Meet Your Neighbour—Jennifer Cook Baniczsky

By Jennifer Cook

Author and retired civil servant Jennifer Cook Baniczsky grew up in northern England during the Second World War and has travelled extensively with her family. Photo supplied
Author and retired civil servant Jennifer Cook Baniczsky grew up in northern England during the Second World War and has travelled extensively with her family. Photo supplied

Who are you?

My name is Jennifer Cook Baniczky. I have lived on Bedford Cres. for over 30 years.

Where were you born?

I was born in Birkenhead, in Northern England across the Mersey River from Liverpool, which was a major target for the Luftwaffe during the Second World War. Nights were spent in the basement until our neighbour’s house was destroyed and our house badly damaged so we were evacuated to Wales.

Why did you choose your occupation? Did you ever consider another occupation?

When I was young, I wanted to be a vet but sciences at my boarding school were very rudimentary so I hurriedly switched to history and geography before sitting my O levels. I had a summer job with a local vet looking after the boarding animals. He paid me with a box of chocolates. I don’t think kids these days would accept such an arrangement!

Then when I first arrived in Canada in 1967, we lived beside the mine outside Chibougamau, in Northern Quebec. A vet would visit for a day once a year to spay and neuter the animals and I volunteered to do the aftercare. I loved it.

I met my husband in Geneva, Switzerland. As a student, he fled Hungary after the 1956 Revolution and was stateless until we came to Canada. He was a geological engineer and we travelled the world for his work including the Shah’s Iran, Laos during the Vietnam war and Africa and South America.

During those years, I was unable to work, so I spent a lot of time on my writing. As an author, I eventually went on to publish seven books mostly for young adults based on my children’s life experiences.

Also, a picture book about the Amazon, a novel about Governor General Lisgar and one about the Second World War in England. I have a website at

After we moved to Canada, I worked for the federal government. I also belong to the Capital Grannies who are one of the “granny groups” that raise funds for the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

What is the most important thing in your life right now?

My family and my animals, and my volunteering at the Shepherds of Good Hope soup kitchen for 38 years. This is very challenging because of the lack of staff and volunteers and the needy state of the population being served.

What has been one of your biggest challenges?

Working in John Crosbie’s office on the Hill and later in Parliamentary and Cabinet Affairs at Fisheries and Oceans. It was exciting, very interesting and very stressful. I have been retired from all of that for 18 years now.
I also had many challenging experiences during the years we lived overseas. We were once held hostage on a plane in the Congo, and another time we were held for 24 hours in Moscow with no explanation after the communist takeover in Laos. They were adventurous times. Our children accepted war and revolution as normal and attended 18 different schools over the years.

Who would you cast to play you in a movie about your life?

The English actress, Keeley Hawes, who played Louise the mother in the Durrells in Corfu miniseries.

If I won the lottery, I would spend my winnings on . . . ?

If I won the lottery, I would spend my winnings on creating sustainable employment in northern Manitoba where I have many Indigenous step- grandchildren and great grandchildren to bring financial stability and hope in their lives.

What is your favourite childhood memory?

Every year when I was a child, my family would spend our two weeks of holiday on an island in Anglesey. It was very remote. We would cross by donkey cart to the island at low tide and stay in a fisherman’s cottage. I would climb a ladder to sleep in the loft. There was no electricity or running water and an outhouse in the back. We took all our food with us. I never learned to swim properly because the water was just too cold. The magic there has gone now as hundreds of people visit and there is a huge car park.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I would like to be here still with my pets Lily and Jazz, but we are all seniors! I recently was at a 50th wedding anniversary party and realized how many people have passed on. I would like to think that when I die, I will get to see my parents and partner again and my brother who was killed while serving in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. I have so many questions that I never asked when they were here. It could be fascinating to be dead!