Pitkin, Ludmilla Julia Sztimar 84 05/01/1926 05/09/2010 Ludmilla Julia Sztimar Pitkin,
a resident of Portland, died May 9, 2010, in Portland.
She was 84 years of age. Ludmilla was born May 1, 1926, in Gdansk (now Danzig), Poland, a free city on the Baltic Sea, and was the daughter of Neonneil and Anastasia (Kardowksi) Sztimar. She was raised in Russia, near the Black Sea in Crimea, where she attended Catholic school until she fell ill and was tutored from her home.
At age 16, during World War II, Ludmilla and her grandmother were taken prisoner by the German military as they were trying to escape to Odessa across the frozen Black Sea. They were transported by boxcar to a central German work camp near Weimar where she was used as slave labor for the German war machine. Her grandmother, the only living relative with her, did not survive the train trip. After three years of slavery, she became politically active, joining the resistance, and was arrested for sabotage. She was sent to the concentration camp in Buchenwald where she barely escaped execution. With the advancing Allied forces in 1945, the Waffen SS slated the Russian contingent and other groups for extermination. By storming the main gate, a small number survived and escaped into the forest and rural farmland. Ludmilla broke her leg, but she continued to flee till "her lungs burned like fire."
Along the way, a kindly German farm family aided her as she found her way through the battle lines to Belgium to freedom. After reaching Belgium, Ludmilla stayed at a nunnery and worked at their restaurant in Ath, between Lille and Brussels. At a USO dance, she met a young U.S. Army sergeant, Charles William Pitkin Jr. Charles fell in love with Ludmilla's charm, charisma and intelligence. They were originally married in Belgium, prior to his deployment to Ulm, Germany, joining a phalanx of Patton's command supporting the Austrian Front. Ludmilla followed by hitching rides and stowing away with Charles' company. In Ulm they were able to gain baptismal records and identity papers from a generous priest establishing her legitimacy of citizenship in Poland. While in Ulm, the war ended and Charles was redeployed to the Pacific theater, leaving Ludmilla behind, with a child on the way. It was difficult for war brides to gain access to the U.S. after the armistice. Charles' mother, Lucille, wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt, and his father, William Sr., persuaded his lawyer, Wayne Morris, newly elected to the Senate, to intervene and facilitate immigration. The war in the Pacific ended before Charles could be deployed and he was released from duty.
Ludmilla arrived in New York via Ellis Island in early September 1946 and they were reunited. On Sept. 30, 1946, they were ceremonially remarried in Coburg, surrounded by her new family and friends. Their first son, Orleonok Pitkin, was born Oct. 29, 1946. Ludmilla resided in Coburg (near Eugene) for nine years, giving birth to Russell July 9, 1949, and Natalie on Aug. 20, 1952. The family moved to East County in 1955 and she resided in the Centennial area for 54 years. Ludmilla worked for Discount Fabrics as a fabric consultant for 19 years and later had her own private seamstress business.
She retired in 1984, along with her husband. They celebrated their new retired lives with travel including trips to Mexico, the Bahamas, China and Ecuador to visit the Galapagos Islands. She was a lifelong member of Greenpeace and held a special place for animals and nature. While fortunate to have traveled the world, she was always glad and felt lucky returning to Oregon and the Northwest, "the most beautiful place in the world." She was a member of St. Anne Catholic Church in Portland for many years and also belonged to St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church in recent years.
Her greatest love however, was spending time with her family. She simply adored her grandchildren and made a point to attend every event they were involved in. The great-grandchildren were icing on the cake. Lu dmilla is survived by her sons, Orleonok (wife, Yolanda Baca) Pitkin of Portland and Russell (wife, Mary) Pitkin; daughter, Natalie Pitkin-Maizels (husband, Steve Maizels) also of Portland; six grandchildren; four step-grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; and two step-great-grandchildren. Ludmilla lost all her family members during the war. Her husband, Charles, preceded her in death in 2008. A funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, May 14, 2010, in Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, Portland. Recitation of the rosary will be at 9:30 a.m., just prior to Mass, also in the church. Visitation will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, May 13, 2010, in Bateman Carroll Funeral Home, Gresham. Interment will be in Willamette National Cemetery. Contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society.