Category Archives: Familia

Moja Polska Rodzina. I’m sure one of my readers will correct my Polish, if need be ;)

Me and my cousin Steve. I’m very short as you can see.

Steve and my youngest child Elijah, who at 13 years old is catching up to Steve, height-wise. He’s taller than everyone in our house. LOL!

So, my cousin Steve, whom I had never even heard about, came to visit me a couple of weeks ago (his sister lives in St. Clair Shores). He is our family’s genealogist and came bearing gifts, the greatest of which was our family tree dating back to Poland, 1856. I am thankful that he found me by way of this very blog, or else I would have never known he existed. It’s a long story, but to shorten it just a bit, my grandmother was not so proud of her mulatto grandbaby (me). Whoever said blood is thicker than water was obviously not the czarna owca of their family. It was a sign of the times, I guess. What are ya gonna do? Sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Life gives you lemons, you make koolaid, or something like that. Hmmm…. are there any other cliches that I can add here? Ah, yes, at the end of the day… at the end of the day, all that matters is that I was found. Laughing out loud (I just had to type that out)!

But I digress. Steve lives in Colorado with his wife Jane, daughter Emily and son Clark. He has visited our homeland (Poland) many times and even visited my great-grandparents’ grave. If you read my earlier post, which detailed my grandmother’s treatment at the hands of the Nazis, you may remember that my great-grandfather’s body was never recovered. So his grave is empty, it’s just a memorial really. Isn’t that messed up? Ugh! The atrocities! And for anyone to even dispute what happened way back when under Hitler’s regime, well, that’s just appalling.

Following are pics of my great-grandparents Helena Madalinska & Tadeusz Kryska along with a picture of their tombstone. I am very grateful for cousin Steve to share these with me. I would like to go and see their tombstone and hometown for myself one day, but ya know, I may get some crazy looks. I mean, look at me. Do I look Polish to you or do I look more Latina? Exactly! However, anyone that knows me, knows that I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of me…. anymore. The most important opinion is my own, when it comes to acceptance and rejection. It took me forty years to get to this space and I like it. I like it a lot!

My great-grandparents. Look at the roundness of Helena’s face, this is where I get my fat face from. Wow.

My great-grandparents’ grave. My great-grandfather’s body is not in this tomb, for it was never recovered.

I guess I’ll go to sleep now. I have to be to physical therapy in a few hours and I’ll need my strength. I’ll post more pics as I get them.

Dobranoc.

Lenette 😉

Advertisements

Dear Lenette,

6-9-95

Hi! How are you? Happy and in good health I hope. I think about you often. Especially now that I get closer to my imminent death.

I look at the pictures that you’ve sent me and I think to myself, you all look so happy. If possible, I would really like a new picture of all of you together. You, Eric Sr., Loren, and Eric Jr.

I am sending you these beaded earrings – I hope you like them. You know, I don’t even know if you like costume jewelry or not.

I love you very much – and I am truly sorry that I have been such a disappointment and failure as a mother to you.

I wish for you to have peace and the utmost happiness. Somehow those two things have always eluded me.

Love,

Yolanda

(Here are the earrings that my Mommy sent to me. There were 4 pairs in total. This letter and earrings were the last things that I ever received from my Mommy. She died a month later on July 9, 1995, in prison.)

Dear Mommy,

Why did you go and leave me? Were you ashamed of your little dirty secret? Your little mulatto baby? I thought you loved me…. Wasn’t my hair sandy enough for you? Weren’t my eyes big and bright enough for you? Big as marbles and as light as the sun setting in the desert. I know you loved my caramel colored skin… At least, I thought that you did. Didn’t you? How about my little “ski-slope” nose? You know, the one I inherited from you, straight from Poland? Wasn’t I inquisitive enough? Oh, I get it… I was too inquisitive.

Mommy? Hello? Mommy…. are you paying attention? I look just like you. Was that what drove you away? I mean, other than your blond hair versus my sandy brown hair, and your blue eyes versus my sunset brown eyes, I look just like you. That must have been very difficult, looking at a miniature version of yourself. Perhaps you were feeling that you were a failure and not wanting to see your little doppelganger suffer the same fate? I loved you Mommy. I loved you so much.

I love you Mommy…

I’m so lame…

I really ought to be ashamed of myself for not updating my blog! I have never finished the story of my own upbringing, let alone my Mommy’s story as a “Pretty Woman”…. ya know what I mean? Actually, I don’t believe I even touched on that subject… Lame, lame, lame… I’ll get it together… Don’t leave me… not yet anyway…

Have you ever…..

been so completely sad that nothing can cheer you up? I mean absolutely NOTHING!! Sometimes I wonder if my mother or father had some sort of mental illness that was perhaps passed down to me. I will never know because they’re both dead.

I remember the day that my father died like it was yesterday. I was eleven years old. My friends and I started the day out going over to Canada with one of the mothers of the Richardson clan. We were having so much fun! We ended the day at the Adams’ Theater in Detroit. No adults! No one really paid us much attention, other than a few stares we got because one of my friends carried the albino gene. Some people acted like they had never seen a person so light before, more white than white, with eyes lighter than you could ever imagine in your wildest dreams. Sigh…. anyway, we ended up walking home, taking Michigan Avenue from downtown, past Tiger Stadium, all the way to Southwest Detroit. Cracking jokes, talking smack and singing the whole way home. We passed the Richardson’s street (30th) first, so they went on home and me and my best friend Krystal walked the rest of the way home to my street, North Campbell, which was about six blocks shy of Livernois.

Me and Krystal at Granddad's house on West Grand Blvd.

Krystal was spending the night so we planned on staying up and being silly, maybe play on the phone, call some boys, listen to music, do our hair, watch “Hart to Hart”. Our options were endless. Or at least we thought. We walked up the street in the dark with only the streetlights every few houses to light our way… dancing around, giggling, just so happy to be young and out “after the streetlights”. My oldest sister Adrienne was walking up the street towards us crying…. trying to get her words out but the tears were  coming so fast, no time to well up in her eyes, just streaming down her face, and rolling under her chin…. “D..D..Da…” she sobbed… “Da…Daddy dead Lenette….” My whole world turned upside down. I mean, I knew my father was sick, which is why my sister was even in town from Cleveland, but dead? My young mind could barely process the words that came from her mouth. It was like a dream sequence almost, like, when you try to reach out for something in a dream but it’s beyond your grasp. Or when someone’s saying something but you hear no sound, as if someone hit the mute button. Her lips were moving and I knew it was bad news because as soon as her lips stopped moving, she and Krystal wrapped their arms around me so tightly that it hurt. The days that followed were even more muddled. I remember what I wore to my father’s funeral because, believe it or not, I still have the dress. I took my eighth grade picture in that dress a year later. I get so sad thinking about it now…. and thinking about all the times that I muttered under my breath as I walked away from a scolding  “I wish you would just die”. All of that was said before he ever became sick with cancer. I get so mad sometimes at all of the people that still have parents or a parent, just one would be good for me, and they treat them like crap. Why Lord?

My inebriated Daddy and me. I don't have many pictures of myself as a child.

But I digress. I’m inconsolable right now. I think I definitely have what Holly Golightly described as “the mean reds” in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It went something like this: “You know those days when you’ve got the mean reds…. the blues are because you’re getting fat or maybe it’s been raining too long.  You’re sad, that’s all.  But the mean reds are horrible.  You’re afraid and you sweat like hell, but you don’t know what you’re afraid of.  Except something bad is going to happen, only you don’t know what it is.”  ~Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1958, spoken by the character Holly Golightly. My sentiments exactly!

Mój babunia

As I promised, here is my grandma Anna’s statement in her own words. It was written and presented to the German Government about 10 years ago:

 I, Anna Glegola, born Kryska, was forcible deported to Germany on May 23, 1942, together with my family, for forced labor in the III Reich. lodz1During the trip to Germany, in the train, at Lodz Station, Poland, the Germans killed my father. A few minutes before the train left the station, my father on the verge of a nervous breakdown because his his wife and child were hungry and all were being taken to Germany, cracked open a window and yelled to the heavily armed German military police who was standing on the platform: “I will die, but Hitler will lose the war!” The indignant German gave a shrill wistle and all at once many armed Germans came rushing up with weapons drawn. They jumped into the train compartment where our mother, father, myself, my brother and my sister, together with other deportees were crowded like animals. The Germans struck my father several times withthe rifle butt. Blood gushed everywhere, including on all of us in the compartment. My father, bloody and battered, jumped out the window and tried to hide somewhere under the train, but the Germans fired several rounds and he was killed on the spot. I will never forget the bloody dress I wore, stained with the blood of my father. The German soldier was so heartless that he took off one of my father’s shoes, put it on th etop of his bayonet and dropped it into the compartment through the window. He said to my mother: “keep this shoe as a souvenir”. A few minutes later, a small army vehicle came up and they tossed my father, like a dog, into it. The car drove off, no one knows where. My father was probably buried somewhere in the fields. No one knows what the Germans did with my father’s body. After that event, the Germans thoroughly checked everything and the train continued to Germany.

Lodz GhettoWe traveled to the north of Germany, to a city called Greiswalk-Rapenhagen, or something like that. Here the Germans segregated us into three sections: mothers with children, men and single women. Five people were assigned to each tiny room. Because my father was no longer with us, my mother, I, my brother and sister, made up only four, they added and 18 yearl old girl to our room. As I mentioned, the room was very small, there was only room enough for two plank beds on which all of us slept. Dark shades covered the tiny window, and during the night rats and mice ran all over us so that it was difficult to sleep. I remember that my mother secretly smuggled in a small flashlight and when the rats and mice began running in the room, she shone the light so that nothing would happen to us. We did not realize that in the black shades of the tiny windows were two small holes. The Germans noticed that some light was shining, came to the room and beat my mother until she was unconscious. They said that she had some secret information and she was trying to send messages by flashing the light. Every morning, as soon as it was light, my mother had to go to work with other women. She came back late in the evening.Polish Children for Deportation

My brother, sister and I, together with other children, were taken by truck to a farmer’s fields and were told to gather stones. Once a day we were given some soup in which floated all the scraps of old vegetables like cabbage, beets, carrots and very seldom, you could locate a potato. With this, we were given a slice of dark, rye bread. All of us had to wear the letter P for Pole, pinned to our clothing. When the weather was good, it was not so bad, but when it rained, it was very hard to walk in the fields. Our clothing was wet, the soil clung to our torn shoes. The German woman who was guarding us had a raincoat and rubber boots. She often said to us: “work, you Polish swine!” and waved her staff like a rabid witch. Mercifully, we as children did not have to work on Sundays. It was then that I and my brother and sister went walking around the barracks to try finding or stealing something to eat. We were in Germany until 1945. Someone would think that it was not that long, but I will never forget that armed German with the bayonet who tossed my father’s shoe into the train compartment where we were with my mother and said: “Keep this as a souvenir”. The other unforgettable thing is that German woman who guarded us when we were picking up stones. We called her witch, but often she was worse than a witch. Even though I am now 65 years old, I will never forget the things I suffered as a child in Germany. If it had not been for the Germans and deportation, I would have attended school together with my brother and sister in Poland. I would not have had to suffer the tragedy of witnessing my father’s death as a child and being forced to work picking up stones in the field.

I heard that young children who were deported to Germany with their parents will not receive reparations from Germany. Is it not important that my father was killed in front of his family? Is it not important that my mother was often beaten by the Germans, lost her health and upon our return to Poland was always sick and died an early death? Is it not important that I was often called “Polish swine” and had to pick stones when I should have been in school?

Grandma Anna, Me & EdwardMy grandmother would receive a mere $3,000 for her pain and suffering. Her husband Edward Glegola, who was forced to serve in the German army, would receive a stipend of $1,500 from the German government. I do not remember if this was a monthly or yearly stipend, but I do remember the many times that Edward would cry when reliving his time spent serving in the German army. He actually lost his sight in one eye from being hit in the eye with the butt of a rifle. Edward died in January of 2008. My grandmother continues to live in Hamtramck alone. I am sad for her…. I am always sad…

Peace be with you until the next time…..

Lenette Ann Nowalinski-Graham

Mój zwariowany życie

Me at 36 years old I have so much to tell you, yet I don’t know where to begin….

Shall I begin with my entry into the world? Hmmm… how much should I reveal in this blog? I mean, it does bear my real name.

Well, here goes. I am an AAPP, first generation. My mommy was born in Poland and came here to America after her first holy communion. Her years spent on this earth were unhappy for the most part. She is no longer with us and the story of  how she lived and died may just be more interesting than my own. Alas, she is not here to dictate her life to me so all that I have are the many letters she wrote to me while incarcerated and her memory. I will do my best to tell her story as it is a big part of my own story.

I’ll start with the plane ride here to America from Poland. My grandma Anna could barely speak english, yet she packed her three children up and headed to America for a better life. My grandfather Edmund Boguslaw Nowalinski did not make the trek here to America.  I am still unsure why and I am, quite frankly, scared to ask my grandma Anna. I’m not sure if theirs was a clean break or if, perhaps, my grandmother was fleeing the country to get away from my grandfather. I don’t know if I am ready to deal with the truth if it is an ugly truth.Mommy 1st Holy Communion in Poland

My mother Jolanta Bozena (translated in English: Yolanda Belinda) was the oldest at 9 years old and my uncle Mark and his  twin sister, my aunt Ursula were about 4 years old. My grandmother tells the funniest story of the trip over here to America. My uncle Mark had to go to the bathroom really bad, but my grandmother could not speak English. She struggled to communicate with the stewardess that her toddler needed to use the restroom, but the sterwardess could not understand. What do you think happens when a 4 year old cannot go to the bathroom? They can’t hold it forever, they go on themselves. And that’s exactly what Mark did, he shit his pants. I am not the best teller of this story but when my grandmother tells it in her broken English and you can see Mark turning red as she goes on… well it’s just the funniest thing.  My uncle Mark doesn’t find it the least bit amusing as he is now 50 years old.

I really need to go back a little further and tell you about my grandmother’s mistreatment at the hands of the Nazis. I will do that in my next post. I need to locate my grandmother’s statement to the German Government. 

Peace be with you until next time…

L;-)