We at FriesenPress are mourning our beloved author, Olga Kotelko, who passed away this Monday at 95-years-old. The Ukrainian immigrant-turned-Vancouverite and renowned athlete defied what the human body and mind can do. After a career as a teacher, Olga switched paths at age 77 to track and field athlete, a move that took her across the globe and into many record books.
With over 750 gold medals, Olga set out to accomplish her next goal: pen her memoir. She approached Roxanne Davies, author of Orchards, Crossroads and Dreams: A Ukrainian Memoir, to help her. Together, they completed Olga: The O.K. Way to a Happy, Healthy Life, the authoritative book of Olga’s story and coveted diet and exercise secrets (published by FriesenPress in April.)
“I thought she was just an old lady from church, maybe 70-years-old,” Roxanne said, “but, when I looked her up, I saw her everywhere online. She's like Cher, all you have to say is 'Olga.'”
Daunted by writing a book for someone as high-profile as Olga, Roxanne took cues from Olga's “go for it” attitude. The two set to work once a week to chat and write together - for two-and-a-half years.
Olga’s toughness was hardened through the years, once being dropped off a sleigh at seven-months-old, lying in the snow until the carriage returned from a mile away, working to the bone on the family farm, and leaving an abusive relationship at a time that was unheard of for a woman to do. She was always on the move. Whether at home or at the track, Olga led the enjoyable, active life she wanted for others.
“We fear for the children today because everything is so stationary,” said Roxanne, who is now promoting the book. “Olga would say, 'Just get out there and move.'”
“I know the book will go on and on and on,” Roxanne continued. “Her voice is there. Her attitude to life, and her philosophy, can be summed up in eight words: love, think, pray, work, move, eat, give, rest.”
Written by James R. Stewart