15 December 2014

My Paternal Grandfather

Michael Kolodzinski was my paternal grandfather.  Everything I know about him came from stories told by my dad and aunts.  I never met him.  He died in Chicago, Illinois on 21 Dec 1940, many years before I was born, years before my parents were even married.  
For many years, this was the only picture I had of Michael.

It was taken in 1938 at the wedding of his daughter, Mary, to Theodore Porebski.  His look is stern for this day.  Maybe I am a romantic but I believe he missed sharing this day with his wife, my grandmother Mary, who died two years before.

Stories, so many stories, inter-sprinkled with facts I have proved through research.  My dad's side of the family is a brick wall for me.  Hopefully over time I will be able to scale that wall through genealogical DNA.

Michael was born in an November 1877.  He claimed to have been born in Lithuania but was Polish.  Both were true since the area where he was born had been part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.  When he was born the area was part of the Russian Partition.  Is it any wonder he spoke 7 different languages, none of which were English.  The area he was born is now part of Belarus.

Michael told he served with the Cossacks.  No doubt he was in the Russian military since all men were expected to serve when they came of age.  In all probability he took care of the Cossack horses since he had a wonderful way with animals.

He arrived in the USA on 18 January 1908 at Ellis Island in New York.  According to the passenger list his residence was Dykshuy, Russia.  He had paid for his own ticket and had $10.00 in his pocket.  He was traveling to Chicago to his brother Nikodum, who lived on Avery Avenue.  No brother has been found.

He adopted my grandmother's two children, they would have four more of their own.  Two of the four died in infancy, one of the adopted children died in her 20's.  This left my father, Edward and his two sisters, Anna and Mary.  To support his family Michael worked as a laborer for many different employers.  He also worked for himself as a junk man, driving a horse and wagon through the streets of "Buck Town" in Chicago.
This is a picture of my grandparents taken in Buck Town.  My grandparents moved many times and owned their own home several times.  As a matter of fact, my maternal grandparents rented and apartment from them in the 1920's.  Everything changed during the depression.  They lost their home and even the children looked to find work just so the family could survive.  Michael had a pet rabbit who followed him around like a dog.  The family had no food and the decision was made to kill the rabbit so they could eat.  It was done and the family had food to eat that day, well, all except Michael.  He could not eat.  

My grandfather was a strict man with his children.  He was also a hard drinking man, an alcoholic.  It is for this reason my dad never drank.  After my grandmother died, Michael lost himself in the bottle.  He died of a cerebral hemorrhage on 21 Dec 1940 and is buried in Saint Adalberts Cemetery in Niles, Illinois.