News Local

Remembering three women

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

PETAWAWA – A year ago, the Renfrew County community was torn asunder by an act of brutal violence which took the lives of three local women.

On Thursday, the memories of Anastasia Kuzyk, Nathalie Warmerdam and Carol Culleton were commemorated at a moving and heartrending memorial service held at the Renfrew County Women's Monument, located close to the Petawawa River on the Emerald Trail.

Under grey skies and with the roar of the river in the background, some 60 people – family, friends, and supporters – gathered at the monument site to reflect on the tragic loss of three vibrant and loving human beings, and how this has forever affected everyone who knew them.

In a combination of song, music, silent contemplation and prayer, those gathered held burning candles through much of the service, then later laid roses in front of photos of Kuzyk, Warmerdam and Culleton, where three candles burned. Three trees – a birch, a flowering crab apple and a mountain ash – were planted in the memorial park. Purple ribbons were tied around them, to be undone by relatives or friends of the three women to symbolize the replanting.

Julie Keon, a Life-Cycle celebrant who led the service, said in the weeks and months that have passed since that terrible day, they have all gone from shock and sadness to anger and frustration at the way things don’t seem to be changing when it comes to the issue of violence against women.

“Things will never be the same following that day a year ago,” she said, and despite popular mythology, one never does “get over” a loss such as this one.

“Grief does not have a finish line,” she said. “Anastasia, Nathalie and Carol will always be missed, and must never be forgotten.”

Pamela Cross, a well known feminist lawyer and legal director of Luke’s Place Support and Resource Centre in Durham Region, and a respected expert on violence against women and the law, spoke to the gathering. She said the aftermath of this incident, much like so many other cases of domestic violence, seems to work on the assumption the three women should have done something more to protect themselves, in essence being blamed for their own murders.

“We’re blamed if we stay, and we’re blamed if we go,” she said, “but there is no bad victim of male violence.”

Cross said this incident leaves them all with lots of work to do in preventing a recurrence of such a tragedy. Yet, she said she remains inspired by the strength of women, and by those who took the time to attend the memorial service.

Rri Povey, a Wilno businesswoman and friend of the community who knew Anastasia Kuzyk and knows her family, said she has been reflecting a lot on this first anniversary.

“It is such a big issue with humanity,” she said, referring to the circumstances which led to such violence. “About the hatred which lives within people’s hearts, which leads them to doing these things.”

Povey said the three women represent the tragedy of this situation. She said she is saddened to the core over the loss of the trio, and her heart goes out to the survivors.

JoAnne Brooks, executive director, Women’s Sexual Assault Centre of Renfrew County, said that all those who are suffering today know there are people who do care, and who are willing and able to work hard to make the world a better place.

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