06 November 2014

My Dziazek, Stanley Szostek

My grandpa, dziadek in Polish, was Stanley Szostek.  I never remember calling him grandpa, he was always dziadgie to me.  He was not in my life for very long, dying when I was only 5, but his love and warmth has stayed with me my entire life.  He was the only grandfather I would know.
Stanislaus Szostek was born 10 Oct 1884 in Gromiec, Poland.  At the time of his birth, Gromiec was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and located in Austrian Partition of Poland.  Poland would not exist again as a country until 1918.  Stanislaus was the second of six children born to Wawrzyniec and Maria Bronislawa Szostek.  The family’s life in Poland was not easy, as soon as he was old enough, Stanislaus went to work in the nearby coal mines.

Gromiec, Poland   (courtesy Google Maps)
When he and his older brother, Frank, saved enough money they immigated to America.  They arrived at Ellis Island on 27 Apr 1907 having sailed from Bremen, Germany on the S.S.Main.  Both were surprised at finding the streets were not paved with the gold they had been told they would find.  Franc had $12.00 in his pocket, Stash had $20.00.  According to the ship manifest found, Franc was married.  The brothers were traveling to Chicago, Illinois to stay with Franc’s brother-in-law, Stash Rebek.  Frank was 5”4” tall and Stash 5’6”, both were stated to be blond with blue eyes although in 1918 Stash is said to have brown hair and grey eyes. 

Stash or Stanley, would stay in Chicago working as a Box maker in 1910 and a moulder for Illinois Mallabel Iron Works in 1918.  During the time he worked at Illinois Mallabel Iron Works, he befriended John Bochyniak.   John and Stash would sometimes get together at John’s home.  It was here Stash met John’s wife, Mary, and his son, Eddie.   Stash became close to the whole family.  Mary became a widow in January of 1917.  She was left alone to raise her small son and moved back to Franklin Park with her parents.  Stash kept in touch and when Mary’s mourning period was over he asked her to marry him telling her how much he loved Eddie and that he would take care of both of them for the rest of their lives.  The couple married in Franklin Park at Saint Gertrude’s Catholic Church on 24 Sep 1918.  Over the next 10 years they would add 3 daughters to their family, Phyllis, Loretta and Helen.  
Stanley, holding Loretta, and Mary Szostek with Phyllis and Eddie right front c1922
Stanley worked hard in a foundry over the years, money was not abundant but the  family was a happy one.  It was expensive but Stanley became a US citizen in 1936.  Stanley loved to cook and made most of the meals teaching his daughters how to make wonderful pies along with other great Polish foods.  It was not all work and no play, Stanley would bring out his concertina  and sing the songs he learned in Poland.  Christmas was his favorite time of the year as he would decorate the house and while the delicious smell of his baked goods filled the air.  

Loretta Szostek, Leroy and Mary Porebski, Helen, Mary, and Stanley Szostek, Mitchell and Phyllis Wegrzyn, Emily, Holding Diane, and Edward Szostek c1946

Most of what I have written was told to me by my mom, Loretta, and my aunts but I remember so much....  
My dziadgie would pull me up into his arms and hug me whenever we went to visit.  Even though he would never learn to speak English and I did not know Polish, we understood what the other was saying...  
Every time we visited he would bring out the cards for a game of Canasta with my dad.  I would sit on dziadgie's lap as he play and talked to me, asking me which of the pretty cards he should play next...
He rolled his own cigarettes and I remember tiny pieces of tobacco falling out and settling on his chest.   The Bull Durham bags the tobacco came in were precious gifts he would give to me....
I remember the sound of his concertina and his singing kolędy (Polish carols)...

Stanley Szostek (1984-1955)
I cry as I write this, still missing his warmth and love all these years since.

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