Mudcat Café message #251787 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #22936   Message #251787
Posted By: bbelle
04-Jul-00 - 04:05 PM
Thread Name: BS: Happy Holidays, Colonials!!
Subject: RE: BS: Happy Holidays, Colonials!!
Here is a story:

A young Polish woman, who is a trained chef, of an upper middle class family, married and pregnant, with her own home, lots of surrounding family, husband is a soldier. But she has a secret ... she is a part of the Polish Resistance and spends her nights leading Jews out of Poland to safe houses.

There is an infiltrator in her Resistance group and one day the Gestapo literally storms into her house and she is placed into a concentration camp, with no thought that she would live past tomorrow.

She has a talent, though, that is needed in the base commandant's house ... as a chef. She spends the next 6 1/2 years in that camp. She gives birth to her only daughter in that camp and is allowed to keep her. She fared a little better than the other prisoners because she is allowed to eat the "leavings" of the commandant's family and was able to maintain enough breast milk to keep her daughter alive. She arose at 3 AM everyday to start the cooking and stopped only after the kitchen was in order, around midnight. She worked in the fields so the commandant's family had fresh vegetables. She carried her daughter in a pouch, everywhere she went.

Her husband and all her family in Poland died in the camps.

When her camp was liberated, she and her daughter were taken to a displaced person's camp in Germany. I'm not certain how long they stayed there. She was eventually able to find a "room" so they could leave the DPC. Finding work was impossible so she worked various and sundry odd jobs making very, very little money. But even so, there was very little food to buy. More often than not, in order for her daughter to eat, she went hungry. There were often times when both went hungry for days at a time. They almost died of starvation.

When the daughter was almost 12, a relative in Chicago "found" them and sponsored their immigration to the United States.

For many years, she worked 3 jobs to make ends meet ... working in her daughter's parochial school for tuition; cleaning houses; cleaning offices. She saved enough to send her daughter to nurses' school.

This woman's name is Maria Hrycelak, she is 91 years old, and she is my stepmother's mother. She, now, lives with my father and stepmother ... but she remains a fiercely independant woman.

I spent several hours today listening to her. It takes a lot of concentration because she speaks in a mix of Polish, German, Ukranian, and sparse English ... but, make no mistake ... her story comes across loud and clear! My luck is that I pick up languages quickly and understand most of what she is saying.

She talked of how wonderful if was to come to the United States. How she slept so much better because she wasn't worried the Gestapo were going to come. How she eats well, now, but she remembers vividly what abject hunger feels like.

How she cannot understand why so many Americans don't appreciate the freedom they have. How much she loves this country (although, she doesn't necessarily think that North Florida is part of the "regular" United States).

Often when folks talk about their heroes, they name famous people. Not me ... my hero is Maria Hrycelak (Busia).

So ... I thought my day was going to be quiet ... now I have some important things to ponder ... like how I had the freedom to march, protest, and sit-in during the 60's/70's ... like how I can say whatever I want and not worry about being arrested ... like how I can tell this story on a public forum and not fear reprisals from the government ... like how I've never know what it's like to be hungry because there just isn't any food.

While our "democracy" may not be foolproof and our "Constitution" outdated ... take a long look around ...