Local Catholic Helena Kosciuch Bujak, a Nazi labor camp survivor, reached the century mark earlier this year. An active and longtime member of St. Stanislaus Parish in North Portland, Helena continues to attend Mass at the church she cherishes. 

Born in Zloczow near Lwów, Poland, Feb. 5, 1921, to Jan and Maria, Helena had two sisters, Olga and Irena. She worked on a farm until 1939, when German and Russian troops invaded and divided the country. Lwów was placed under Russian control. Then in 1941 the Germans invaded Russia, and Helena was sent to a labor camp in Germany.

After World War II, in 1948, she married Jan Bujak, a Polish carpenter, in Heilbronn, Germany. That same year the couple welcomed their first daughter, Krystyna.

The Bujaks immigrated to the United States Oct. 11, 1951, with 3-year-old Krystyna and purchased a house in Portland the following year. The young family soon found their spiritual home at St. Stanislaus Parish and had their second daughter, Genevieve, in 1952.

For more than 20 years, Helena was employed by Melvin Mark Properties cleaning offices in downtown Portland. She later worked at Walter E. Nelson Company, an equipment manufacturing business.

Always eager to volunteer, Helena assisted at church functions, with local Polish Library Association events and the Polish Festival. Even the pandemic did not deter her from attending the church she loves. Parish staff say she delights in visiting with fellow parishioners after Mass.

Helena has two grandchildren, Aaron and Janice, and two great-grandchildren, Devon and Lauren. She’s maintained a large garden and has shared her abundant produce with others.

At 100, she is still cooking and baking the most popular Polish dishes for friends. Her favorite dish to make — and eat — is potato pancakes with applesauce.