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Mother, grandmother, teacher, mentor, artist, gardener, perpetual learner and best friend to many. Born April 27, 1930, in St. Petersburg, Russia, died June 19, 2013, in Winnipeg, aged 83.

Kira Krassioukova was born into a family of Russian intellectuals and artists – father Sergei Mironov was a surgeon and a poet, mother Maria Mironova a singer at the famous Mariinsky Opera House – and her own life reflected a love of both learning and the arts.

She was only six when her family was exiled from their beloved St. Petersburg (then called Leningrad) due to Stalin's repression of the intelligentsia and forced to move to Rostov-Don in the north Caucasus, and then to Gurzuf on the Black Sea. As a young girl, she loved the sea and the magnificent mountains.

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But the outbreak of the Second World War forced Kira, 11, her mother and her youngest sister to flee their home and join thousands of other displaced people to escape the Nazis. Everything was left behind, including her father, who was working as chief surgeon at a military hospital.

Living in a rented room with mud walls in a small village, Kira learned how to knit, plant a garden and make bread. She also developed an extraordinarily strong will and a keen interest in learning.

After the family was reunited in 1945, they returned to Rostov-Don, where Kira continued her schooling, plus piano and voice lessons. Her parents wanted her to continue in one of the family traditions – medicine or music – but Kira had other ideas: She applied to an engineering university and became an electrical engineer.

A brilliant graduate, she had the choice of working in Moscow or St. Petersburg. Instead, she joined thousands of young people in rebuilding a city upon which the outcome of the Second World War had hinged, the city of Volgograd (Stalingrad). She married and started her own family there – son Andrei and daughter Olga.

In Volgograd, Kira became chief engineer at the largest industrial factory in Russia. She also wrote for and edited a popular industrial newspaper. A decade later, she returned to an educational environment to teach physics and astronomy, but retired after the birth of her grandson Dimitri, to whom she was a devoted grandmother and mentor.

If she had an annoying habit, it was her generosity with advice – the desire to benefit everyone she met with the scope of her prodigious intellect and life experience. Her children sometimes resented that advice while growing up, but learned to appreciate it later in life.

In 1994, long since divorced, Kira immigrated to Canada with her daughter Olga and grandson Dimitri (her son Andrei had immigrated in 1991), where she first lived in London, Ont., and then Winnipeg. Kira mastered English and made many new friends. She enjoyed the time spent at her son's place in Vancouver, her daughter's in Winnipeg and her own apartment at Arlington House, also in Winnipeg, where she lived for 17 years. Her friends enjoyed her wit and wisdom in joyous discussions about art, history and science over her famous Russian dinners.

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Kira passed on her passion for learning to her children and grandson, all of whom chose to become physicians and researchers. She kept the love of art and music alive in her family's lives and played the piano almost to her last days. Her greatest joy was in giving.

Olga Krassioukova-Enns is Kira's daughter.

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