There is a particular generosity that took shape inside those walls.
The Train Station in Kennedy was a place where journeys would begin and end, as the lives of people who rode the ‘Peanut Line’ were woven together to create a community.
For me, it was a place for ‘make believe’.
As a child, I was free to roam the rooms where traces of countless stories still lingered, hidden in the silence.
It was there that I learned how to listen through the silence, and hear those stories.
But for Stella Rupert (my grandmother) the Train Station in Kennedy, SK was only one of the places that she had learned to call “home”.
Stella was born Stefonia Walczak.
She grew up in a village in Poland whose name she could say, but was never quite sure how to spell.
Stella often found this English language that I gibbered about in with such ease, to be somewhat inadequate.
Perhaps that is why she spoke tiny things, sharing only snippets of memory, when I begged her to tell me what her life had been like in Poland.
She said that she “didn’t remember so well” what her first home had been like.
Several times she tried to describe her mother and father to me, only to stop and shake her head sadly.
“They were ‘mama’ and ‘papa. I loved them. That is who they were.”
During the vicious necessities and commonplace brutalities that we call “World War I” Stella was a teenager.
I will never know what she witnessed, or what losses she bore.
There was only one memory about the ‘Great War’ that she was willing to tell me.
“One day, Russian soldiers went past our village.
They were walking, two by two, down the road.
I remember they didn’t march, only walking.
They were going two by two, to the Front.
How could they march?
I stood beside the road with my sister and watched them walk.
One soldier looked up, at me, and stopped.
He looked surprised, he looked like I shouldn’t to be there.
He fell down, and made himself get up on his knees in front of me.
Then he talked to me. I could mostly understand.
Russian is different to Polish, but not so different.
He told me that I look just like his daughter, back in Russia.
He told me he was afraid that he would not live to see her again.
He asked me, to pray for him.
I promised I would.
So, I do.”
For Stella, it made no difference that she never learned his name, and never knew whether he was able to see his daughter again.
As long as the memory of that moment remained with her, she kept her promise.
After the war, my grandmother said that she had nothing to stay in Poland for.
But she had family living in Canada.
One morning, she walked through that old door, and began her journey to Canada.
My grandmother had very little to say about the trip.
When I asked her what it was like, she would only turn up her nose and shake her head.
(My grandmother always preferred being somewhere, to getting there.)
But she did tell me about the day that the boat she was a passenger on pulled into Halifax harbor.
It was a clear day, one of those days where the horizon that divided sea and sky seemed lighter, easier to move into.
She had gone to get the steamer trunk that she’d brought with her.
It had looked so sturdy and reliable that she had put all of her “best things” into it.
But when she opened it (to look for a special scarf that she wanted to have on her head when she walked into her new country) she found the trunk had not been worthy of her trust.
Seawater had gotten into it and ruined everything.
After a moment or two, she dragged the trunk up onto the deck and over to the side of the ship.
Then she heaved the trunk over the railing, and watched it sink into Halifax harbor.
After she told me that story, my grandmother looked at me and smiled.
“Do you know what happened then child?”
“No Grandma. What happened?”
“A man came to me. He had a big, long list of all of the names of the people on the boat. He told me that my last name was, ok.
But he said that my first name was not right.
Then he showed me a list of new names, all names that started with an ‘S’.
He told me to pick a new name.
So, I did. I picked ‘Stella’.
Since then, my name is Stella.”
“But Grandma, weren’t you mad when they told you that you couldn’t still be Stefonia? That’s such a pretty name!”
My grandmother laughed and shook her head.
“No child. What good would it do to be mad?
Besides, I had a new country.
Now I had a new name.”
This young woman who had named herself ‘Stella’ would go on to travel by train to Brandon, where her brother would be there to meet her.
In 1926 she would change her name again, when she married my grandfather Martin Rupert, and joined her name to his.
Martin and Stella Rupert would go on to farm east of Kennedy, SK.
When they retired, they invited their daughter Marion and her young husband Allen Schwalm (my parents) to come and make their home on the farm.
My grandparents moved into Kennedy, into the old Train Station.
Not long after that, I was born.
There were many other stories that my grandmother told me.
Those stories became part of who I’ve always tried to be.
But it was one of the last things that she ever said to me, that I still hear, in those moments when it seems as though something has ended.
“Don’t worry child.
If something isn’t right anymore, just put it down and look.
There’ll be something new there, you’ll see.
Just take that new thing, and begin.”

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