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08/11/2023 05:58 AM

Kateryna Derenko Berezowskyj

Our dear mother, Kateryna Derenko Berezowskyj, passed away on Aug. 5, at the age of 99 and a half years. She was born on March 2, 1924, in Drahomyrchany, Ukraine, to Vasyl and Anna Derenko.

In 1941, she was taken to Germany to work forced labor until the end of World War II. She met and married Wolodymyr Berezowskyj in a displaced person’s camp in Regensburg, Germany. In 1946, their first son was born, and they immigrated to the United States, arriving in New Orleans in 1949. The small family was sponsored to work on a cotton plantation in Tutwiler, Mississippi. For health reasons, the plantation owner put them on a train bound for Connecticut, and they arrived in Branford. In 1956, the Berezowskyjs were able to buy a small farm in Guilford, where they would raise their family. Kateryna remained on this family property until she passed away.

In addition to raising her children and running the daily operations of her family farm, she also worked outside the home. She worked in Branford at MIF (Malleable Iron Fittings), the Owenego Beach Club, and the Branford Motor Inn. She was also a 4-H Group Leader and taught home economics to 4-H girls. She was a lifetime member of the Guilford Agricultural Society. Kateryna was a member of St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church and of Sestrichi in Ukraine. She retired at the age of 65. During her retirement, Kateryna was involved daily with her grandchildren and often watched them so their parents could work. She shared and passed on Ukrainian traditions, culture, and language with her family, and for that we will be eternally grateful. It made her very proud to see her family members involved in Ukrainian school, Ukrainian dancing, and the Ukrainian Catholic church. She absolutely loved to entertain, and her house was always full of friends — no one ever left her house hungry. She was known for her cooking and baking skills and her fabulous desserts. Kateryna created beautiful Ukrainian cross-stitch and loved to knit. In her later years, she would knit scarves and give them out to her dear friends and family; if you knew her, it is a sure bet you had more than one “baba scarf!” When the war began in Ukraine, she created blue and yellow scarves to give out to the students in Ukrainian School (Ridna Shkola). She also sent scarves to Ukraine and gave out hundreds of them on the New Haven Green to the homeless population. Despite never having a driver’s license, Kateryna traveled and camped in over 40 states on cross-country trips with her family, including a trip to Disney in Florida and a trip following the Oregon Trail. Additionally, she loved Caribbean cruises.

Kateryna was the matriarch of her family and was the glue that held everyone together to celebrate their Ukrainian heritage. Family was the most important thing to her, and she lived for her children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and great-grandchildren. Each of them grew to know and appreciate the importance of family. Our mother was one of the strongest, bravest, and kindest people to grace the earth. She was robbed of her childhood because of World War II, but she made up for that with a long life well lived and a legacy that will live on forever. If you had the opportunity to meet “Baba” only once, she left an impression on your life and in your heart. She will be missed greatly by her earthly family, but our faith tells us that she will be reunited with her entire Ukrainian family, including her parents, whom she was forced to leave during the war and never saw again. We know she is dancing a kolomeyka with everyone in Heaven.

She is survived by her children, Stephanija Berezowskyj VanWilgen (retired NHPD) and her partner Darlene Gessert; Darka Berezowskyj Lindgren and her husband Hank Lindgren (retired GPD); Bohdan Berezowskyj and his wife Sally; Dr. Y. V. Murty and his wife Cathy; Lesia Altrui and her husband Chris; her niece Halyna Famigilietti and her husband Dominic; and her nephew Vasyl Derenko and his wife Maria in Ukraine. Kateryna had 13 grandchildren: David Smith and his wife Angela, Lesia and Walter Berezowskyj, William and Bohdan Disotell, Joseph Lawson, Aart VanWilgen IV (BPD) and his wife Erin, Aldis and Julia Berezowskyj, Ravi Murty and his wife Marianna, Sanjay Murty and his wife Erin, Stephanie and Tanya Altrui; and two great-nephews, Dominic Famiglietti and his wife Elizabeth and Nikolia Famiglietti. She is also survived by fifteen great-grandchildren and several great-nieces and nephews. She was predecreased by her husband, Wolodymyr Berezowskyj Sr.; her brother and sister, Mykolia and Maria Derenko (in Ukraine); her sons, Wolodymyr Jr. and Myroslaw Berezowskyj; and her granddaughter Julia Berezowskyj.

Calling hours will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 11, at the Guilford Funeral Home, 115 Church Street, in Guilford. Panacheda is at 7 p.m. Church services will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 12, at St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, 569 George Street, in New Haven. Burial will be at St. George Cemetery in Guilford. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to: St. Michael’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, 569 George Street, in New Haven, CT; or “Ridna Shkola” (Ukrainian School), 569 George Street, in New Haven, CT. 06511. To share a memory or leave condolences, visit