included a quote from Ghandi. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”. By serving others you learn much about yourself. When you go to bed at night the knowledge you helped others, even after a bad day – allows you to close your eyes and smile.

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