Marta Tarnawsky (née Senkowsky), a Ukrainian poet, translator, bibliographer, and law librarian, died in her home in Philadelphia on January 26, 2021. Marta was born in Lviv (then part of Poland) on November 15, 1930. Her father, Theodosius Senkowsky, was a doctor, her mother, Irene (née Chaikowsky) a teacher. Before long, the family moved to Solec nad Wisłą where her father opened his medical practice. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the family moved back to Ukrainian territory but in 1944 fled west in advance of the Soviet armies, ending up in Steinerkirchen am Traum in Austria, where she first met her future husband, Ostap. With the end of the war, the family ended up in a displaced persons camp in Salzburg where Marta could continue her schooling, develop as a young poet, and enjoy hiking in the Austrian Alps. In 1949 she married Ostap and they both set off to the United States, settling briefly in Scranton where Marta took her first job in America, sewing men’s pants at the Lackawanna Pants Manufacturing Company, and continued her education.
The young couple soon moved to Philadelphia, where Marta completed a high school diploma and entered Temple University as a night student, while caring for two small sons during the day. Eventually Marta completed her BA summa cum laude in Sociology and Anthropology at Temple and went on to a graduate program in library science at Drexel Institute of Technology. This paved the way to her career as a librarian, from 1964–67 at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Then, taking advantage of her skills in languages, she became Foreign Law Librarian at the Biddle Law Library of the University of Pennsylvania, where she also developed and delivered a course for law students on “Research in foreign and international law.” She retired from the University at the end of 1993 as Associate Director for Foreign and International Law.
Beyond her professional obligations, Marta was a prolific poet, translator, bibliographer, essayist, reviewer, journalist and community activist. She published four collections of Ukrainian poetry: Khvaliu iliuziu (I praise illusion, 1972), Zemletrus (Earthquake, 1981), Samotnie mistse pid sontsem (A solitary place under the sun, 1991), and Tykhi rozmovy z vichnistiu (Quiet conversations with eternity, 1999). She also published a number of collections of essays, a community library manual, two personal bibliographies, and her multi-volume major bibliography: Ukrainian Literature in English. As an essayist, reviewer, critic, and bibliographer, she was the author of numerous articles and essays in various scholarly, professional, and community publications. All told, she published 816 items, of which 17 were separate books or pamphlets. She was also the co-founder and director of the Plast and Ridna Shkola Ukrainian community library in Philadelphia. She was active in many women’s and community organizations and even had a weekly slot on a Ukrainian radio program.
Marta leaves behind two sons, Mark in Philadelphia and Maxim (Uliana Pasicznyk) in Toronto, a brother, Andrew Senkowsky (Maria) in Van Etten, NY, and three grandchildren, Nina, Ivan, Stefan.
Marta’s body will be cremated according to her wishes. In view of the current pandemic there will be no funeral services at this time. The family will plan an internment and appropriate celebration of Marta’s life that will take place when it is safer to do so.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Marta's memory may be made to Library Fund at the Ukrainian Educational and Cultural Center.
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Ukrainian Educational and Cultural Center
700 Cedar Road, Jenkintown PA 19046