Sonia

From an early age, Sonia (as Sarah was always known) was a passionate idealist.

The oldest daughter, she arrived in Winnipeg with her brother Harry in 1914. Sonia secured a job as a sewing machine operator. She had learned to sew in Svatatroiske and could take a bolt of cloth, make a pattern and sew it from start to finish. She did not attend school and learned at home.

As a very young woman, she became a political activist, organizing a union for garment workers. Married in 1917 to Bernard (Baryl) Victor, an apprentice newspaper pressman, they became active in Maccabees, a group of young Zionists.

With their two small daughters, Rose and Judith, they moved to Watrous in 1922 to join Sonia’s brothers. When Baryl was offered a job as a pressman at the Vancouver Province newspaper in 1923, they moved to Vancouver, where their son Morris was born. They lived in The Hastings Apts. in the east end. Sonia became involved in the Jewish Socialist movement and the Arbeiter Ring. Sonia and Baryl were instrumental in founding the Sholem Aleichem School, the precursor to the Peretz School.

Sonia had astute business skills. In 1929, she bought a farm in White Rock. There she planted large gardens, made cheese, and in the tough years of the ’30s fed the entire Nemetz family every weekend.
Sonia befriended the Aboriginal people who lived nearby, trading clothes she had made, for their apples, blackberries and eggs. She also taught them new uses for many of the crops they raised.

Under Rabbi Pastinsky’s guidance, Sonia took food parcels to patients at Essondale Mental Hospital and to inmates at Oakalla Prison. Driving a car in 1926, she did volunteer work at tuberculosis clinics and started a lunch program at Charles Dickens school. In 1936, Sonia Victor became a founder of the Jewish Welfare Bureau, which later became Jewish Family Service Agency.

In the 1940s, Sonia bought a deli on Robson and Thurlow streets and began a career in catering. Sometimes 2,000 potato knishes were made in one day for banquets of 500 people. She developed packaged cake mixes and had a hot food take-out service for those living in rooming houses. Family seders, prepared with her sister Chava, included over a hundred people. In the 1950s, Sonia purchased a property in the West End of Vancouver and with her brother-in-law, Ben Dayson, built an apartment building on the site.

Never forgetting her labour idealism, Sonia was very active in the early years of the C.C.F. party in Canada (which later became the N.D.P.). She was a close friend of MP Grace McInnis, daughter of J.S. Woodsworth, the founder of the C.C.F party. Sonia also became a personal friend of Golda Myerson (Golda Meir), the future prime minister of Israel, who, sponsored by Pioneer Women, came to Vancouver and stayed at the Victor home.

Sonia’s daughter Judith married Ronnie Nacht and remained in Vancouver. Their daughter Toby Lee lives in Israel with her husband Michael Jacob as members of a kibbutz. Their daughters Yifat and Galia and their families live on a moshav nearby. Their son Elad and his family reside in British Columbia.

Rose married Len Narvey and moved to California. Their son, Trevor Paul (Tevia) who has special needs, grew up in an institution in British Columbia, and as an adult lives in a group home.

Morris (who changed his name to Maurice in 1940) became a pharmacist and plant manager for a pharmaceutical company, and lived in Windsor, Ontario, with his wife Lorraine. Their three children, Syril, Molly and Ruth, ten grandchildren and one great-grandchild live in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and South America

Sonia Victor died at the age of 64. As the funeral procession passed in front of the synagogue the doors were opened, a tradition normally reserved for very righteous or important people. Her funeral was attended by 800 as she was remembered as the kindest woman in the City of Vancouver. With most modest demeanour, she taught her children the obligation of community service to people of all races because, as she said, “That is what you do.”

Sonia (under her legal name Sarah) is buried in the family plot at the Schara Tzedeck cemetery in New Westminster, B.C. After she passed away, Baryl remarried twice but is buried next to Sonia.