Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

6.11.2010

The Mason's Daughter

Karolina is on the right; her daughter, my grandma, is on the left

On October 17, 1914, a baby girl was born in a small German town near the border of Poland. A baby girl named Karolina. As her parents, a brick mason and a loving mother, looked into her sparkling, blinking eyes, I wonder if they had any conception of what those eyes would see. A front-lines view of World War I would fill those tiny eyes for her first four years—images of iron-faced soldiers and buildings destroyed by bombs and mothers who gave up their bread for their children would pervade her childhood. I wonder if Karolina’s mother hugged her extra tightly—perhaps with a premonition of her own early passing that would change her little daughter’s childhood so drastically.

I wonder if her parents imagined the handsome young Polish boy—Jozef—that her eyes would fall upon one day. I wonder if they thought about the day that their little daughter would stand, hand-in-hand with Jozef, and pledge her life to him as long as they both lived, becoming even more Polish than German. I wonder if her parents or even Karolina herself knew the costs that would entail.

In October, 1914, as Karolina’s parents stared in fascination at their perfect little baby born into such a world of turmoil, I know they reached for her tiny hand and felt her little velvety fingers cling to theirs. But I can’t help wondering if they knew what her hands would be called upon to do in the years to come. Their chubbiness would fade away all too quickly, and then Jozef’s ring would be slid onto a finger. With those hands she would wave good-bye to her family as she and her husband started their life in Poland. With those hands she would knead her flour and water and squeeze her sauerkraut and form rows upon rows of beautiful, impossibly perfect pierogi. With those hands she would soon stroke the face of her own little son.

Those hands would soon become work-worn and calloused when the German army invaded Poland in World War II and she was called upon to either abandon her Polish husband and children to save her life or move back to Germany with all of them and see her husband sent into the German army. Her hands must have gripped her husband’s for what seemed like the last time as he was sent into Hitler’s front lines, for to her it was inevitable that he would be shot down and forgotten on a bloody field. And somewhere, somehow, her hands folded together as she lifted them up to the God whom she discovered would not abandon her, no matter Hitler’s cruelty or her own difficulties. She trusted in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, whose own hands were pierced with nails for her. That moment of folded hands when she turned her life over to God she described as “a bucket of cold water being thrown on me.”

From that moment on, her hands belonged to her God, and she, her husband, and her four children made it through those dark days—intact and together—a miracle beyond miracles.
But her parents could not have known any of that. Nor could they have known that her tiny feet would someday climb to the deck of an American ship around 1951 and pause as she gazed back at her homeland: tears and fears welling up inside her, but God’s love and promises calming even that inward storm. Those feet would never be still in the next years as she and her family served as indentured servants to a family in Alabama. But somehow, she and Jozef would put aside a few meager coins every month until they could afford the bus fare to Washington. They had a friend, Olga, whom they had met in refugee camps back in the Old Country, who lived near Seattle. And so Karolina and Jozef and their four children found themselves in Washington, and life got easier, but she never worked any less. Time passed, her children grew and married and had children, and one day, her beloved Jozef died.

Her wrinkles grew deeper, her back hunched over, her hair turned a beautiful dove-white, and she began to use a cane, but her eyes still sparkled, her laugh still resounded, and her hands still made pierogi for her loved ones. She gave the hugest hugs you ever could imagine, holding you in her embrace for forever, as if she didn’t want to let you go, and you certainly didn’t want her to let you go, either. My father bent down on one knee before my mother on Karolina's kichen linoleum, and as a young married couple they lived in her house for a month. Karolina would go to visit her friend Olga whenever she could, and the two octegenarians would hold Uno tournaments until late at night.
Two months ago, Karolina fell and broke her hip, and at one point in the hospital, her heart stopped. Her family surrounded her, weeping, when suddenly she opened her eyes. “Why you cry?” She asked in her thick, beautiful accent. “Don’t you cry—I go to Heaven!”

Last night, Karolina, my Bobcha, (from the Polish word babka) my “sweet old lady”, my Great-Grandmother spent the night in Heaven, with her Jesus. Do they have pierogi in heaven, I wonder? They do now! But her eyes could see His face perfectly, her beautiful hands could stroke His, and her feet could run to her Jozef without a cane or a limp. Last night, she had no tears, but we certainly did.

I doubt if her parents, looking into her tiny face 95 years ago, could have known the legacy she would leave. They could not have known that she would bear four children, and they in turn would have many children until at her death her descendants numbered 51! They could not have known that she would live to see her Great-great-grandchild. They could not have known that because of her love for Jesus through everything that most of those 51 descendants are walking with the Lord, destined to see her again, but I know it. I can just hear her saying “Oy, yoy yoy!” at all this fuss, but I can equally hear her whispering, “Jesus!” during any prayer, and I can hear her heartfelt and passionate prayers in Polish. I know my dad saw her kneeling by her bed every night, and he knew she was praying for him. I know that every time I visited her, her Bible was sitting on her table, open, with her glasses lying at the ready. The Polish words that filled page after crisp page of her Bible were clear and dark, and they were her very sustenance.
My Bobcha’s legacy is that of a woman who persevered through darkness and cruelty, a woman who kept her family together through incredible odds. A woman who worked night and day at menial labor so I could sit here today, never having seen the front lines of war. A woman who loved Jesus most of all and who trusted in Him with a faith that would not be shaken by bombs or angry tirades. A woman who was the first to become a Christian in her family and did not give up until her husband became one, too. A woman who hugged me long and hard every time I visited her and, looking into my eyes, said, “Next time, I may be in Heaven.” Now she is, and it is in honor of her that I ask you: what is your legacy? What is my legacy? If she made it through World War II with Jesus by her side, why cannot we make it through the fierce spiritual warfare of today with Jesus by our side? If her legacy is generations of people who follow the Lord, why will you or I be the generation to leave Him? I will not be the one to abandon her legacy of faithfulness, and someday I will tell my own children of my Bobcha, my sweet old lady. What will your Great-Grandchildren tell about you?

48 comments:

  1. So sweet...almost brings tears to my eyes!! Thank you Lauren!

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  2. What a beautiful lady! It is so wonderful that she got to go home. The beauty and joy of it made me cry - it's a beauty that hurts. I never met her, but I cannot wait for the day that we'll all be there together and I'll get to see her. Love you all. Sending a hug.
    ~Sarah

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  3. I cried through this entire post. My grandmother's family also came over from Poland and few in this world are as dear to my heart as she is. So many things you mentioned, the "oy yoy yoy!" and "Bobcha" and the pierogi-- it's all near and dear to my heart! Growing up i never considered that she had ever been anything but my Grammy. It wasn't till recently that I started to realize that before I ever came along there were parents and siblings and a dear husband and her children and jobs and life and history...No wonder a grandparent's love is so warm, it's rooted so deeply in life! I am so glad that you chose to honor your Bobcha in this way-- she clearly lived a life worth honoring, a life entrusted and dedicated to the Lord.

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  4. What a sweet, beautiful story! It is wonderful to be able to look into the past and see the history of God's faithfulness to His people. Stories like that give those of us in this generation courage and hope for the future, even in this time when the spiritual condition of our nation seems very hopeless. God is faithful and He will preserve for Himself a remnant of people faithful to Him, even through the bleakest times. Your great-grandmother was definitely an example of that faithful remnant(1 Kings 19:18) during a time when Germany was worshipping the advent of their messiah in the shape of one of history's worst tyrants. Thank you for sharing her story.

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  5. Elizabeth--I was crying as I wrote it, and I'm glad it was clear it came from my heart!
    Sarah--How right you are "it's a beauty that hurts" but we'll all be together in Heaven! Your love and hugs are precious to me! Thank you!

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  6. How beautiful!! You've really been blessed with the gift of writing...

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  7. She meant so much to all of us.
    I love her and will miss her so much till we all meet again. Lauren good post I cried
    all the way through.

    -Susanna

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  8. Lauren - Although I never had the pleasure to meet Karolina, as I read your thoughtful description of her life, my mind raced to the beauty of Proverbs 31. Your great-grandmother epitimizes verses 30 & 31 tonight: "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate." (NIV)

    Karolina is enjoying her reward at the feet of her Savior. I pray that you and your family will sense perfect peace in your time of loss.

    Blessings!
    Kennith

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  9. heey! hi I create a new blog and I loved your blog, but I'm from Brazil and not posted anything in English but wanted you to be my follower.
    Your blog is content

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  10. Lauren, this is beautiful! I'm hosting a women's retreat next spring with the theme of leaving a legacy. Would you allow me to use parts of this to read to the women? I think they would be really blessed by it and it would be a terrific opener to our retreat. Thanks for sharing!

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  11. Hi there. Your blog is pretty cool and I enjoyed reading it. Please support mine as I think you are a lover of art, nature and all things beautiful

    Isabel
    altosdelmarsculpturepark.blogspot.com

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  12. This was an amazing post. I adored it. God is SOO GOOD, and your great-grandmother's story is a testament to that.
    You are very blessed to have that legacy.
    I am new to your blog, but as this is the first post I've read, i can guarantee that I will be reading more.
    Keep it up!
    The Lord obviously wants to work in people's lives through your words!

    Be well!
    -Rae

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  13. Wow. The first half, I read with goosebumps and the second half, with tears rolling down my face. What a beautiful tribute to such a precious lady, Lauren.
    I'm praying for your family...I know it is not easy to lose someone who holds such an irreplacable part in your heart.

    Your post brought back alot of memories from my own precious Grandma, who passed away July 4 last year. A Christian heritage is something to be treasured, and I think if I was ever tempted to stray away, the remembrance of the legacy my grandparents and great-grandparents (who I never met--you are blessed indeed) left me would be one of the things that would keep me in the straight-and-narrow way. I would not want to be the generation who broke that chain of faithfulness and love for the Lord.

    I look at the pictures of my Great-Grandpa Walter--who loved children so much he co-founded a Christian camp, and was nicknamed "Grandpa Gum" because he always had some Juicy Fruit tucked in his pockets for any kid who happened by--I look into his face and I can almost see the twinkle in his eye, and the joy he had from following Jesus.

    My dad had a dear aunt, too, named Aunty Blossom, but everyone called her just "Anty," and she was an old maid. But she didn't allow that fact to make her crusty and sour in her old age. She also had a legacy, not with her own children, but with her nieces and nephews. She loved each of them steadfastly, prayed fervently for the entire family every day of her life, and was one of the biggest influences in each of those kids' lives. You should hear them talk about her at family reunions.
    She left a heritage of faithfulness too.
    The thought of Anty always encourages me when I feel I may never get married. :)

    Anyway, thank you so much for reminding me of my own heritage, while sharing yours. I look forward to meeting your Bobcha in Heaven someday. :)

    love,
    Kelsey

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  14. Lauren, this was a beautiful post and a wonderful tribute to your dear great-grandmother. I got goosebumps as I read it. Thank you, too, for prompting the question of if and how we are creating our own legacy for future generations.
    Blessings to you!

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  15. Hello Lauren & Mikaela~ this story left me in tears as much for its splendid writing as for your heartfelt loss. i'm sorry your family had to endure such. but, i'm happy she was able to be with Jozef once again. her heart must be singing. may she rest in peace.

    also, congrats on 'Blog of Note'. it's well deserved.

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  16. I'm still crying as I write this. How completely wonderful that you had your special lady. I am sorry for the pain and loss you feel, but like she said, she is with her Jesus...

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  17. Thank you so much, everyone for your kind words, thoughts, and encouragement. I am so overwhelmed and blessed that you are reading and commenting! Chelsy--I can't believe our grandmothers had so much in common--that is unbelievably special!
    Charae--Thank you for your wonderful words about my Bobcha--she was indeed a faithful woman of God!
    Kennith--your words were such a blessing to me, and Rae Lynn--you made me smile just to read your sweet comment!
    It's so good to hear from you again, Kelsey,and I loved your stories of your heritage in your ancestors, even the ones you haven't met--that is so neat!
    Ruthie--Thank you! Don't you love thinking about your heritage in your grandparents and then passing it on? You are definitely good at that!
    And Ali and BK and Aubrey Rose and Susanna and Words Crafter and Naquility and Isabel and Miss Maliskk--every one of your comments was a special gem of encouragement to me!
    I can't wait to hear from more of you!

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  18. I'm sorry for your loss but your Great Grandmother sounded like a very amazing woman! This really touched me, I'm sure she is making pierogi in Heaven!

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  19. Check out this girl's blog...she goes to my school and recently lost someone she knew as well (2nd post). I think you will like hers...she has some interesting posts. For an explanation of the whole thing, read the very first one posted in April.

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  20. This post is just fantastic. Thank you.

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  21. Thank you for this post. Each week I meet with older ladies here who have seen the horrors of war. How do you talk to someone of the beauty and goodness of God when that woman has seen her neighbors and family die before her very eyes, at the hands of first Nazi oppressors and then Communist?

    Thank God that His Word has not and will not change despite the scourge of our fallen nature and the Enemy of our souls. I can sit, a thirty-three year old American guy, with ladies over 70 here in this polish town and tell them of the love of Jesus which was with them, just as with your babcia, throughout the hard times.

    God has been gracious enough to give me a polish wife here and two spectacular little boys who have both the roots of this land and America in them.

    I pray that He will allow me to lead many other elderly ladies into His family, that they too might become worthy of being written about.

    Pray for the babcias still here who do not know the freedom of His love, the freedom of forgiveness in Him and the joy of salvation, as yours did.

    Blessings from Gorzow Wlkp, Poland (just 45 min from the German border)

    Corey Booher

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  22. I had tears in my eyes while reading this. This is seriously the nicest post I have ever read on blogger.com till date!
    Will definitely follow you and read more of your posts :)

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  23. sorry I think I may have forgotten to put the URL from that previous comment...
    http://leahsw.blogspot.com/

    there ya go! :)

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  24. check out my blog?http://mythoughtsonlifeandothervariousthings.blogspot.com/

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  25. That was a really touching post.

    check me out at http://youfailure.blogspot.com/

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  26. Beyond beautiful. What a wonderful life, and a wonderful way to describe it. I cried, but from joy! I can surely imagine her rejoicing in heaven.

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  27. beautiful, touching story...
    congrats...

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  28. What a beautiful tribute to your Bobcha

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  29. What an amazingly beautiful post, your compasion is beautiful. I feel the same way about my Nana, I'm considering writing a similar post. You've honored her in such a beautiful way!
    You are her legacy x

    http://veritableally.blogspot.com/

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  30. Very nice post. Get Amazing usefull blogger widgets and install easily in your blogspot. You Tools!

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  31. That is a beautiful piece of family history. I hope you have that written down somewhere for all of her descendants to be able to read and always remember. I too shed tears. Thankyou for sharing.

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  32. What a beautiful tribute to your Bobcha. May God bless you and may you walk in His ways forever.

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  33. an amazing story Lauren...especially loved the question you left hanging in the end - how would our grandchildren describe us? at this moment when most of the world is fighting about any and every thing it's very important for us to remind ourselves of our duty towards the future generation.

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  34. So sorry for your loss. Beautiful post.

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  35. This was a beautiful post. I too have a wonderful Bobcha who has been through so much and loves me still... even in her Alzheimer's. She taught me much and your story about your Bobcha sounded very familiar to my own.
    May her memory be the happiness in your days though she is no longer physically with you.

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  36. I cried so hard reading this. It brought back memories of losing my grandmother who was born of German immigrants about that time. She was the glue that held so much together. I lost her 14 years ago and it is still hard but I have so many fond memories!

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  37. Ali--thanks so much for asking--I do want people to ask permission before using my writings, so you're doing it perfectly! (-:
    That would be an honor for you to share this article at your women's retreat. (Which, by the way, you are quite on top of if it's not till next spring!) You mentioned sharing parts of it, and I certainly understand there may be a few parts not applicable to the retreat, but I ask that you retain the original meaning and message of the article when you are cropping, and cut as little as possible out.
    Also, give credit to me and the blog and we'll be good to go! Thanks so much for reading and for your sweet comment!

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  38. Lauren,

    Thanks so much! I love the original meaning of the article, so I will definitely keep it that way. It's likely that I won't even cut anything. I hope to have several things like this to share at various moments in the retreat, so I'll likely make a list of where I got everything and hand it out to everyone. That way I'm sure that everyone is credited correctly. :) Thank you for allowing me to use it and for sharing this beautiful story with the world. You have a gift for writing.

    As a side note, I have enjoyed looking at the list of music you are playing. I'm a violinist as well - majored in it in college - and it brings back fond memories to think of playing pieces such as those. Keep playing for the glory of God!

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  39. Hello! Thank you for the beautiful post! My great-great grandparents came to the U.S. from Poland. My great-grandmother spoke Polish as well and she made the bobcha bread and pierogi. Problem was, she never measured anything so her cooking legacy hasn't been passed down. Recently my cousin who is a chef began working with an older Polish couple and they are teaching him to make the traditional Polish dishes-which I'm hoping he'll teach me so I can continue her legacy!

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  40. i would like you to visit my blog is in spanish but you can translate http://missridernovels.blogspot.com/

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  41. BEAUTIFUL!! Thank you, thank you thank you!!
    Please check out my really young blog if you have the time :)

    http://geladsinkum.blogspot.com/

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  42. I don't have to know your Bobcha to know how lovely her soul was for Jesus. It's a glorious sadness when you say goodbye to someone whom you love and yet know they love God, too. Thank you for sharing her story so beautifully.

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  43. Hi Lauren?
    Beautiful. It's amazing how reading of your Bobcha reminds me of the women whose heroism and love for Jesus remain unsung. I wrote of my mother sometime back. I hope it inspires you as yours did me. God bless
    http://wwww.kosgei.blospot.com (Unsung heroes)

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  44. This is incredibly beautiful- thanks Lauren!

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  45. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing this.

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  46. Beautiful. I rarely cry reading articles, and this one touched me deeply. Spoczywaj w pokoju, Pani Karolina (x).

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  47. Pani Karolina--Thank you! I'm so glad you read about my Babcia and that the story touched you! Thank you for your sweet comment! When I read your blog, I am reminded of my Karolina!

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