27 February 2013

My American Grandmother, Mary Inda Szostek

Mary was the third child and first daughter born to Jozef and Antonina (nee Nowicki) Inda.  She was born in 1894 in Chicago, Illinois in 1894.  Since she was my only grandparent born in the USA, I had always thought of her as my American Grandmother.  She completed 8 years of school in Chicago and was fluent in both English and Polish.  Her daughter, Loretta (my mother), told me of finding a long braid of auburn hair in a trunk in her parents' home.  She was told this was Mary's hair which she had cut about in the sometime after her marriage.

Mary Inda 1907 First Communion

  In the 1910 US Census, Mary is living with her parents and eight siblings at 1736 Wood Street, Chicago, which is part of the area known as Bucktown.  She was already working as a seamstress in a tailor shop and would eventually do piecework for a company called Smoler Brothers.  Sewing was a skill she was taught by her mother along with crocheting and embroidery.

Her uncle, Sylwester Inda, was living with his family at 2124 Berlin Street.  Living in the same building was a man by the name of John Bochyniak.  In all probability this is were Mary met John.  He was a very handsome man, tall with blond hair. The couple would fall in love and marry on 26 November 1913 in St Hedwigs Catholic Church.  On 3 October 1915, Mary would give birth to their first child, Edward.  There happiness would not last.  John was what is called a "ladies man".  He was not a faithful husband and because of this tragedy would befall the once happy couple.  John was diagnosed with syphilis and was being treated.  He told Mary that both she and their infant son would need to be treated also.  The shame he felt lead john to despair.  On 8 January 1917 John threw himself under a train in Franklin Park and died at the age of 30 years, 11 months.

Mary's sorrow knew no bounds but she had a child to raise.  She moved back in with her parents who now lived at 3344 Edgington in Franklin Park.  She would not be a single parent long.  John had been a moulder in Chicago.  He had a friend by the name of Stanley Szostek.  Stanley had also immigrated from Poland and now worked with John.  He was often invited to the Bochyniak home.  Over time he fell in love with Mary but had never let her know since she was married to his friend.  After allowing for a time of morning, Stanley approached marry.  He told her of his love.  He then asked her to marry him and told her he also loved her son and would adopt him legally and raise him as his own.  Mary and Stanley wed at St Gertrude Catholic Church in Franklin Park on 24 September 1918.

On 5 July 1919, Mary would give birth to the couple's first child, Monica Phyllis Mary.  Their daughter, Loretta Mary, would follow on 21 November 1921.  Their last child was also a daughter.  Helen was born on 16 September 1928.   Stanley did legally adopt Edward.  The family lived at various addresses prior to their purchasing their own home in the early 1940's at 2535 North Springfield Avenue in Chicago.  It is interesting to note one of the homes rented by the Szostek's about 1928 was owned by Michael and Maryanna Kolodzinski, my paternal grandparents.  That is a story for another day.

Mary was a wonderful sewer and never used a pattern just cutting the material and creating clothing for her children.  She would dress Phyllis and Loretta as twins since they were so close in age.  She did not have patience to teach her daughters how to sew feeling she could always do it faster.  Her daughters were taught embroidery and Phyllis learned crocheting.

Mary and Stanley's happiness continued as their children married and they would enjoy the arrive of their grandchildren.   Then on 20 September 1955, tragedy again struck Mary as the husband she grew to love died of a stroke.  Now Mary would move into the home of her daughter, Phyllis Szostek Wegrzyn.  At various times she would be living with each of her three daughters' families.  The following picture was taken in 1959 outside of my parents home at 2866 North Woodard in Chicago.  We lived near a neighborhood shopping district and Mary did enjoy shopping.

Mary enjoyed spending time with her family.  As her children grew they would visit many times during the year.  Some days were very special and would mean all of the families would gather.  These would include Christmas Day and one day in the summer for a family picnic also every Easter we would celebrate both Easter and her birthday even though the day of this event would in reality change yearly. 

My grandmother carried on the tradition of teaching needlework.  I fondly remember sitting by her when I was about six and learning how to embroider.  Yes, it was simple embroidery stitches but she taught me and instilled my love of the needle arts by doing so.  The first piece I embroidered was a quilted potholder with Humpty Dumpty on it.  Mary continued to sew and altered both her clothes and that of her daughters if they asked.  She enjoyed her soap operas especially All My Children and As the World Turns.  You were not allowed to interrupt her during her favorite soaps!  As far as she was concerned there were no commercials.  She assumed they were just a part of the show so you needed to save conversation until they had finished, commercials and all.

Mary Inda Szostek died in Chicago on 10 February 1977.  She is buried next to Stanley at St Josephs Catholic Cemetery in River Grove. 

22 February 2013

My Elusive Babcia, Maryanna Kolodzinski

In Polish, babcia means grandma, Maryanna was my paternal grandmother.  She died in 1936, eleven years before my parents were  married.  Growing up I believed the stories all to be true.  First the stories told to me by my father, Edward Kolodzinski and aunts, Anna Drozek and Mary Porebski:
I was told Maryanna was born in Austria about 1883.  My grandmother spoke Polish exclusively.  She did not know how to read or write Polish or English.  Both of my aunts, her daughters Anna and Mary, remembered writing letters back to the "old country" for their mother.  They were addressed simply as SMULSKA (everyone also believed this to have been my grandmother's maiden name also) in Vienna, Austria.  The letters were sent to Marianna's mother and after a time replies would be received.  Our family understood Maryanna's maiden name was SMULSKA.  When asked if this was the right spelling of her surname Maryanna would say it looks like it. 
My cousins and I heard tales of my grandmother coming to the United States as a young girl, working as a servant to a rich family aboard a ship to obtain passage.  My father and my aunts never told us what brought her to Chicago where she began her new life.  It is quite probable even they did not know.  In the late 1800's and early 1900's it was common for immigrants not to talk about life in their homeland.  They were afraid word would get back to the authorities there and bad things would happen to the immigrant's family which was left behind.  
Picture taken soon after she arrived in Chicago.
Maryanna married Michael KOƁODZINSKI in Chicago.  Anna, born in 1909 was the oldest child, Edward was born in 1914 and Mary in 1916.  Two other children, Genevieve and Michael, died in infancy.  The family lived in an area of Chicago called "bucktown".  Bucktown was an area on the northwest side of Chicago.  At the time it was predominantly Polish. 
Maryanna owned a candy store in the area.  My father told me stories of her sitting on the front stoop of the store after closing on the 4th of July and enjoying herself shooting off all of the fireworks she had not sold.  She closed or lost the store at one time but would once again reopen it in the same neighborhood.  I would ask how she handled the store and the paperwork involved and all my dad would say is she had no problem.  She loved to cook and the family would always have good food and delicious desserts even during the lean times. 
 Maryanna and Michael Kolodzinski - 1929
She was the buffer between her husband who was an alcoholic and her children.  When Maryanna died in January of 1936 the family was devastated.  Today lumbar pneumonia would be treated, in the 1930's it meant death for Maryanna.  She is buried in St Adalbert's Catholic Cemetery in Niles, Illinois, the same cemetery where her children Genevieve and Michael were buried.
It would have been wonderful to have known my babcia or at least to know more about her.  It was her untold story which started my interest in researching my family tree.  As I had written in a previous, I was in my mid 30's when I found out my babcia had been married previously and my Aunt Anna was born from that union.  My cousins had also been in the dark about this part of our history.  Little did I know this was just the beginning.......
The records found so far place Maryanna's birth as occurring between 1882 and 1884 but the location is not always stated as being Austria let alone Vienna.  Yes, Austria is named but at the time she was born much of the area was part of the Austrian Empire.  Her death certificate states she was born in Czechoslavakia and the passenger list from her arrival (27 Jan 1901) states she had been living in Zapolocz, Hungary (I have not been able to find this location).  She may have moved there to work.  Other than her location prior to arrival the passenger list bears out the story of her working as a servant to gain passage to the USA.  The passenger list was difficult to locate due to the name she traveled under, Maria Czmar.   Not quite the surname Smulska she told her daughters her name looked similar to when they wrote letters. 

When we were told about the two marriages we found out her first husband had been a man by the name of Andrew Opalenik.  Maryanna and Andrew had four children, Helen born about 1903 (she died sometime in the 1920's), Paul born 1905 (he died the same year), Dmitron born 1906 (he died in 1912) and Anna born 1909, before Maryanna filed for divorce in 1913.  The 1910 US Census confirms Mary having given birth to 4 children 3 of which survived.

It is thanks to the dedication of my aunt Mary that the divorce documents had been located.  According to the document, the couple had married on or about 1 Aug 1906.  When did they really marry?  After sending for a copy of a marriage certificate for Andrew Opalenik and Maryanna Smulska and being unsuccessful I asked the Cook County clerk to look for various spellings (they must have had an interesting time with the variety).  Almost giving up Itried just using Andrew Opalenik's name.  Success!  This is were Maryanna's name was found to be Mary Czmur!  Paul's birth register states his mother's maiden name was Murzat, Dimitron states Zuner. The error in the spelling Czmur to Murzat or Smulska is no doubt due the inability to read or write or hearing a name pronounced by someone who does not speak English.  Since the letters were sent to Austria with the name Smulska could Maryanna's mother have remarried and Smulska was his surname?
Maryanna and Michael's first born was Edward in 1914.  Since their marriage certificate has not yet been located the question which comes up is did they formalize their marriage?  Why would Mary have gone through a divorce, hiring a lawyer and appearing in court, if they did not intend to marry.  Once again spelling may hold a clue in finding the record.
Yes, she did own at least one candy store.  The proof is in the 1920 US Census which states the fact and a Chicago City Directory showing a Mary Kolodzinski having a candy store in the 1920.  From the record found of Paul's birth in 1905 until she died in 1936, Maryanna lived at thirteen different addresses, all in Bucktown. 
Her love of family lived on after she was gone and is still shown by the closeness we all feel to our elusive babcia.