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Milestone marks life of faith


Family and faith have always come first for Polish immigrant Paraskewia (Para) Lanica and that was obvious when the long-time Croydon Park parishioner celebrated her 100th birthday on January 14.

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The celebrations began on Friday January 13 when she enjoyed lunch with close friends including two Sisters at Calvary Flora McDonald Aged Care where she now resides. The next day she celebrated with family and friends, including Fr Stanislaw Lipski who she has known for more than 40 years.

Fr Michael Skiba gives Para a blessing at Mass in the Church of Resurrection

On the Sunday, her strong ties to the Polish Catholic Community were evident when she attended Mass at the Church of Resurrection, Unley, and received a special blessing from Fr Michael Skiba. Croydon Park parishioners presented her with flowers and a card.

Para’s daughter, Helena, said it was a big weekend for the still sprightly centenarian and it reflected the integral role that her Catholic faith had played in her upbringing and throughout her life.

Born in the village of Rakowiec, Poland (now Rakovets, Ukraine), Para is the oldest of five children and the only surviving member of the family.

She left school, which she loved, in Grade 6 to help look after her younger siblings and to work as a nanny and cleaner for a local family.

During World War II, in 1942 at the age of 19, she was forcibly taken from her village to Germany for forced labour and experienced “war, fear, hard work, hunger and friendships”, said Helena.

She hoped and prayed for the day she could return home to her family. Little did she know that would not happen until four decades later when she was reunited with her mother and two younger sisters, but only for one day because they were living under Communist rule in Ukraine.

At the end of the war Para spent time in a displaced persons camp, where she met a young Polish man named Zygmunt Lanica. The couple married on June 10 1946 and welcomed their first child, Helena, in 1947.  During this time they formed a strong friendship with Zygmunt and Stanislawa Pawlak that lasted a lifetime.

Para with Fr Stanislaw Lipski

The Lanica family decided to start a new life in Australia, departing from Naples, Italy, on the US ship General R L Howze and arriving in Melbourne on March 27 1950.

Para and Helena were transferred to Bonegilla Migrant Camp in Victoria and Zygmunt was transferred to the Railway Camp at Islington, South Australia, where he had secured a job. He remained in the same employment until his retirement.

The family was soon reunited and lived at Croydon Park, initially with their good friends the Pawlak family in a caravan, then in the Pawlak’s new house while building their own place in the same suburb. This home remained Para’s pride and joy even after her husband passed away in 2010.

“She enjoyed her garden, feeding birds and walking her dog every day,” said Helena.

To support the family income, in the mid-1950s Para went to work at Simpson Pope at Dudley Park, then in the late 1950s she was employed as a housekeeper at the Grosvenor Hotel on North Terrace.

The family was actively involved in the Croydon parish where visiting Polish priests
Fr Kuczmanski and Fr Rutkowski catered for the spiritual needs of the Polish migrants.

Helena attended St Margaret Mary’s School where Para volunteered at the tuck shop and she was also on the cleaning roster for the church.

Para with friends at Flora McDonald Aged Care.

Parish priest Fr Michael Murphy became a friend of the family and soon had Zygmunt volunteering during the construction of the new church in the late 60s.

In January 1960 the family welcomed the birth of their son John who also attended St Margaret Mary’s and later Christian Brothers College.

Para was a member of the Polish Rosary Group who had regular prayer meets and took part in religious events such as the Marian Procession. She continues to say the Rosary daily.

After Zygmunt’s retirement the couple would attend Friday midday Mass at St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, followed by lunch and shopping at the Central Market.  Para continued the tradition after her Zygmunt’s death and Helena said it always brought her “great joy”.

Para became a grandmother to Danielle in 1993 and to Alexandra in 1995. Last year she became a great grandmother to Mackenzie.

Helena described her mum as a “loving and dedicated mother who worked hard to give her children every opportunity for a happy and successful future”.

“Her strength comes from her faith and the love for her family,” she said.

“She always placed her family and religion first. Her children and grandchildren will always cherish her and be grateful for her guidance and support.”


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