On December 31 as many partygoers will be preparing to ring in the new year, Polly Siminoff of Canora will be celebrating her 100th birthday.
Siminoff was born in Canora on December 31, 1919 to Mary Bonderff and George Zeeben, who were each of Doukhobor heritage and came to Canada from Russia as children. They only spoke Russian at the time and learned English much latter in life.
Siminoff had five siblings: Mary, Lucille, Mabel, Michael and John. They all spent plenty of time with people from different backgrounds, including Russian, Ukrainian and English, so they learned English fluently as youngsters.
Siminoff started school when she was five years old at a cottage school in Canora, which was similar to an old-style house. She then attended “the big school” for Grade 1.
The Siminoff family moved out of Canora in 1927 to a farm just north of Amsterdam. Polly continued her schooling at a country school just a mile from home. The children walked to school in nice weather and during winter their father took them by sleigh and horses.
Siminoff graduated from Grade 8 in 1936 and then helped at home and around the farm. She learned to milk cows, garden, and worked in the fields helping with haying. The family was very poor, but hardworking and as the years went on they accumulated more animals.
In 1942 Siminoff moved to Winnipeg and worked for Jewish families for two years, doing the housework and looking after the children.
She moved back to Canora and worked as a clerk at a hardware/grocery store. Hancheroff”s grocery store was owned by Walter Hancheroff, and it was there she met her future husband Nick Siminoff in 1944, as he regularly visited the store to purchase supplies.
Nick enlisted in the army, but was rejected due to medical reasons.
The couple was married on October 1, 1944 and had four children: Linda, Larry, Phil and Myra. Grandchildren are Lani and Alden (Larry’s children), and Alisha and Dana (Phil’s children).
Lani has two children: Beau, 4, and Esté, 2, Polly’s only great-grandchildren.
Nick and Polly purchased the family farm in 1946. He delivered gas for a company for a year or two before getting into farming on a full-time basis.
“The early years were tough,” said Lani. “They had a big garden and produced their own meat. There was always work to be done. In addition to farming, Nick did all his own mechanical work.”
The family had no running water or power until the mid 60’s.
Polly said things got a lot easier in 1963 when they got power. At that point she was able to have a fridge, a stove and a washing machine.
When the school bus started running and picked up the children and brought them home it was a huge help.
In 1983 Nick and Polly purchased a home in Canora, where she lives to this day.
Nick passed away in 2013 and still lived in the house there until shortly before his death.
Polly remains quite active. She continues to enjoy gardening, as well as making borsch and perogies.
“She loves watching the Roughriders and Blue Jays,” said Lani. “She enjoys reading and gets herself out of the house to go on short walks down the block. She likes to catch up with friends on the phone, but doesn’t go out much because she doesn’t want to ask someone and burden them with the trouble.”
As her 100th birthday approaches, she is taking life one day at a time
“Some days are good and some are not so good,” said Lani. “She is not promising her grandson that she will be able to make the trip to Regina for his wedding in June, but said “she’ll try.” She gets up every day and is just grateful her body is still working and that nobody tells her what to do.”
She still does all of her own cooking, laundry and household cleaning. She still puts in a garden every year with some help from her son, Phil and daughter Myra. Phil helps a lot with the yard work, but in winter Polly is regularly outside shovelling snow to at least keep the walkway and steps cleared. The health nurse visits her once per month, but she does not receive home care as she remains independent.
Siminoff is grateful to have lived a long and full life.
“She’s thankful nothing horrible has affected her health and that her children were healthy as children and while growing up,” said Lani. “She feels so lucky that no one in her immediate family has had any huge health issues.”
Siminoff has always been a hard worker and never complains, added Lani. Her secret to a long life is to “never feel sorry for yourself. Bad things happen to everyone, you just have to let it go and move on.”
She said Canora has changed a great deal, and is much more multicultural than when she was growing up. Unfortunately many of her old school friends have since passed away. She said there used to be many more businesses in Canora, but now there are not as many options.
Siminoff has mourned the loss of her parents, siblings Mary and Lucy, her husband Nick and son Larry in 2013, along with many other friends and relatives.
She regularly gets together with her sister Mabel and her brother John, who live in Yorkton, and brother Mike (who lives in Canora).
The family got together for a special family gathering during the summer to celebrate Polly’s upcoming 100th birthday, as well of the birthday of her kid brother Mike, who turned 90 on July 11.