Family, friends, neighbours remember Anastasia Kuzyk
Memorial on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015 in Killaloe for Anastasia Kuzyk, one of three women slain on Sept. 22, 2015.
KILLALOE - Anastasia Kuzyk's sister wept while bagpipers played Amazing Grace as family, friends and neighbours gathered on Saturday to remember the young woman who was found dead in her Wilno home last month.
"She saw the good in everybody," said Amanda Rabishaw. "To end so tragically goes against the person she was."
Rabishaw, who competed at horse shows with Kuzyk when they were teenagers, drove to Killaloe from the Toronto area to attend the memorial for her friend, whom many described as a lover of nature and a friend to everyone.
The 36-year-old real estate agent was one of three Wilno-area women slain in their homes on Sept. 22.
Basil Borutski, who had been released from jail in December 2014 after serving 19 months for choking Kuzyk, faces three first-degree murder charges in connection with her death and the deaths of Nathalie Warmerdam, 48, and Carol Culleton, 66. Warmerdam had also been involved in an abusive relationship with Borutski while Culleton, who was found strangled at her Barry's Bay area cottage, knew him.
When Kuzyk kicked Borutski out of her Wilno-area home in January 2014, she later told police officers, "I thought he was honestly going to kill me. I could see the switch go off in his eyes."
The deaths have left the community reeling and many asking why the justice system didn't do a better job of protecting the women.
Borutski, who had been released from jail in December, had refused to sign a probation order to stay away from Kuzyk and not communicate with her, something many have called a red flag. Warmerdam had a buzzer connecting her to police in case of danger. It is not known whether she was wearing it on Sept. 22. Kuzyk did not have a buzzer.
On a table at the front of the packed Lion's Hall in Killaloe were pictures of Kuzyk as a child and as a young woman, along with trophies from her equestrian days. There was a prominent, recent picture of Kuzyk next to a horse with her words "More love is the answer " written underneath.
Next to Kuzyk's picture, a small sign from the family asked for donations in her memory be made to the local women's shelter and domestic violence committee. It was one of the few references to the circumstances surrounding her death, or to Borutski.
"We have lots of questions," said Kuzyk's mother, Sirpa, but she said they were not ready to talk about it.
"This is what you should know about Anastasia," she said, gesturing around the packed hall whose walls were lined with ribbons from riding competitions that her horse-crazy daughter had won, and pictures from her childhood. Hundreds of people crowded the community hall in the tiny town where friends shared stories and local musicians played. Many lined up to hug Sirpa Kuzyk.
A neighbour said Kuzyk's family was so devastated by her death that they closed their front gate and kept to themselves in the weeks immediately afterward. Members of the community kept them supplied with food.
On Saturday, Sirpa Kuzyk thanked neighbours and friends for their support and asked them to take home food from the memorial, saying they had been fed enough by their neighbours. Sirpa, who had moved to the area at her daughter's urging, said they were both convinced the region was "God's country."
Kuzyk, who had been a waitress at the Wilno Tavern and later became a real estate agent, had a lifelong love of animals and the outdoors, the gathering was told. She took long walks and runs along trails in the area with her dogs. A community trail ride is going to be held next weekend in her memory.
Nancy Checko said she met Kuzyk when she worked as a naturalist in Algonquin Park for four years, a dream job that suited the young woman. Kuzyk, she said, loved nature and had an ability to share her passion about birds with all age groups.
"She became our beloved Stasia. She was a friend to all," said Checko.
Friends who knew her through her love of horses said she was a skilled rider with a zest for life. As a teenager, Kuzyk lived with Sheila Cairns and her family, who ran a stable near Orono, to spend more time riding and competing.
When she arrived, she was shy, Cairns said. "But you put her on a horse and she was absolutely crazy. She was such a good rider."
Checko, who worked with Kuzyk in Algonquin Park and later retired to the Wilno area, told the crowd that she feels as if she watched Kuzyk grow up.
"To hear of her death under such tragic circumstances is difficult to process. Nothing will every dull the pain of this tragic loss. However, it may bring some comfort to know that in the short time that Anastasia was with us, she touched the hearts of many."
Numerous local musicians volunteered to play at the memorial, said organizer Genevieve Way, "to comfort us today. And your stories help us to remember this woman that we lost. That is what we are here for."