Vol. 15


The Reunion

c. 1895, Lviv Oblast, Ukraine; 1910, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Before World War I, my great-great-grandparents Mary and Theodore lived in a small village in Ukraine. Theodore’s father was a wealthy landowner and lived in a large stone house with glass windows. Mary’s mother was a seamstress, and every day Mary swept their dirt-floored home.

When Mary was six years old, she went with her mother to Theodore’s house. Theodore’s parents were sending him to a military high school, and Mary’s mother sewed the uniforms he would wear at school. Mary thought how handsome Theodore looked in the uniform. It was 1895, and people thought that war was about to start between Ukraine’s neighbors Russia and Poland.

Mary’s family knew that war was coming. The army was taking some crops from farmers, and they were starting to draft people into the army. Mary’s parents scraped together enough money to send Mary and her sister to America. It was hard to see them go, but Mary’s parents knew their children would have more opportunities in America.

Mary and her sister walked all the way to Hamburg, Germany, where they boarded a ship to America. The trip took twenty-nine days by sailing ship. On the ship Mary got very seasick and she thought she couldn’t make it, so she was very happy when the ship landed at Ellis Island, New York.

When the ship docked, Mary and her sister thought they had landed in a war zone, because they heard loud explosions nearby. They were kids and were scared as they walked off the ship to be processed so they could enter the United States. They calmed down when someone told them that it was the Fourth of July and the loud noises were fireworks.

Mary and her sister lived in an apartment with other people who had come to America from Ukraine. Mary worked as a maid in a tall building downtown. The girls stayed in New York for one year. Then they took a train to Chicago, where more people from Ukraine were living. Mary worked in a factory that made porcelain bowls.

One day in 1910, Mary was walking down a street in Chicago and saw a familiar face. Mary and Theodore stared at each other for a minute, then greeted each other with joy. They talked about home and their families. Theodore had come to America three years before, crossing the Atlantic Ocean in only fifteen days on a steamship. He had worked for two years in a coal mine in Pennsylvania before taking a train to Chicago, and now he worked in a steel mill.

Mary and Theodore talked all afternoon, and the next day they met and talked some more. After several months, they got married, and after a few more years they bought a two-flat(1) in Cicero, a suburb of Chicago, where they raised their family. Theodore lived to the age of 103, and Mary to 98 — long enough to see three children, five grandchildren, and eleven great-grandchildren enter the world!

August Hromadka; Missouri, USA


1. A two-flat is a two-story building with an apartment unit on each floor. Two-flats were especially common in Chicago.



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