Vanina Holasek, or Nina as she came to be known to her friends, neighbors, and loved ones here in America, was born in 1892 in Warsaw, Poland. She grew up in a baker’s household, in a poorer neighborhood, but nevertheless had a rich childhood which she spoke of fondly for the rest of her life. During the first World War, she found herself suddenly on the front lines of German’s Eastern Offensive.
A truly remarkable woman, she refused to be cowed by foreign soldiers, even though her husband Pieter had been killed by the invading forces in the early weeks of the Polish campaign. Nina became one of the only female fighters in the first World War, and rallied a small but determined Polish resistance. Her efforts paid off by keeping her neighbors fed in secret, despite official starvation rations. She led an underground food supply system, and fought a guerrilla war in secret by night. Using her late husband’s rifle, she led successful sabotage efforts and small offensives to weaken the invading forces through the occupation. While she may not have earned any medals for bravery, she remains a local legend in Warsaw to this day. As one of the first women ever to be known for shooting a gun, she was quite the anomaly.
After the German occupation ended, Nina moved to America, living first in Atlanta before meeting her second husband, Henry Calver and moving to Virginia, where she and her family lived for the rest of her life. A loving and generous mother, she raised 3 children and became the talk of the town for her excellent baked goods. It was the dream of many a child in East Riding to be invited to the Holaseks for dinner.
However, as legendary as her baked goods became, Nina was never destined to be a traditional housewife. She was determined to take the hunting, shooting, and survival skills she had acquired in wartime and educate her neighbors.
As you can imagine, Nina caused quite a stir when she first opened her original gallery back in 1937. In a time when most American women were teaching needlework and etiquette classes to young women, Nina was determined to teach young ladies how to shoot, hunt, and protect themselves just as well as their husbands could. Defying all expectations, it became a great success, and a destination for girl scout troops from many surrounding counties.
The original range was just a bare field, with a small shed at one end where Nina set up office space. It eventually grew with the construction of more outbuildings, and a permanent target layout at the far end of the field. In the 1980s, the Gallery was expanded through the acquisition of a neighboring plot, which is where the Shop and Classrooms now stand.
Today, the Gallery occupies two full shooting range fields, with a total of 5 buildings and outbuildings. It is run and managed by Rick Calver, Nina’s grandson.
We are proud to be a lasting monument to the memory and life of Nina Holasek, serving the community and honoring one of its greatest matriarchs.