Alexander Wyznowski had no one else to turn to. The 79-year-old’s wheelchair was stolen right off his front porch. A temporary one was loaned to him, but his time was running out, and he didn’t qualify for assistance from several aid agencies. He was distraught and felt like a prisoner.
Then the Knights from St. John Bosco Council 10986 in Edmonton, Alberta, stepped in, purchasing a wheelchair from the Canadian Wheelchair Foundation for Wyznowski.
“Alexander had run out of options and didn't know where to turn,” said Stephen McConnell, grand knight of the council. “Many aid agencies had turned him down for providing a wheelchair until his homecare agency reached out to the Knights. My council was grateful for the opportunity to step in and help him.”
Getting the wheelchair to Alexander had its own challenges due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic because he lives at McCauley Lodge, an assisted living home, in Edmonton.
“Upon arriving, I had very specific cleaning instructions for both myself and the chair, as well as a forehead temperature check and a sanitization station to go through before I could enter to meet with Alexander or deliver the wheelchair,” McConnell said. “Once passing the checks and going through all the required precautionary measures, the center allowed me to meet with him —outside — and deliver the wheelchair.”
“This shows that the Knights can be relied on to support our neighbors, especially the most vulnerable, even in the midst of a viral pandemic,” he added.
Wyznowski has had several obstacles in his life since the very beginning. During the World War II, his father served in the Ukrainian army. Later both Wyznowski’s father and mother were arrested by the Nazis and forced to work in a labor camp in Hamburg. Alexander was born there in the camp. A few years after the family was liberated at the end of the war, they decided to emigrate to Canada.
As an adult, Wyznowski worked as a coal miner, but struggled with alcoholism. In one instance, he fell asleep out in the cold, which caused severe frostbite and gangrene in his legs. Doctors managed to save both legs, but his toes were amputated.
But when McConnell presented Wyznowski the wheelchair, his life seemed to come “full circle.” Wyznowski formerly volunteered with the Knights of Columbus on weekends in the late 1970s. And now, the wheelchair from the Knights had, he said, “given me hope that God still cares about me.”
Since 2009, the Knights of Columbus has partnered with the American Wheelchair Mission and Canadian Wheelchair Foundation, under the umbrella of the Global Wheelchair Mission to provide the gift of mobility.
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Originally published in a special bi-weekly edition of Knightline, a resource for K of C leaders and members. To access Knightline’s monthly archives, click here.