Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Valentina Kompaniec Barsom' Feb. 6, 1938 - July 16, 2018 Former Chatham Professor Survived German Camps as a Child

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Valentina Kompaniec Barsom' Feb. 6, 1938 - July 16, 2018 Former Chatham Professor Survived German Camps as a Child

Article excerpt

The end of Valentina Kompaniec Barsom's 10-week battle with pancreatic cancer was near, but her spirits couldn't be drained so much as to keep her from admiring the flower garden she planted in her backyard.

According to her husband, John Barsom - who wheeled Mrs. Barsom to her garden when she was too ill to walk - it was a staple of her character to appreciate the little things, even in the worst of times.

Mrs. Barsom died Monday at her Squirrel Hill home from pancreatic cancer. She was 80 years old.

An educator, family member, immigrant, traveler and devout Russian Orthodox Catholic, many of those close to Mrs. Barsom remember her as someone who put her all into everything she did.

Mrs. Barsom was born in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, on Feb. 6, 1938. After being placed in a German forced labor camp and then a displaced persons camp toward the end of World War II, she eventually immigrated to the United States with her parents and grandmother at the age of 14.

Carrying experiences of war and relocating to a country where she barely spoke the language didn't seem to deter her success.

In 1957, she graduated valedictorian of her class at McKees Rocks High School and accepted a full scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh. There, she received bachelor's degrees in French and German, master's in comparative French and Russian literature, and doctoral degrees in Russian and literature.

Eventually, Mrs. Barsom achieved fluency in seven languages: Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, Serbian, German, French and English. She went on to spend the bulk of her career at Chatham College, retiring at age 55 after teaching Russian from 1969 to 1993.

"Her experience as a refugee, with all the suffering she and her family went through, just made her understand and appreciate things more than anybody can imagine," Mr. Barsom said.

Kathy Brahan, the couple's daughter, said her mother was someone who lived for learning and teaching others, whether she was reading a book or traveling the world. …

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