Markian Orest Wizniak (1945-2021) was born to parents fleeing Ukraine during the extreme horrors of WWII. They lived in Galicia on the San River, otherwise known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact boundary where Hitler invaded from the east and Stalin from the west. On a spur of the moment opportunity, they fled with little more than the clothes on their back, securing a space on the last train heading west into central Poland. They literally walked the rest of the way to U.S. Occupied Germany, with the towering flames of the once intellectual cities of Europe lighting their nightly journeys like bonfires for the gods from Allied bombings. Markian’s mother, Anna Wizniak, never saw anyone in her family again. His father, Petro Wizniak, and Petro’s brother, Stefan Wizniak, were the only ones of seven siblings that made it out and eventually across the ocean to a new land of opportunity.
They spent the next few years in a refugee camp in occupied Germany and areas around Bamberg/Landshut, scraping together a living however they could. Years later, they were extremely fortunate to be sponsored by the Mykyta family, who were living near Philadelphia. When they entered the United States in the 1950's, Markian spoke Ukrainian and German, but no English. They lived in the Ukrainian section of Chester-Philadelphia and belonged to a relatively small but tight-knit group from the old country that shared a common past. It was centered around the Holy Ghost Ukrainian Catholic Church; family and community meant everything. This is the world Markian was brought into and it is key to understanding how he approached his later life.
It is difficult for most younger generations to imagine the challenges of working to transition into a new world as a child without any understanding of the culture and language. This is relevant for understanding why his family and the Ukrainian community meant so much to Mark. It also makes for an exceptional tale of accomplishment for his family that he overcame such challenges to earn a Masters Degree in Engineering. He was a graduate of Case Western Reserve University, Pennsylvania Military College/Widener University, St. James Catholic High School, and Holy Ghost Catholic School.
Mark was known by those who loved him as a very strong, tough man, but he was also humorous, loving, and generous toward those in his community. He was always toughest on himself. He also cared so much about those around him that he challenged them to gain the most out of what life offered, just as he and his sister did, and their parents before them. However, even with his strength, he couldn’t overcome his most recent ailments. Mark passed away in the late evening of February 28th, 2021, at St. Mary’s Hospital in Reno, Nevada, where he had decided to retire several years earlier due to its proximity to wilderness and outdoor activities.
Mark’s legacy can be found in those things he was passionate about. His first true passion was his family. He is survived by his sons Matthew Wizniak and Michael Wizniak (daughter-in-law Megan Wizniak), grandsons Mercury Wizniak and Maige Wizniak, sister Luba Ionescu and her two sons Mark Ionescu and Michael Ionescu, and an extended family of cousins on the East Coast. His family was larger than blood though.
Mark’s second true passion was for the Ukrainian community in the Philadelphia area that he also considered family; from the “aunts” and “uncles” that helped raise him to his childhood friends he kept close ties with his whole life. That community shared a common hardship from the old world and supported him and his family while he was here on Earth (and even now still that he has moved on). In turn, he cared for and supported them back as a sacred obligation and worked tirelessly to instill this dedication to family in his own children.
Mark’s last true passion was that of nature. Perhaps due to its innocence against the harsh backdrop of humanity he witnessed in life, he found solace in nature. His ideal vacation typically involved the challenge of hiking up a wild mountain range or skiing down another. In retirement, he joined the Order of Elks and traveled their network of locations to explore the natural beauty of this country. When it came to family vacations that were not dedicated to spending time with his East Coast family, it included amazing road trips, national parks, skiing, and camping. Even when he took his family on several trips to Disney World to experience some of their fondest memories, he did so by camping at Disney’s Fort Wilderness. For the rest of their lives, his boys will experience every road trip, national/state park, or Disney theme park, with ineffable nostalgia and gratitude.
There will be a short service at the Holy Myrrh-Bearers Ukrainian Catholic Church on Tuesday, March 16 at 10:30am. However, given the safety concerns for public gatherings during the pandemic, the family will schedule full services and a reception in Mark's honor at a later date. They understand how much his community meant to him and are dedicated to hosting a full celebration of his life “back East” later in the year when it is practical and safe to do so. There is nothing more that Mark would cherish than to see all of his family and friends back in Philly celebrating a life well lived together.
Invitations for this celebration will be sent out to Mark’s family and Ukrainian community at a later date. If you would like to be notified of this final celebration in his honor, please contact his son, Michael Wizniak, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Holy Myrrh Bearers Church at 900 Fairview Road, Swarthmore, PA 19081, 610-544-1215, or to The Ukrainian Museum at 222 East 6th Street, New York, NY 10003, 212-228-0110."