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Monday, March 21, 2011

Thoughts on the death of Ottilia Chareka

Today I have to write one of the hardest articles I have ever been asked to write for the paper; it is on the death of Ottilia Chareka.

Just now reading her obituary makes my throat tighten and brings tears to my eyes. But I have never knowingly met Ottilia. We have been teachers at the same university campus, shopped in the same stores and walked the same streets but I did not know this amazing woman. This saddens me. It's a tangible pain in my chest; knowing that I will never get the chance to meet her.

Ottilia was murdered. She was killed in her home. The accused is her husband.

When I first heard this news I tried to link it to the struggle which I have recently sought to enlighten myself about; that of women, of feminism. My first reaction was to think that people are murdered everyday and it isn't because women and men are treated unequally. After reflecting on how I would summarize my thoughts into a digestible status update for Facebook I realized- This does relate to inequality between the sexes. How many men are murdered in their homes by their partners? It is the inequality that exists between men and women that lead some men to think they can physically harm and even kill women; for women are not their equals, not as valued, not as worthy of life and freedom from abuse.

How did this happen? How is it that female lives are not given the same value?

After reading more about Ottilia, my next question was-How did she let this happen? To that I already know the answer. Even the most powerful woman can feel powerless in an abusive relationship. With mouths to feed, a job, a life- you don't want to push the envelope and tear your own life apart just to be rid of what is bad in it. In our naivete, we never believe the people we love, or have loved, could possibly do us that most grievous harm; to take our lives, to leave our children motherless.

In asking this question I am not trying to blame the victim, I am trying to show that even the most brilliant among us cannot imagine the capability of human beings to do harm.

Ottilia is leaving behind five daughters ranging in age from 3 to 23, a body of work on social justice, and a path of perseverance and goodwill that is an example for us all.

St. FX University in Antigonish released a statement. See it here.

Ottilia was part of a short documentary called the Familiar Stranger by Antigonish native Cara Jones

A Memorial Fund for the Children of Ottilia Chareka has been established at the Bergengren Credit Union in Antigonish, account number 50623-112 and transit number 80143-839. For cheque writing purposes, this can be shortened to Children of Ottilia Chareka or Memorial Fund for Ottilia Chareka.

The Bergengren Credit Union can process donations as long as Ottilia's name is in the title.

Cheques can be sent to:

Faculty of Education,St. Francis Xavier University,PO Box 5000, Antigonish, NS B2G 2W5

or to

Minnie van de Wiel, Deposit Administration Clerk, Bergengren Credit Union, 257 Main Street Antigonish NS B2G 2C1.

Donations may also be made directly to the family:

Cheques can be made payable to Missy Chareka. Mail to: 135 College St., Antigonish, NS B2G 1X9

At this time when we are thinking about her death it is important for people to see her life and her work. Some of Ottilia Chareka's papers can be found at the following sites:

Teacher Education in Online Classrooms: An Inquiry into Instructors’ Lived Experiences


Let us walk the talk: Successes and struggles in implementing global education as a regular course at university level

Multicultural Education, Diversity, and Citizenship in Canada


  1. An extraordinary associate professor, mother, wife, daughter and powerful voice for equity whose life was cut short

  2. Thank you for this beautiful and insightful post. You said what I couldn't put into works. I would love to interview you for the documentary. Please email me