Susan Harnad (Simoni/Süss Zsuzsa)

October 24 1917 - September 9 2009

1988 Tai Chi demonstration, courtesy of Tibor Vandor

October 29, 2001
Back on her feet with a Chinese exercise


 Zsuzsa Harnad, who turns 84 this week, was pleased with the question. Harnad had just finished giving a class in t'ai chi ch'uan at a Montreal YMCA. A novice student of hers wanted proof that t'ai chi, the Chinese exercise characterized by fluid movement and meditation, is good for the mind, body and spirit. Harnad, a Hungarian immigrant, told the student about a painful misadventure that began with a misplaced footstep while crossing the street last May 6. Harnad lost her balance, fell and cracked her hip bone. She broke her left arm in two places, leaving the bone to poke through her skin. She was wheelchair-bound for a time and required a metal plate just above her wrist. But just four months later, Harnad was back at the Y, volunteering her skills as t'ai chi master. "That's what t'ai chi does for you," says Harnad. "Mentally, physically, in your spirit, you keep on, you succeed." 
Photo: Suzanne Langevin for Maclean's
Harnad maintains a positive attitude

A vegetarian who enjoys fish, Harnad takes the occasional aerobics class to regain strength lost since the accident. While she's determined to regain her full health, she insists she's "not a fanatic." She eats what her body tells her it needs and takes a few simple vitamins. She smoked for years but gave it up in 1969 after an operation for ovarian cancer. In Europe, she swam, played tennis and did some fencing, which involves movements she regards as similar to t'ai chi. Arriving in Canada in 1948, Harnad built a successful business advising people with skin problems before retiring in her mid-70s. She has two sons and three grandchildren, and maintains what she calls, "a positive attitude." Harnad is concentrating now on regaining the 10 kg she lost during her recovery. "I don't want to leave it like this," she says. "After all, I have many more active years before me." 

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