The city of Belleville and Belleville Public Library have paid tribute to a 100-year-old volunteer, and the local Polish Club has added its congratulations.
Barbara Lenk drove herself to her last shift at the Friends of the Library bookstore in Belleville Public Library recently, then celebrated her 100th birthday.
That wrapped up years of volunteering at the book store, since the new library opened in 2006.
Add to that 35 years volunteering at Belleville General Hospital, where she pushed the book cart around to patients.
Lenk came to Canada from Poland years after her family was evacuated by the British during the German invasion of her country in WWII.
Her father, Sygmunt Skowronski, was a government employee in Warsaw and was ordered to evacuate when the British evacuated the Polish government, as the Germans invade Poland in September of 1939.
Twenty-one year-old Barbara Skowronski saw bombs dropping on the highway during that escape. “There were towns in flames.”
They made their way to Romania, then as refugees they were moved by the British a number of times, ending up in Rhodesia, now Zambia , but then a British protectorate.
Lenk tells Quinte News, “We had it fairly well since my father was a government employee, helped by the British, compared to other refugees. They had a terrible time.”
She worked as a nursing assistant in hospital in Rhodesia, where she met and married her husband Czeslaw Lenk.
She and her husband Dr. Lenk made their way to England but found he would have to take more training to practice medicine.
The Lenks then travelled to Canada early in the 1950s, first to Saskatchewan, then after extra studies Dr. Lenk came to Belleville where he was the Hastings County Medical Officer of Health, and Barbara Lenk took up volunteering.
The Polish Club honoured Lenk, with a painting by Susan Moshynski, depicting her volunteer work throughout the city.
Lenk says she enjoyed her years of volunteering, at BGH and the library, since she is an avid reader and loves the chance to work with books.
In fact, she says she learned English by reading English literature, and to this day reads two English language books at a time.
When asked by Quinte News if she has some advice for other retired people, she says “Get busy! Get busy!”