When one walks into Elizabeth Pusztai’s suite in the Village of Wentworth Heights, the eye and mind are instantly drawn to the artistry of the space. Landscape paintings are tastefully spread out along the walls and in two glass cabinets, some two dozen Barbie dolls are displayed, each adorned in traditional, regional outfits worn by girls and women around the world.
Elizabeth is behind all of this. She began painting in her 80s and has created approximately 150 unique works of art. Pointing to a recent piece she completed, she says she only spent a few hours focused on it and was quite pleased with the outcome. As for the doll outfits, Elizabeth has always been a seamstress – not by trade, but by necessity. Growing up in Hungary as the Second World War raged and years of turmoil followed meant families had to be creative, and Elizabeth carried that with her all her life. When she moved to Winnipeg to start a new life, she pinched pennies and her creativity, skill and ingenuity served her young family well.
Later in life, when her granddaughters needed costumes for their Hungarian dance group, Elizabeth was happy to help. She loved the process so much that once the girls had what they needed, Elizabeth combed the internet for examples of traditional outfits from around the world and she began working on her intricate, scaled-down outfits displayed within her suite today.
The skill she uses to create her art is something she’s always shared with others.
“I was always creative with my hands,” Elizabeth says, “and I always sewed, always crocheted, always embroidered; I’ve always done something and because I had a hard time, I feel even now that the only way that I am worthy is that I do something good for other people.
“All my life, my eyes and ears are open and I see things that other people don’t, and that helps me very much.”
In Hungary, she was a teacher and she’s worked with countless young people as a Scoutmaster. She’s worked in hospitals as a housekeeping supervisor, she studied psychology at McMaster University and she later worked in a municipally-owned Long-Term Care home in Hamilton.
Elizabeth says she was granted a new opportunity at life when she left a difficult marriage at a young age with a young son and found in her second husband a caring person who gave of himself to them. Her life since has been spent giving back to others.
Elizabeth moved into Wentworth Heights a few months before COVID-19 struck, and it wasn’t long before she was sewing cloth masks for her fellow residents. As restrictions eased, she could often be found in the kitchen off the Village’s Main Street baking with other residents and sharing recipes. Just as she learned to paint in her 80s, she began teaching others that they, too, can learn a new skill, and she’s happy to sit alongside a fellow resident and share their joy in the new artwork they have created.
The team in the Village is always stuck by Elizabeth’s generosity of spirit and her willingness to support her fellow residents, which is just who Elizabeth is.
“My door is always open,” she says. “I never close it.”