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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Happy 108th Birthday

Paraska (Theresa) Roman
Nov. 5, 1899 - Feb. 18, 1991

If my grandmother had lived she'd have been 108 on Nov. 5, 2007. The best thing my mother ever gave me was my faith. She got it from her mother. My grammy emmigrated from Vysnapolanka, Slovakia and landed in the port of New York Sept 6, 1920. The name of the village translates to "high field." She had made the trip alone, and continued on to her sister and brother-in-law in Cleveland, Ohio. I once found the town of her birth on a detailed map. It sits in the Tatra Mountains almost directly north of the town of Presov - it is within a few miles of the present Slovak/Polish border.

Her father visited the US once after she immigrated, but she never saw her mother or most of her siblings again. I had looked up her immigration record at - it's free, and you can do a screen capture, if you have relatives that came through that port. I see that she traveled on the ship Imperator, and had paid for her own passage. The ship was later known as the Berengaria. It's a curiously odd sensation seeing the family history confirmed in official records, and because of this record I know the address to which she went. I am glad to note she had no plans on overthrowing the US government. I do remember asking her years ago if she had any apprehension, or long wait at Ellis Island. She told me "no, I was in and out of there before I knew it."

The picture above is her passport picture. I was told the blouse was white, the vest red and the scarf bright blue. She told me when she was growing up when the had material the girls in the town all got a similar skirt made. She met my grandfather, Andrew Shelak, in Cleveland and they married and later moved to Pennsylvania, where they raised 7 children. My maternal Grandfather was born in what is now Tarnov Krasno, Poland. They were both born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and were of Ukrainian heritage (with some Polish and Slovak thrown in the admixture.)

Below is a picture of her in her early 80s - she'd made a casual afternoon lunch for Easter. Easter was and always has been our favorite holiday. As great a holiday as Christmas is, it was and is a far distant 2nd best to Easter. She made the most wonderful foods - my favorite, being homemade bread, which can be seen in abundance here.

Easter, April, 1981

When I was very small, after my grandfather had died when I was 5, I sometimes got to sleep with my grandmother. She'd had had a hip operation shortly after he died in April of 1962, and that spring and summer we lived with her briefly while she recovered. I still consider that one of the best times of my life. Before bedtime, she would slowly say the Our Father in Ukrainian, and I would repeat it with her. My grandparents were eastern rite Catholics. My grandmother always kept a church calendar, and observed the stricter fast rules. I used to love looking at the calendar for Eastern Rite saints. Her nickname derived from "St. Paraskevia."

I can remember how much pleasure it gave her to comb my hair - though I didn't always appreciate the 100 strokes at the time. She did indulge my liking for the wild rabbits in that she didn't shoo them away when I was around - though they did plague her vegetable patch. In the evenings we'd watch television together. Her favorite was Jimmy Durante. She always enjoyed his sign off line: "Good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are." I've always been partial to his Inka-Dinka-Do♫ number myself. I defy anyone to remain in a bad mood after hearing it. Whenever we went for a ride in the car, she always called the "the machine." Years later, when I took Russian, I was delighted to find that they call a car "a machine."

The picture below is one of the few I have with both grandparents and me. The occasion was my youngest uncle Joe's 8th grade graduation. It was taken in the spring of 1960.

The sun was in my eyes!

Although we grandchildren didn't always obey our own parents, it would have been unthinkable for us, nor would it ever have occurred to any one of us to leave any request of our grandparents unheeded! I still miss her very much to this day. I miss my grandfather too - he had the most firm but gentle touch of any man I've known. I wish I'd gotten to know him better, but I suppose I am lucky in that some of my cousins never got to know him at all. I am very proud that they were my grandparents.


The Digital Hairshirt said...

Ach, Karen, that was beautiful!!

gemoftheocean said...

She's easy to write about!

Anonymous said...

Miles Jesu is bi-ritual & very fond of the Eastern rite liturgy..lovely post..

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

Karen, that was lovely. What wonderful memories you have and stories to tell.

EC Gefroh said...

Beautiful Karen. Your dear grandmother was a very lovely lady. Are you the family genealogist?

gemoftheocean said...

Thanks all. I suppose by default I'm the family genealogist. Though there are two male cousins of mine who also seem to be interested. Part of my blog is online diary - so when appropriate, I bring in reminiscences. I usually try to put a Catholic twist on most of my blogs...although I never officially signed this up as a Catholic blog.

I'm always surprised when some people say "I don't remember much/anything about my childhood."

I remember a lot! I can remember the long building process my grandfather took in building a house - completed shortly before he died (of TB) - his sons and sons-in-law + contracted help assisted. But it was mostly his design and much of his labor. There's a picture of my granddad and grandmother in front of the just laid basement here. Further progress is here. I'm at the far left end here. And finally, here is a picture of my grandmother in front of the house, some years later with my uncle when he graduated from High School. My granddad had "golden hands."

newhousenewjob said...

Wow, what great pictures, and wonderful memories.

I'm with you - I've never been able to understand people who don't remember much about their childhood. One of these days I'll have to blog about the storytelling sessions we have whenever my family get together...

swissmiss said...

How very wonderful to have all these memories and know the family history. I love's one of the few hobbies that has interested me for years and years.

Do you have any of her recipes? I have one of my grandmother's that is for a pie that she made during the depression. It has only a few ingredients and is really good.

My husband's family is from Poland, although they are German (went to Poland at the behest of Catherine the Great to teach the Poles how to farm or something like that :)

Anonymous said...

Pass the Kleenex! The way you wrote that makes me feel like I knew her too!

Marie said...

I love reading the history of families, it is fascinating!

Have you thought about making a family journal and having it printed as a book for future generations of your family to enjoy and learn?

My own Paternal Grandfather came from Scotland and my Maternal Great Grandparents fled Ireland to avoid persecution and begin a new life. Unfortunately that is ALL I know.

I hope you will think about it Gem..what a GIFT for your family and yourself:).

Peace to you:)


gemoftheocean said...

Newhousenewjob- I hope you do blog about that stuff - I think it's interesting. That's one of the nicest parts of blogging - to be able to share things like that with other people who might enjoy - that way some of this stuff never really dies.
etc. I bet that something kids in the future will love to have.

Marie! Thanks for checking in. I wondered who from "down under" was reading my blog. Can't really say I've thought of doing a book - not having any descendants myself. My closest living relatives are aunt, uncles and cousins. I have traded a few notes with the cousins about finding some of these records. I'm glad I'm not the only one. On my mom's side I have 15 1st cousins on my mom's side. There's about a 40 year spread between the oldest and youngest cousin. My mother's 3 sisters all lived with their families within a block or two of their mom. And my own family lived fairly close by until I was 8. Two other sets of cousins, younger than me were also the "gypsy" families - living in different states, but often visiting for the holidays - sometimes we'd just "miss" each other by a week or so. How much easier it would have been back then to have email and blogs!

Swissmiss: I have a few of my grandmother's recipes but as per usual with grandmothers who never really "write anything down" you can never quite get it to come out the same! I'm sure she had the basics all in her head, and altered them just slightly depending on time of year, phase of the moon, who big the chicken was being used for the chicken paprikash. etc. ad infinitum. No wonder "our" stuff never came out quite right! Genealogy is a blast, especially when you do it with a mind to learning about the times they lived in. People in the US get a "bonus" [and I dare same Aussie and Canadians, etc] in that chances that unless you rode over on the boat yourself, by a generation or two down, you have all sorts of different ethnic backgrounds in the mix. For instance I have about 3/8ths German [from way back - I blogged about those revolutionary war types before] and 1/8th UK background. [I KNOW I got my tooth enamel from them. My dentist, upon looking at my xrays: [calls wife] "Honey...guess what? We're going to the Bahamas this year!" Couldn't ONE of my ancestors have married a Zulu or something?] I know the names of the boats a lot of them came over on. One irritating thing is other than their names, I don't know much of anything past the names of my great grandparents on my mom's side. My mon's grandparents, had both been orphans, evidently. So far I don't know who their parents were.

Angela, how sweet! I wasn't even trying for the tears!

swissmiss said...

You were lucky to know your grandparents. I didn't know my dad's dad and really wish I could've met him. Both my parents passed away before my kids were born :(

The latest information I've unearthed shows my ancestry as:
Irish 40.625%
Swiss 12.5%
Scottish 12.5%
German 12.5%
English 12.5%
Welsh 3.125%
French 3.125%
Undetermined 3.125% (likely English, the name is Elder)

My Welsh is assumed since the name is Bevans but I don't know for certain where they are from. Some of the English is assumed too. Some of the Scottish could be considered Irish since they left Scotland and went to Ireland. My Swiss, Irish and German lines are pretty well documented. Being of overwhelmingly Irish descent, I haven't pursued my English lines very heartily ;} Just kidding! Actually I can't get them out of Ohio and back to England. I figure the family was here at the time of the Revolution since they were already in Ohio by the early 1800s. Few records exist during this time to track this branch (Hawkins) :(

gemoftheocean said...

My English lines drive me nutso. I can track to which generation came to this country, but not back before that. Dawson, Hughes, Walker - all before the US Civl war, but after 1830. I can take a guess that given where they ended up in America they were likely from coal mining regions in the UK - given their professions. I could just scream that my dad's mom never asked HER grandmother exactly where "in England" her great-grandparents came from. Maddening. And can we really "hate on" ;-D our relatives who bury their kin without vital information on the headstones. Years only instead of full birth/death dates also want to make me scream. "My Germans" can be tricky enough with their charming ways of giving 1st name after dad, but their "call name" as middle name. I.E. Johann Georg X - Would be called "Georg" and unless you find the baptism record and getting every thing else straightened up then you find technically his first name was "Johann." BUT that often, at least gives you a clue that his dad's name was Johann....etc. At least with the Krauts I tend to know what boat brung 'em! ;-D

swissmiss said...

The funny thing about my Irish and English lines are that I have an Irish Hawkins branch on my maternal grandfather's side and an English Hawkins branch on my maternal grandmother's side.

My German line was especially hard to track since they were very sensitive about appearing American. They came over very early 1833 and left no mention of where they were from, what ship, etc. Their names were Smith and Jones...actually, Meyer and Schmitz which is so common in Germany that it was impossible to find them. Since Germans tended to move as a "pack" with others from their homeland, I tracked others in their community and finally found a book a German gentleman wrote that contains all my family back to the 30 Years War!

I doubt I will ever find where my English line is from, but someday...

Where did your English lines settle? Mine, predominately in Ohio by way of PA and VA.

gemoftheocean said...

Swiss: Pennsylvania. Do you know what part your Hawkins fam. settled?j And lucky shot on that book. I had the luck of my Germans being in roughly the same geographic place for a long time - plus there'd been some excellent research done by some distant cousins, which helped a lot.There are a few people on there that I'd be related to more than once. not quite my aunt is my cousin stuff...but sisters marrying into two different lines and 3 generations descendants of same mereging. That sort of thing.

Joe18067 said...

I came across your grandparents grave, you have such wonderful information on your site.

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