It seems fitting that I should learn of the passing of Wasyl "Nick The Ukrainian" Nikolajenko while serving in the army in Afghanistan, gleaning this sad information from a copy of North News placed in a care package.
Nick had a life that was marked by war. As a young man, he was in a "displaced persons" camp in Germany, so hungry his family would beg for food from prisoners of war.
When I met Nick back in 2008 and wrote about him I knew, instinctively, Nick had seen World War Two up close and personally, but it wasn't something he cared to talk about. He was far more interested in the neighborhood and an admirer of Council Member Don Samuels. Nick would sit on his front steps and greet people. From that porch, he witnessed the incredible changes that took place in the Hawthorne Eco Village.
Nick talked, jokingly, of death and how near it was for him.
He was jovial, unafraid to die. The main theme of one of our conversations was how awful it is that people should kill each other in the name of religion, how displeasing this must be to God.
And now I find myself in Afghanistan, and Nick's words echo in my ear.
Nick was good and wise and kind, and he will be missed. I express, here, a hope his house at 2951 Lyndale Ave. N. will fall into the hands of a good citizen and home owner; not become a crappy rental or face demolition, that Nick's home will become, in a sense, a living monument to this profoundly decent man who saw so much in his lifetime and was so kind to his dog.
(Do Not Click "Read More")