Krystyna Pietryzkowski discovered early in life that caring for others and working with the handicapped was her calling. As a young child in Poland, she cared for her mentally disabled mother. Then, while at university studying Library Science, Krystyna lived in a specially designed residence for the handicapped. Her roommate was a woman who was studying for the same degree. The work was voluntary and Krystyna says her reward was to see that woman obtain her degree after four years. Upon graduation, Krystyna applied to move to Canada and spent two years working as a palliative caregiver while she waited for her application to be approved.
With her Masters degree in Library Science, Krystyna worked as a school librarian and teacher in Poland. When she moved to Canada, she worked for a time as the head Librarian at the Beaverlodge Public Library. Krystyna’s love of people was the deciding factor in her decision to return to the field of rehabilitation, and she has found the work very rewarding.
Education has been a large part of Krystyna’s experience. She completed four years of Psychology at the regional college so that she could expand her knowledge base as a rehabilitation worker. In addition to her studies, Krystyna has devoted her time and expertise to local committees such as the Peace Area Settlement Services for Immigrants and the Grande Prairie Multicultural Association. While living in Beaverlodge, Krystyna ran a language school for children who wanted to learn Polish.
Krystyna says that there are some aspects of group home life that cannot ever be ideal. The clients do not choose their roommates and, in some cases, they are not compatible. Also, ideally, a one to one ratio of workers and clients would be the best situation.
Krystyna says working with Kenneth Goy was a highlight for her. She has good memories of playing soccer with him and telling him “wait for the old lady” because he would run so fast she could not keep up with him. He was always kidding her and joking, trying to be funny. She finds it difficult now when she visits with him because even though his sense of humour is there, it is hard for her to understand him.
Particularly difficult for Krystyna was to work in the children’s group home and watch the young ones go through illness. She says it’s depressing sometimes and it’s easy to get discouraged. Because of her childhood experience, she knows that she is resilient, but she also knows that burn out is always a possibility.
Burn out could be the issue because it is a highly mentally and physically demanding job. Those five years at the children’s group home I found very challenging. Very rewarding, those kids are very lovely to be around but problems with the illness sometimes makes you sad and think about how precious life is.
With all the experience Krystyna brings to her work, she is able to offer some words of advice to young people who may be considering a career with the handicapped. “Make sure that the work is suited to you. Visit the group homes and volunteer before you commit, so that you have a better idea of what the demands of the job will be.”