Zara Novikoff was a familiar sight in Sooke. She died Aug. 4 at the age of 94.

Zara lived through Russian and Nazi persecution to find a home in Sooke

Sooke lost a familiar local person Aug. 4 a few days after her 94th birthday.

Shirley Lowe


Sooke lost a familiar local person Aug. 4 a few days after her 94th birthday.

Zara Novikoff was still shopping and visiting all along the way.

Novikoff grew up in a Russian village near Kursk, famous for iron ore and agriculture.

Early in the Second World War her father, a Christian bishop, was hauled away forever by the Stalin army, leaving Zara, her mother and two sisters to fend for themselves.

The family’s food and animals were confiscated so they lived on a few frozen mushy potatoes left in the fields.

Zara was a teenager when German soldiers swept through the area and rounded up young, healthy people to work in camps. She was taken in a large truck with 32 others for a long trip to Germany.

The group was starving when a large can of Spam appeared. They had only a small jackknife for the difficult challenge of getting it open, then sliced evenly by Zara.

She never saw her family again and only got word to her mother once that she was still alive.

Zara’s destination was a Red Cross building near Munich, which was a layover for German soldiers.

There were American bombs dropping all around and she was put under guard in an upstairs locked room with another girl to peel “thousands” of potatoes.

The Germans were kind to them, but the women were still starving, eating only soup they made from potato peels.

Zara learned to speak German on her own.  After the war 19-year-old Zara was connected with a family at a parsonage in London, England as a domestic.

She did not speak a word of English and was expected to cook from an 18th century cookbook. She again taught herself the language with the help of a dictionary.  She loved dictionaries the rest of her life.

The next opportunity was an offer to train as a nurse in London – if suited after a 3 month trial.  Zara excelled and most of her marks were “excellent.”

She went on to train as a midwife and travelled by bicycle delivering babies in the suburbs for six months, with little time off.

Once each month, when possible, Zara would meet nurse friends for lunch in London. One day in 1960 they were near the Canadian Embassy when they noticed a billboard advertising for nurses in Canada. They were encouraged to apply.

With no knowledge of Canada they randomly pointed to a spot on the map which was St. Catharines, Ont. Their passage was prepaid to be paid back later.

Zara filled her commitments and later moved to Victoria where she worked till retiring at age 65.

In 1987, Zara proudly bought her first home and settled in Sooke. She enjoyed growing things, lived frugally but was very generous to her many causes.

Zara was very independent and still walked downtown for shopping until the last month of her life. She was grateful for the kindness in Sooke.


Shirley Lowe is a Sooke resident.


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