While the Kaminski side of the family gave me a sort of a loud and tenacious championing for the underdog, the Chciuk side gave me something equally stubborn but a lot more quiet. Thanks, in large part, to this lady right here.
Stefania Bielatowicz was born April 15, 1893 in Galitzia, Poland. My mom’s not sure when she came to this country exactly, but we do know that she and Adam were the first couple to be married in the then-brand-new St. Stanislaus.
Grandma had five children: Steven (a very popular family name if you know any Chciuks), Edward, Harry, Stella, and, my mom, Lorraine. My mom was born 8 years after Stella and was a bit of a surprise. Grandma, so overwhelmed with life and the burden of being married to an alcoholic, actually considered ending that pregnancy. God obviously intervened!
I know Grandma always worked outside the home. Nothing glamorous, of course. My aunt Stella remembers Grandma wrapping her feet in waxed paper to prevent the acid that would fall on her shoes at her factory job from burning through to her skin.
I know how Grandma made chicken soup. And I have some of her crocheted tablecloths too. I know that she would often say to my mom, “Your husband’s wife is gonna be crazy.” and “Some day you’ll wish you can hear my voice!!”
There’s Stefania with my mom on her right, my Aunt Wanda (Uncle Steve’s wife) on her left, and Wanda’s girls at Diane’s confirmation.
When my parents got married, they moved in with Stefania. Grandma was skeptical about this non-Catholic boy my mom was marrying. “Are you going to put a man before God, Laurie?” she said to my mom. My mom thought, “I’m not putting a man before God, Ma. I’m putting a man before a church.” But in the six-and-a-half years they all lived together, Stefania came to appreciate her youngest son-in-law. On her death bed, she called my mom over and said, “And Laurie, take care of Henry.”