Expressing pride and love of family through art
Who would have ever suspected a sixfoot two-inch, Manitoba-grown farmboy would one day develop a love of needlepoint and cross- stitch? My grandfather Bill Borschewski’s early days on the farm included planting vegetables, looking after siblings and tending to livestock.
He eventually moved north to Flin Flon to work in the copper and zinc mine and started a family of his own. He soon set his hands to a new task and focused on making his entrepreneurial dreams a reality, opening his own grocery store with the vision of a family-run business. In 1989, he passed the business along to his son, and went into semiretirement to further enjoy life as our “Papa.”
Papa has never been one to sit back and relax and in days gone by, you could easily find him hard at work in various locales, depending upon the season. During the summer months, he could be found out at the lake, more specifically, in his garden. Now this wasn’t just any garden—it was the envy of the neighborhood. He grew tomatoes, potatoes, beets, cabbage, beans, corn, dill, garlic, carrots and let’s not forget the rows upon rows of raspberries. Papa’s raspberry patch has quickly become legendary and his list of customers eagerly awaiting their delicious four-litre pail of berries gets longer with every passing year. Picking pails of raspberries has quickly become a family affair, even our chihuahua has joined in! In the fall, he would be found with his son, cutting and splitting firewood for the long, frigid northern winters. Once the cabin was winterized for the year, his curling and needlepoint began.
Over the years Papa has slowed down, more noticeably this past year. You can still find him in his garden in the summer; only now the garden is much smaller, and the orders of raspberries take twice as long to fill. He still enjoys gathering firewood with my dad but now mostly stacks it in the back of the truck. Curling has come to a standstill, teams now receive his cheers in place of his skipping strategies. Although the physically laborious activities have slowed, his needlepoint artistry is nimble and plentiful.
Needlepoint is a form of counted thread embroidery in which yarn is stitched through a stiff open-weave canvas. Most needlepoint designs completely cover the canvas. The roots of needlepoint go back thousands of years to the ancient Egyptians, who used small, slanted stitches to sew
up their canvas tents. The fine art of needlepoint was an unexpected transition from a lifetime of working with hands better suited for fixing tractors or steel rigging in the mine. One would never guess that this delicate, fine stitchery was the work of burly, over-sized hands. One by one, delicate flowers, exquisite angels and swaying wheat fields were brought to life on barren canvases.
In the spring of 2009, he gathered all his pictures and put them on display at our local Ukrainian Orthodox church for the community to see. With a total of 12 stunningly framed pictures to showcase, the crowds were awed by the intricacy and beauty of his artistry, which has forever left a mark on our community.
Each of his needlepoints tell a story and represent his proudest accomplishments—his family. Papa has two daughters, a son, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. When he began needlepoint, 15 years ago, he carefully handpicked and matched each and every pattern to its eventual inheritor. He now has 24 pieces, matted and framed, more than enough to give one to everyone. His exquisite creations, everything from angels and brides to familiar rolling landscapes, can be found proudly displayed in family members’ homes from Manitoba to British Columbia.
If you’re looking for Papa these days, you don’t have to look very far. He’s at home, in the back bedroom, working tirelessly on his needlepoint. Just follow the thunderous Ukrainian music and you will find him seated in front of his canvas with a look of pure enjoyment. At the age of 87, he was recently diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes. Other than having to undergo surgery on his eyes, he is in excellent health.
As the last stitch slips gently into his latest work of art, “White Lace,” he casts an eager eye to the loom on his left. There, his next inspiration, “Angel of Healing,” patiently awaits his needle and thread. When all is said and done, his love of family and his pride in his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will forever be reflected in his lovingly created art. n
Clockwise from above: “English Gardens” fills the room with brilliant blooms all year; “August Harvest” brings back fond memories of Papa’s time on the farm; “Angel of Healing“is the most recent piece to grace Papa’s loom; “Angel of Hope” is one of his...