Michael Palko, 81 SPENCERVILLE -- Michael Elliot Palko, 81, who worked for Health Canada for many years and as a health education consultant after retirement, died October 22 at Brockville General Hospital. Formerly a Spencerville resident, he had since moved to Brockville. He was born Michael Elias Palko August 25, 1923, in Liptovsky Svaty Mikulas, a small village at the foot of the Tatra Mountains, in the state of Slovakia. He was the first child of Maria (nee Spisak), of Hrusov, Slovakia and Ilko (also Elias) Palko, of Vezliv (in Russian Verchnjatchka), Ukraine. Ilko Palko was a refugee from the nationalist Ukrainian-Petlura Army, after the Russian occupation. When Michael Palko was a small boy, the family moved to the town of Spisska Nova Ves, in Slovakia, where his brothers, Peter, Steve and Charlie, and sisters Anne (Hana in Slovakian) and Julie were born. Life was quite rough for the family. The father worked as a labourer - later as an oven/furnace builder - and his mother as a domestic - later running her own dry cleaning business. The father wanted his eldest son to have the advantage of a good education, so he sent Michael off, at the age of 12, to a boarding school for Ukrainian refugees, close to Prague. The boy was glad to escape the hardships at home and embarrassment of his father's growing drinking problem. On completion of high school he was accepted in pre-med at Charles University, Prague. But with the take-over by the Russians, he was singled out as a free-thinker and expelled from university on October 23, 1948, because he would not join the Communist Party. His only opportunity to continue his studies was to escape. He took a job clearing trees from the border strip between Czechoslovakia, Austria and Germany, just four kilometres from the Czech-West German border, close to the town of Zelezna Ruda. When the opportunity came, he set his compass in a southwest direction, made the sign of the cross, and stepped towards the border marker, thinking "It's now or never." His escape was successful and he started a new life in the free world with US $16 in his pocket, his rare postage stamp collection, about 500 German marks, and a candidacy in medicine. After working for International World Student Relief he received a World University Scholarship to the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon. He immigrated to Canada, arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on September 19, 1950. He received his bachelor of arts degree in biological sciences from the University of Saskatchewan and a master's degree In public health education from the University of California, Berkeley. During his career he worked in municipal, provincial, national and international settings in the field of health education, based in Regina, Vancouver and Ottawa. He retired from the Department of National Health and Welfare Canada (Health Canada), as director of health promotion, in early 1984 after 22 years of public service. After his retirement he worked as a health education consultant for many non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), travelling extensively in Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Papua, New Guinea, and the Philippines. He also had various assignments for the World Bank in Indonesia, and for the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in the western Pacific. In 1993-94 he had several assignments with External Affairs Canada (Canadian Society for International Health) in the Ukraine. Mr. Palko was involved in many professional organizations over the years, including executive secretary of the North American Regional Office of the International Union for Health Education, and president of the Technical Development Board of the IUHE. For many years he served as a member of the WHO Expert Advisory Panel on Information, Education and Communication for Health, and for over a decade he was a special lecturer in public health administration in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. He married Helga Maria Jandaurek in Regina, Saskatchewan on August 25, 1954. He and his wife had streams of visitors and house-guests at both their Ottawa city house and their weekend Spencerville farm, which they bought in 1967. He spoke seven languages. He made his own wine and won many prizes for it at the Spencerville Fair. Mr. Palko is survived by his wife Helga Palko of Brockville, son Chris and wife Carol of Brockville and daughter Madelaine Palko of Toronto (but soon moving to Athens), as well as four grandchildren, Kira, James, Martin and Ben. Also surviving is his sister Hana Contos of Spisska Nova Ves. He was predeceased by his other siblings and by his son Mark Palko in a 1989 plane crash. Friends called at the Grant Brown Funeral Home, Purcell Chapel, Spencerville, on October 25. The funeral was held October 26 at Spencerville United Church. Burial followed at Shanly Cemetery. Memorial donations were directed to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). Published in Section b, page 6 in the Saturday, December 11, 2004 edition of the Brockville Recorder & Times. Posted 10:07:52 AM Saturday, December 11, 2004.