Eiženija (Jean) Vītols died peacefully at the age of 88 at Toronto Western Hospital, her daughters Astra (Kārlis) and Vilma (Peter) by her side, her son Alberts (Maria) having serenaded her with his guitar. She will be greatly missed by her grandchildren Beatrise, Emma, Māra, and Alastair; her sister, Olga; her family in Latvia and Canada; her friends from the neighbourhood and the Latvian community.
Ženija was born in Daugavpils, Latvia, on the eve of Jāņi, the summer solstice, June 23, 1935. Having fled the country in 1944 and living in Displaced Persons camps in Germany for six years, Ženija immigrated to Canada with her parents and sister, arriving in Halifax on November 18, 1950 — Latvian Independence Day. The family took up permanent residency in Toronto.
After graduating from Jarvis Collegiate, Ženija married Alberts Vītols, and together they raised three children — Astra, Alberts, and Vilma — ensuring that the language spoken at home was Latvian.
Music played a major role in Ženija’s life. She sang in numerous choirs and was a frequent soloist at many Latvian cultural events, often alongside her husband. Ženija sang in the pensioner’s choir Rota (Jewel) until the spring of 2023.
Ženija’s early work in Canada was as a bookkeeper. Later in life, she enrolled in the University of Toronto as a mature student, graduating with a B.A. in Anthropology. For the last twenty years before retiring, Ženija worked in the tourism industry as a travel agent. In this capacity, she organized a tour of fifty people to attend the 2011 world premiere of Bruno Skulte’s opera Vilkaču mantiniece (The Heiress of Vilkači) at the Latvian National Opera in Riga. Since 2010, Ženija served on the board of the Latvian National Opera Fund of Canada.
Ženija had a strong bond with Latvia and cared deeply about preserving the history of the Latvian diaspora. To this end she served for many years as the head of the Canadian Latvian Archive and Museum.
Ženija loved going for walks in the neighbourhood, taking in the gardens and garage murals. She frequently sat with her daughter Vilma in Vermont Square watching the dogs play, or catching a baseball game in Christie Pits, and petting the cats she met along the way.