two thousand twenty
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By Robert Stopper, Lyons

“Babcia” (Grandma) Zuzanna Kuczminski will celebrate Christmas 2013 with her family at the Newark DeMay Living Center.  It will be her 102 Christmas Celebration!
“Babcia” was born in Hutwin, Poland, July 10, 1911.  The journey from Hutwin, Poland to Newark, New York is filled with memories, some hard to forget and others “wonderful blessings” to remember. Her maiden name was Zuzanna Kolodynski.
“Babcia” married Jan (John) Kuczminski, and together they raised two children.  The early years of their marriage are hard to forget. Unfortunately, “Babcia”, her husband Jan, and her two children, Ignaci and Eva, were herded to Germany on a cattle train. They became part of the labor force. They witnessed war at its worst. After the war, they were placed in a military camp.
In 1949, an “angel from a far and distant land” came to their rescue…. An “angel” farmer from St. Louis, Missouri,  sponsored  “Babcia” and her husband Jan, along with their two children, Ignaci and Eva, to come to America. They arrived in New Orleans on the ship Ettlinger and were immediately issued name tags. They spoke no English, and soon they were met by their sponsor.
 The farmer drove the Polish speaking family to his farm in Missouri. There they lived in a one room shelter, working  long hours in the fields by day and praying at night. Daughter Eva washed laundry for the farmers, and eventually she was placed in a local sewing factory.
Eva would not be working there for very long. Back East on Long Island, a young Polish immigrant by the name of Stanley Niemick was working in the fields by day and searching ship manifest papers by night. He too had served time in the military camp. While living in that camp, he had especially noticed a beautiful young gal by the name of Eva Kuczminski…. Now he was searching for names of Polish Immigrants to America, and one evening he found the family name- Kuczminski…. He contacted the family…. In the meantime, he was hired to do seasonal work by a company called Jackson and Perkins in Newark, New York….  A year later, 1950, Stan and Eva moved to Newark, New York as Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Niemick. Stanley worked in the Jackson and Perkins Rose Gardens.  A few years later, Stanley moved Eva’s Mother and Father, “Babcia” and Jan (John), to Newark. Everyone shared the same home.
“Babcia” worked at Bonds clothing in Newark. Jan worked the Jackson and Perkins Rose Gardens. They shared their good fortune and many blessings by providing meals, especially soups, for Polish workers at Salisbury Farms in Phelps.  For many years, “Babcia” and her husband were daily communicants of St. Michael’s Church. Be it rain, snow, sleet, or hail, they “did the right thing” and walked to the 5:00 AM Mass celebrated by Pastor Father McDonnell.  “Many blessings!” says “Babcia”.
 For over 100 years, whenever possible, “Babcia” has participated in the Polish Christmas tradition- a meatless meal on Christmas Eve, Christmas Mass, and then on Christmas Day,  a special meal of Perogies, Golumpki, fish, beet soup, and many pastries.
Perhaps the most significant and sometimes most emotional aspect of the Christmas meal is the sharing of Oplatak (a wafer frequently referred to as Angel bread).  Accompanied by wishes of good health and special favors, the Oplatak is passed from person to person. It is a moment of special closeness in the family.  Beginning with the head of the household, each person breaks a particle from the wafer and passes it on, recalling those not present at the meal, and then wishing good health and special favors to everyone present at the table.
“Babcia” says she has many blessings including two children, 6 grandchildren, and 12 great grandchildren. When asked what she would like to say at Christmas to her family and the world around her, she quickly replied, “Appreciate what you have been given and share your blessings with others…. Be thankful…! I pray all the children grow up to be healthy and good caring people…!”  A Wonderful Christmas Blessing and Wish spoken from the voice of the heart and experience-  a 102 year old very alert and grateful “Babcia” (grandmother)!




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