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‘Justice for Tatjana’: Vigil honours memory of slain North Okanagan mother

The release of the suspect in the death of Tatjana Stefanski has the community angry and fearful

Blue lanterns, blue paper hearts and a blue community came together to honour Tatjana Stefanski, a Lumby mother whose life came to an end earlier this month after an alleged abduction by her ex-husband.

More than 200 people came out to a candlelight vigil in Lumby’s Oval Park Friday night, April 26, in a show of support for Stefanski’s family, who are in hiding after the suspect in the 44-year-old’s death was released because charges have yet to be laid — an aspect of the legal system that has drawn criticism while sending ripples of fear throughout the community.

Lumby Mayor Kevin Acton gave a plaintive speech at the vigil, saying the tragedy is among the most difficult times for the community he has seen in his 14 years as mayor.

“I’ve had so many people reaching out to me with frustration and concern about the fact that this family is being put in a situation where they have to be hiding, and the community doesn’t feel safe,” Acton said.

“This is a different kind of sad, it’s an angry sad,” Acton continued.

Stefanski’s remains were found on April 14 in a rural area off Mabel Lake Road. RCMP have said that foul play is suspected in her death.

The vigil was a chance to remember Stefanski, a mother of two. Her boyfriend, Jason Gaudreault, told The Morning Star that she was “an amazing mother, while being a stubborn German,” who “loved life to the fullest.”

“Tatjana was a very private person. She didn’t have many friends on Facebook but in life everyone she met loved her. She had a special glow that rubbed off to everyone. There wasn’t one person she ever talked bad about,” Gaudreault said.

“She was the type that literally couldn’t kill a fly. She would just shoo it away with a fly swatter. She was a beautiful person in every way there is,” Gaudreault continued. “I believe everything happens for a reason and that’s why unfortunately this happened. I am still here to take care of her children till the day I am gone.”

B.C. United leader Kevin Falcon attended the vigil to pay his respects, and told The Morning Star that he was impressed with the community’s strength in these early days following the tragedy.

“In small communities, this is often the case,” he said.

“It’s terrible what (the family) has had to go through, and the fact that they have to hide because they’re very concerned that this individual, whoever it is, is still active in the community,” Falcon continued.

Falcon said in the wake of Stefanski’s death, he can see that there are gaps in victim services for the family that “we certainly should take a hard look at … There may be some opportunities to really improve that service. There will be time for us to visit those issues later.”

Stefanski’s favourite colour was teal blue, and the colour could be seen in spades at the vigil. Following the speeches, vigil attendees picked up blue lantern candles made by the event organizers and walked a lap around Oval Park.

Blue paper hearts with the words ‘Justice for Tatjana’ were also abundant. They are available at most Lumby businesses for people to purchase by donation and display in their windows. All proceeds go toward helping the family in their time of need.

“We don’t know what justice for Tatjana will look like, but we know we want to create some change,” said Angie Clowry, one of the organizers of the vigil. “What this family has lived through is not fair, it’s not right. And obviously we hope this never happens to anyone else again.

Acton thanked all of the “lovely people” who came out to the vigil to ensure Stefanski is remembered.

READ MORE: Daughter speaks out after mom found dead following alleged abduction in Lumby

READ MORE: Teal blue theme for Lumby vigil

Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started at the Morning Star as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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