Barbara Duslak

Transcript of Barbara Duslak
Interviewee: Barbara Duslak
Interviewer: Maribel Morales, Brandy Norton, and Dorothy Nygren
Date: May 8, 2014
Place: Chicago, Illinois
Transcriber: Brandy Norton, Maribel Morales
Total Time: 45:27

Copyright © 2014 Edgewater Historical Society

BN: This is Brandy and Maribel interviewing Barbara…

BD: Duslak

BN: …Duslak, who was born in England and her heritage is Polish. Did you want to tell us a little bit about your early years and your childhood?

BD: Sure. I was born in Diddington, England, which was a camp for Polish military. My mother worked in the underground and my dad was a corporal in the Polish army. They both fought in World War II. And England, as an ally, took them in, temporarily. They…I was born there. They got married there and I was born there and both my dad and my mom learned how to be tailors. So they were given a craft and my dad’s claim to fame was that he did a suit for Danny Kaye.


These are handmade suits. And my mother always made handmade dresses for me. So, we came to the United States because you had to find a sponsor. And the United States and Chicago had schools and churches and a network because of previous waves of immigrants. And so through Ellis Island, then Long Island, one summer there and then we came to Chicago. They had two more kids here, raised in the Catholic tradition, so that means the grade school and high school were Polish. Yes, the grade school was Polish, so was the high school. My brothers started deviating and becoming more Americanized but that’s their story. One way of keeping the culture is going to schools on Saturdays. So it’s a very tight knit, subpopulation. There’s no cars, you’re walking everywhere. If you want to go somewhere, you have to take a bus. And you start. They landed in Chicago.

One week later, my dad was working at Zenith Radio Corporation and he worked there for thirty years. My mother then joined Zenith when my brothers, there were two more after me, were born. They had schools on Saturday and Girl Scouts. So scouting was very big and church was very big, to keep that culture. And the amazing thing was they kept the culture as this whole subpopulation, the way it was, the way they had remembered it. Cultures evolve, so the first time we went to Poland, I was in shock. Besides the poverty that I saw and they did much better in the United States. They had retained their image of the culture, so it was, it was a really interesting because everything in Poland was super. They had Americanized - Coca-Cola - McDonald’s. I mean, by the time my son was twelve, McDonald’s was there and when I saw my first golf course, I knew this was Westernized. Outside of Cracow that’s what they did with the small farms, but anyway, this is where my family started. (picture 03:52). This is the house that my mother grew up in. And it’s like Colorado Springs. And a very nice place. And I did get a chance to see it. This is my records [holds up document] academic, records…

DN: I’m going to hold this up. Can you see it? Is that good? This way? Ok.

BD: So, Saint Fidelis was the was the grade school, actually two years at Saint Stans[islaus] and then Saint Fidelis. Holy Family Academy for Girls. I was in the Latin Club, vice president. University of Illinois, Bachelor’s in Business. Then a business certificate from same school in Biology. And publications with Dr. De Kirmenjian [holds up documents]


Dr. Jah vaid. And I did twenty five years of medical research at the Illinois State Psychiatric Institute. This is a group shot of me and my colleagues early on at a planning session. This is a paper that I worked on. You will notice my name is not on there, ok. So there was a bit of a friction and that’s when I got fired.

DN: You were talking about getting fired.

BD: Fired, released….

DN: Let go?

BD: Yeah, yeah, because, the research that I was doing and that they wanted me to finish up, if it continued, it would have killed somebody, because I did rat research. So, once it passes that stage, the next stage is human, ok. I could not get this one drug to satiate, which means that if it goes into the brain, it will start eating…. It’s no good. And my immediate superior said, “Continue.” I said, “No, I can’t get it to saturate.” And he goes, “Continue.” I said, “No”. And he goes, “Then you’re fired.” I said, Ok.” A year later, they used that drug at Stanford, eight people died. Not on my watch. Anyway, this is what I looked like as a kid. So obviously, I was very well-taken care of, even though we were technically, I guess, poor. And you can see the black and white pictures. This is at Morton Arboretum. And this is me, my dad, in the first house that they bought. And this is me in my Girl Scout outfit, ok, I really was a Girl Scout and I’m still a member. This is my friend and I; she’s no longer with us, at a wedding. This is what I looked like in high school. That’s called knockout. So alright. And that’s my husband at a wedding that we were at. This is a family picture, a little bit later. And that’s my brother, John, who’s the lawyer, who’s now a Duke after being with (Department of) Justice for twenty five years.

This is a family photo, of my parents, my son and my sister-in-law, and her two kids, for Thanksgiving. My brother did well. And this is me and my parents and I think this is the one, yeah. If a kid breaks an arm, you’ve got to do something with them for the summer, so we went to Disney World in San Diego or down in Los Angeles and you could see his arm. He has a green arm. No, it’s a cast and he was horrid. So anyhow, big on family. This is me and my mother, taking her down to my brother’s for their Holy Communion. This is me getting my mother to North Carolina in a wheelchair. This is me taking my mother to a Girl Scout meeting, where she was comfortable.


She was getting older; she didn’t want to go out. And she was the first one in a wheelchair to go there. And this is my parents; they were very big on the military. And then I buried them. Along with that….Oh yeah, this is a picture of me as a little kid. And these are my school pictures. This is what they look like. Big classes, these nuns used to have 50 kids in a classroom. This is one class. This is first Holy Communion at Saint Fidelis. You sit on your hands and you don’t say a word. You don’t get through the class if you speak. This is Holy Family Academy for Girls; two years of Latin and lots of science and math, but those nuns knew. Then I got married. I got my job, bought my house and then, this is my house. This is where I live. I’ve been there for thirty years. Paid off. This is my husband. This is my friend and I; she’s pregnant with her first born on a golf course in Door County. This is my husband and myself and our first dog, Shadow. This is the first apartment that we had. This is at a friend’s farmhouse up in Wisconsin. And this is an early photo of us. So we were young and we… yes. Ok then I had my son, which that was an interesting.… For eleven years, I was married, didn’t want to have kids and then felt I should have a kid. Because we were accumulating money and who am I going to leave it to. So I decided that now’s the time. My husband finally agreed. But he got to be, he wanted a logical reason to have a child. There is no logical reason, ok?


DN: Barbara, how old were you at that time?

BD: I was thirty five. And at that time, too old, plus I had him at home. It was a home birth. The one guy who does it in Chicago land area, I had to be within two weeks of my due date. I left work on Friday, after my aerobics class, and I took care of some business on Sunday. And Monday morning, I went into labor and I had him at home. I’m a big proponent of home deliveries. They’re easy if you’re strong enough to fight the cultural negative: oh my god, you’re crazy. That’s what I was told now is the sentiment, because, you have a 95 percent chance of having a normal delivery and they tried to make it sound like god only knows what. Anyway, I was in labor for subjectively two hours, according to my husband, eight hours. And he lost a shoe while I was delivering. But anyway, it was fun.


DN: Did he catch the football?

BD: Yes. He was there and he did cut the umbilical cord which was cool. That was nice and I went through this, right? I went through this one and I went through this one. So then, I decided that it was time to do stuff with my son.

DN: Did you nurse by the way?

BD: Yes, three years. And it was the easiest thing for me because I was working. And at the lab, I have a walk-in freezer, refrigerator, so instead of taking lunch home, I brought lunch with me, or I, you know, reversed it. I had… every two hours I took a break. Nursed or, you know, relieved myself and then continue with my job. But….

DN: So you were nursing every two hours?


BD: No, I was withdrawing every two hours.

DN: Alright you were expressing milk as they call it now.

BD: Correct, yes, ok.

DN: So and saving it for your son at home.

BD: Yes, yes and he switched, he was on fully on breast milk for six months. Then he was introduced to watermelon and he was not… and then and very slowly, to food. And my mother was the one who took care of him for the early and it was great. My husband was a CTA bus driver because he could earn more money on CTA than in academics, so he decided not to go for the Ph.D. Even though he was an A student. But his brother - and he was a conscientious objector too - so that’s another story, but that’s ok. He… you have to be… you have to get agreement between the two parties, ok?

I would not have been able to have Mark at home if he didn’t agree to it, because he was the father, and you have to have….It’s much better if you have two people on board, thinking similarly. And it worked out for us, because I would have Saturdays and Sundays. My husband would take off the other two days during the week because his schedule was flexible. He also went to a four day work week to spend more time when he [Mark] was an infant with him. And then my parents had him the other three days. So it worked out fine, you know, but I had to have that agreement.


DN: What year was that in, about?

BD: He was born in ’84, so ’84, you know, he’s thirty now, yeah. He just did his thirtieth birthday. So because World War II was over, we had already established…. My parents had the two boys, they were gone. One died at twenty one, the younger one. The other one went on to clerk with a judge in southern Illinois. Then he went to Washington and he was on his own. In fact, he didn’t want that much to do with the family because they don’t speak English that well, so…

DN: You’re talking about your parents?

BD: Yes, correct. And as they got older, it was very unusual in our household because my dad needed to practice English. I needed to practice my Polish, so I would speak to him in Polish. He would speak to me in English. And that way we practiced both. With my mother, she never got the hang of English, so I had to go Polish with her all the way.

DN: Now why did you feel….Sorry. Why did you feel it was important to maintain your Polish language?

BD: Because they did not. You needed to have the Polish language in order to speak to your parents. Because at the end, when they’re dying, they revert back to Polish. And they had horror stories of their kids not knowing what they were saying. So one of us had to bite the bullet and stay within that subpopulation. And you can have the gamut of fully Polish, just like they have fully Mexican.

I had a kid that I was teaching soccer. I said, “Where the heck were you born?” And he goes, “Chicago.” I said, “Get some American friends. I can barely understand you.” And I’m really good on languages because I’ve had Indian, Pakistani, Ukrainian, broken Chinese and the Chinese who come over here and with their broken English and have Indian doctors. By the time I left, I couldn’t understand a frig that that doctor was saying, so forget it. Because it’s one accent is layered on another accent. And triple accents I don’t do. So it was hard enough. So anyway, the one thing that I did do that was fun was I had all the grunge stuff with the translations. And you do get a headache if you’re translating fully, from one language to another. And I used to do translations with mental patients which was lots of fun because they do have Polish mental patients, and [it’s] interesting. The best one was a little girl, who was a teenager, who didn’t understand her parents. And it took me awhile and I had to go through a legal court to explain. Now thankfully, the judge understood some Polish because the lawyer was totally American, had no concept of translations. He goes, “No, I [don’t] want you to interpret, you know. Don’t interpret. Translate it word for word.” I said, “That’s impossible.” No language, you have to interpret. So you better be sure you understand what that person is conveying. And it was so funny because I would talk to the girl, I would get a different message for a word than what her parents, which is the classic.

So anyway, raising a child can be grungy because you’re always feeding, taking care of them, taking them to school, the whole bit. So I decided that I would do exercise. I joined AYSO which is the American Youth Soccer Association and I started with my kid because I didn’t want him to be in Little League. Ok, they’re competitive enough. This is cooperative. Soccer was frowned upon, because it was going to take away money from baseball and football, alright? So, tough. Anyway, they have right here on Peterson is the American Soccer Association. That one is me and that is my son…there [laughs]. They all look alike after a while. Isn’t this a cutie? And that’s my husband and I got him involved so that’s me and that’s him. Then, you’ll see the changes as they get older. This is more or less the same bunch of kids. Is this a tough kid or what? That’s my son. My outfit got darker because I became a ref. And then that’s the last one I did. And then once he started high school, I did four years at Loyola substitute teaching.

In the meantime, whenever I could, I went back to Poland. And oh; this is me pregnant. Sorry, this is out of order, see I was pregnant. Ok, this is…my mother is from a family of four. They went through two World Wars, raised by… and lost their parents when she was six and she’s the oldest. So besides the fact that both she and her sister were in the underground, this is her sister. She stayed. And this is the one that got the packages for years, because they were in dire shape. When I went there, the first time to visit, Mark was two years old, so whatever ’84, so ’84,’85,’86, ok. Because they wanted them to see the American before they died. This is three generations of this family. So this is my cousin who was raised under Communism that I have to watch out for; don’t trust her. She is a chief accountant, very smart, and yes, you can, you can trust her. This is her daughter who’s a kindergarten teacher. She just had her second daughter and they speak Polish beautifully. This is the daughter’s wedding. This is my Aunt Mary. And I don’t have a picture of all three sisters and they’re both dead now. And this is at their wedding and this is me at Marta’s wedding. So that was…and so then I started going there every couple of years. Every couple years. Mark was two and that was coinciding with a trip to….My dad wanted to see who did better. That was it.

When he [Mark] was five years old, we took another trip back and this time I told my dad that he has to spend his money. If he doesn’t then, I will spend his money for him because he has too much money. And they were getting up in age and while they still could. I said, “I will take you anywhere you want to go in the world before you die. Where do you want to go?” And I said, “By Sunday tell me.” Because I had been fired by then, which was good. So he said, “I want to go to Mass. And I said, “Ok.” In London, England, for the 45th anniversary of World War II, his division has a mass. He wants to see who did better, the ones who came to the United States or the ones who stayed in England. Anybody’s guess?


BN: United States?

MM: I want to say, “Yeah, the United States.”

BD: You’re darn tooting, ok [laughs]. Ok. We lasted about three days in London and my dad says, “Get us to Paris.” I said, “Ok.” So he goes, “I don’t like the food here [laughs], so let’s try Paris. I heard the food is good there.” So I booked travel with a Sri Lankan tourist agency to take a hovercraft over the English Channel to take a bus because my parents can’t walk very far. So we had to do a lot of hot scotching, hop scotching, hop scotching. And then hovercraft to White Cliffs of Dover. Is it Dover?

DN: Dover.

BD: Dover and then Calais. Dover to Calais. And that hovercraft was fun. Now they have a bridge underneath the LaManch….

DN: The Channel.

BD: Yeah the yeah, it’s the LaManch or my mother could say it. I couldn’t say it. But anyway, so, went to Paris and spent the weekend in Paris. And that was interesting. I did go to the Eiffel Tower and I had Chinese food with that tasted like a quiche. So it was very yeah….So any culture that comes, assimilates from…and it’s very normal to have people speaking like, you know, two, three languages because you’re always…. Europe is really small. It’s like the United States. It’s you know, except that instead of having English throughout, but even here, you’ve got…I once did a trip of Kansas. All four corners of Kansas are different. And it took me a week.


BD: So I took trips with my parents. I took my son to Alaska and we did a helicopter ride and that was really good. Then, once he graduated, he got a degree in education, got married, and then my husband got sick. He had colon cancer. He died two years ago. So and before that, I got really sick, alright. So I then took a trip by myself back to Poland. And then I took a side trip to Turkey just for the fun of it. So this is my Cappadocia plate. I was there. Proof positive and then as far as…that’s my son and his wife. And if there’s, so you know, and that’s my husband down in Florida. And that’s where I’m at right now.

DN: You’ve had quite an interesting life and quite a varied life.

BD: You know what? It’s in segments because I was thinking about….Oh yeah, this is my mom. That’s the lady who took care of her and that’s my son. And he’s really comfortable with older people, so that’s good because where he’s at…and then the rest…. You know, I have friends who I invested money with and that was fun. That’s my mother in her hammock with curlers. It’s not the best picture, but…

DN: But it’s a fun one.

BD: Yeah and then this is at the Botanic Garden when she was in a wheelchair, but I would take her places. So and this is me and my husband; me and my son. My son and I, not me and my, like I’m with…This is a Chinese friend that’s an interesting fellow. This is my two aunts, right at the end. They’re both gone now. I didn’t have the three. And then this is my brother-in-law, one of them, and that’s my son. This is my husband on his Harley, so he did, nice guy. Loved the Harley. And this is me on my scooter. I just learned. Now I have a People Scooter. I was learning how to ride a motorcycle, but it’s too heavy and you have to learn when you’re younger, but I do scoot around Edgewater, so if you see me….. My son and my husband down in Florida. Notice my happy daughter-in-law. She’s always a blast. And then, that’s his Harley or, yeah, that’s his Harley. We were goofing around. And this was like the last year. He was already diagnosed and just visiting Chicago, so on the Odyssey Cruise line over here. That was fun. And then, just normal. And I think that’s about it.

DN: Well it’s great that you have all those pictures because it really helps give a face to the story that you’re telling us. To see your son in his soccer and changing over the years.

BD: It was very interesting because I was the one taking the pictures, so it was very hard to find pictures of myself. And it wasn’t that I was camera-shy or something. It was that I was the one taking the pictures and directing traffic, because towards like, with my parents, they….. I took my parents to the Grand Canyon. I said, “We have to go to Las Vegas. “ So because my, oh that was it. The Las Vegas trip. You go to Las Vegas, so that they get to spend and enjoy their money that they’ve worked so hard to get, ok? So finally get them on airplanes… that bit. And, with my son, he was thirteen at the time and this was Christmas.


Cheapest time to go to Las Vegas is on Christmas Day, because nobody is flying on Christmas Day: so this was the gift ok. So now, it was the Tropicana or Flamingo across from Caesar’s Palace. To try to get everybody interested. That’s the place that I booked, because, we had the windows looking out on Caesar’s Palace. My mother in her wheelchair wants to stay there, because she wants to see all the ladies all dressed-up like the Oscars going to and from the Casino: So she is fine.

My dad is in heaven, because I take him down stairs the elevator doors open and it’s, “Chi chin chi chin chi chin.” And he goes, “Get me to poker.” He can only do poker at a quarter a piece. I said, “Pop, how much money do you have?”He goes, “Twenty bucks.” I go, “Ok, good. Here are the quarters.” He goes, “Show me how to use this again.” So I showed him how to use them. I grab a waitress and I go, “All the orange juice that man can take.” Then I take my son and I spent the day in the gaming room. So that was interesting.

We went to see Hoover [Dam]. And then right before we left I said, “We have to go to the Grand Canyon.” This is before 9/11. Now it’s a different story. “Do we have to? It’s a six hour drive.” I said, “Pop, we have to you cannot leave the face of this earth without seeing the Grand Canyon.” So we get there and the Ranger goes, “I can’t let you in.” I said, “What do you mean?”He goes, “We have a government shut-down. Clinton has shut-down the Grand Canyon.: I said, “Look at this people. They’re not going to make it for the next time. I don’t care. I’m a U.S. citizen. So are they. Please let us in.” He goes, “Ok.”


DN: That’s sweet, that’s great.

BD: So a snow storm comes up. We go into the building. It’s a shack. It overlooks the Grand Canyon - right at sunset, half an hour with all the peaks. And each peek is named after Olympus, Zeus, I mean all the Gods and it is the land of the Gods. And I go, “In order to understand the American psyche, you have to see the Grand Canyon and look down.” We were there about half an hour. We left; another four hour, six hour drive. My dad goes, “That was worth it!”

DN: Now you said, “In order to understand the American psyche you need to see the Grand Canyon.” Can you say a few more words about what that meant?

BD: Yes, yes. It’s deep, resilient and…..if you ever travel across the United States, you get a really good sense of how it evolved. And the East Coast is more traditional. The west coast is as far left as you’re going to go. And here in the Midwest, we sort out what the next movement is going to be, or what is the main stream. And this is a very solid area. Also it’s a welcoming to. In my parish there is fifty three different nationalities. And fifty three different combinations of….Whatever you want to do, as long as you’re not hurting anybody, ok, you’re fine, so….


DN: I’d like to go back to when you first came from England to here. You said you were three. Do you have any memories of that all?

BD: Yes,

DN: Could you share of that with us?

BD: I had to leave my doll buggy back there. Also back there, I was locked up in a closet with a white rabbit skin and a light bulb for hours at a time. My mother was trying to save some money. So she had a babysitter who would take her daughter, who was the same age as myself shopping, while she would lock me up in this closet. My mother… somebody else squealed on her. My mother finally pulled me out of there. My mother always felt guilty about that ok. I, on the other hand, developed a phobia a fear of white furry things. So of course I get a job killing rats. So I had to overcome my fear of rats. And then I traced it back to white fury things and having that recurrent nightmare of… which was a - you know. On the boat itself, I came on the low Mauretania. I have the bill of the passenger list with my name on it and peering over the water because there was just a bar. And the water was very nice, and then somebody whisking me away. And then walking into my first theater, seating on the first row, last seat. The bunk where we were underwater….We would walk down. We would open the door. We would walk down. The bunk beds are right here. There is a sink with a mirror over here. And I was on the top bunk. Yes, I do have memory from three years old.

DN: Where you afraid of that bunk bed situation?

BD: No, no, no.

BD: And there was a circle over here that also had water in it.

DN: Do you remember anything about going to Ellis Island?

BD: No, nothing. And that’s why I still have….So when Lee Iacocca wanted to refurbish it, one of the presents that I gave my parents. We do have a plaque or whatever digitalized and I still have to visit that. I also got my dad World Cup tickets. Which was the biggest gift I could give him ok? Because he was a huge soccer fan. He played in Chicago and I knew the opening game was going to be in Chicago. Because there such a huge soccer population at Soldier Field. So two years in advance of the games, you had to buy tickets. I got all tickets for myself, my husband my father and my son. So I had all 3 generations and they were there for Uruguay and Germany or something like that. And it was a great world soccer. And when I gave my dad the tickets he said, “You’re bluffing, you’re lying.” I said, “No here you go.” And I thought he was going to have a heart attack! But, he had a great time. He goes, “I never would have dreamt this.” I said, ‘That’s why you’re here and that’s why you’ve got me hanging around, ok?” And the same thing with my mother, I tried to figure out what they would like. If they knew what I knew. I invested money for my mother but, not my father. My father asked me not to because it’s his money. I said, “I understand completely.” And (whispers) my mother did better just to let you know.

DN: Now you said that when you first came - when your parents first came here - they settled in little Poland over at Division and Ashland?

BD: Correct.


DN: And when did you come to this area of the city?

BD: They bought a house on California and Division. And then once they started shooting over there, my mother said, “I’ve survived gun shots. I will not tolerate this. We’re out of here.” So they sold that house at a loss and they moved to Elston and Central. And that’s where she finally died. And my father was the one who was risk adverse. She was the one who wanted to buy property in Hawaii. Then it became a State (snap fingers). Missed that one. But, they did very well over there. So the one thing that they wanted was to pay off the house and then have money to pay for the grand kids’ schooling and half of it went to my brother, half went to me so.


DN: What would you say you’ve taken from your Polish heritage, traditions, food, ethical?

BD: Character? Marine motto. West Point was founded by a Polish count –Kosciuszko. He has that West Point code. He is the motto for Poland: God, Honor and Country. There is nothing that beats that. Whenever you take an action in life, make sure it’s ok and is favorable to God. It’s an honorable deed, and then country. So high integrity. You don’t lie. You don’t cheat. You keep your word if it all possible. That’s it. Not easy, but… and you’re going to pay for it. But I sleep real well at night.


DN: You also seem to have a great commitment to your parents - to family.

BD: Which is done, I’m done.

DN: You’re done?

BD: Because my job was to bury them and I did. I also buried my husband and as far as….And right now I’m in the process of helping another lady to cross over. Well actually two. My son’s second grade teacher is ninety four. She’s a BVM in Dubuque, Iowa – ninety three. I’m sorry, ninety three. She just had her birthday in April. And my son had her in second grade. So I’ve been in contact with her.

DN: You also like to make periodic trips to Poland.

BD: Yes and I’m due for one soon but I have to finish up some other stuff. But maybe my cousin will come here. I’m trying to talk to her into that.

DN: So you have a large attachment to the country of your origin?


BD: No, ok…

DN: Even though you were there.

BD: Yeah, that’s what I was going to explain that you can on any other ethnic origin. You can go from 0 to 100. My brother is at 0. He doesn’t recognize any Polish. He is pure American. When I was growing up to eighteen, I was about 75(%) Polish 25 (%) American. Then when I went into college and it was 50/50. No, not even that. It really sprang to about 10% Polish. It was just maintaining with my parents. I no longer was with the scouts even though they had scouts leaders who continued. With my academic, my studies, I had four very, very tough years at UIC (University of Illinois at Chicago). Because I had calculus, physics, chemistry. Plus I was working during the summers in order to pay for the schooling. So anyway that dropped Polish down to about 15/ 20%.The rest is American 80%. And then once you get into work that’s even more…. So this was always in the back. And then once I got fired, this started increasing. I went back and was able to take my parent which was great. And then I was also doing part-time jobs, just you know to make ends meet until my husband retired. So, I’ve been retired since I was forty five…fifty… something like that. But, and I didn’t feel…. I accomplished what I wanted to do. I got a glimpse of a natural order. And whether anybody else knows about it? It doesn’t matter, but gosh it is beautiful and that’s it.


DN: So, right now how do you see yourself as Polish American percentage?

BD: Ah… percentage wise? Yeah ‘cause I was thinking about that. I’m speaking less even though I have that contact. I’m probably down to about maybe ten to twenty, back to that because I’m American. And I’m treated as American when I go abroad. And in fact I take bus tours and I’m singled out because I’ve got the different passport. But I pass for Polish and under the Bush years that was a good thing. That was a really good thing. He was not….They were not happy with the Bush’s policies over there. So and I still I’m not able to go to Ukraine. Because, it’s still too dangerous for me yeah.


DN: Now I didn’t ask you, but I’m just wondering was your husband Polish too?

BD: Nominally. So he was one quarter Czech, and that was the part I had to watch out for. He doesn’t speak any Polish, nothing. The same thing with my son. He knows one word and my grandson will not speak it at all. If I can get Czech out of him I will be happy. But I don’t need to. He has a different path. He has a…. But is there a connection between myself and my grandson? Yes.

DN: What do you see as being the welcoming factors to immigrants in Chicago in general and in this area of the city?

BD: Ok, again there is a… the new wavers, and I can tell a new wave from… because they’re more westernized. They’re more Americanized. The old time Poles……

DN: So go back to what you were saying about the new wavers, ok?

BD: That the new wave immigrants. They’re a different breed because they’re highly educated and they’re more western in their views already. Because… it’s just broadened. The internet is fantastic. I have a friend in Poland who, when I come to visit, I have to go look him up because he was raised in Chicago and he was here for the first 25 years of his life and he decided that he was going to… relocate to Poland. So he took his $10,000 and became a gentleman farmer and lived high of the land. I had $100 when my son was three. This was just right after Chernobyl. I was a millionaire at $100. I had for $3 … I had a pair of shoes leather made for me overnight. A suit made overnight. They were desperate for dollars. You could buy land for 100 bucks - a house. That’s how desperate they were and the kids’ teeth were rotting. I was not happy. I had to have two lady bodyguards with me just so I could go to the bazaar just to see what they have - just to see what it’s like. And my mother told me, “Don’t give anyone more than a quarter. “ That’s how the exchange rate was. So it was…. I did not have a fun time but I had everything thrown at me any place I wanted to go - to the highest, you know, like the tourist areas. It’s done any place.

DN: That’s a really dark picture.

BD: Yes, yes I didn’t like it. I’m glad it’s much better now. My exchange rate is worse, but I have been to Turkey. And there are countries… and Mexico City – ok - yeah Haiti. Yeah. So I just…don’t go?

DN: Brandy do you have any other questions you might think you’d like to ask?

BD: And you have to ask.

BN: Sure.

DN: We have a list of questions Barbara but you’ve been so comprehensive and talking about it, you’ve covered most of them.

BD: Well you know what? I needed to. You know, what was really interesting was I have not focused on myself for so many years because I’ve been busy burying people. And see here is my referee thing. And here is my whistle and…..

DN: Hold it up. Hold it up. [Takes picture]

BD: Oops, ok?

DN: Ok.

BD: All right and there is my whistle. And there is my AYSO coach. And I also got a five year badge. Ok, to show you how crazy things were at the Illinois State Psychiatric, I was given a twenty year pin. But the guy I worked for didn’t tell me that they were giving the pins out. He didn’t want me to take the day off. So I worked through the pin giving. And then he comes to the lab. And he gives me the pin. And he goes to a nice banquet. I said, “Ok,” because he didn’t have a concept that you’re supposed to give this out to the person and thank them. Thanking them was a new concept for him.

DN: Maribel do you have any questions?


MM: Out of all the places you visited can you tell me which one is your favorite and why?

BD: In the United States or abroad?

MM: Abroad.

BD: Ah…. Tricky, tricky. I haven’t been to that…. I have been to Spain, Spain was nice. Turkey because of Istanbul. Because I wanted to see what it felt like. What it was to be in a completely different culture. When you first hear your first “Allah jabar” and you’re not ducking and you hear the call to prayers four times a day or six times a day. It’s unnerving all right now for us, the Angelus, and having the bells rung in a Christian tradition. So the Angelus at noon and six o’clock. This is the how they would tell time during the rural, feudal ages. But it’s comforting - bells ringing during Christmas is comforting. As their traditions are comforting. Killing a lamb when you’re six years old is comforting for them. And it’s a noble way to die. So decapitation is actually an honorable way to kill somebody. Now I don’t think beheading….You know it’s in this day and age…. I mean that’s pretty… but from their point of view it’s a clean death. It’s a noble death. So it was a very interesting experience. And then ah…two kids, two boys dressed up in Turkish outfits… and the translator was telling us they’re going to be circumcised. I said, “At the age of seven or eight?” I’m going, “Oh… my god!” I thought it was…. All right. My son was not circumcised. He’s also not vaccinated till he was fourteen. I fought tooth and nail on that point because you don’t know the protein-protein interaction when they’re young. And I don’t care. The data was out and there were too many horror stories. I was the crazy nut. He’s healthy as a horse and he is vaccinating his kid right and left because they are scared out of their minds. That’s their decision. I made mine. I’m comfortable. Hopefully they’ve changed the vaccines.


DN: Brandy do you have any other questions?

BN: I was thinking about like I was a girl scouts as well and I still am actually so I really identify with that

BD: Correct.

BN: Are there any experiences that you had that really stick out in your mind as a girl scout?

BD: As a Girl Scout getting my…. I’m an eagle scout and then I was going to…. I was taking classes for supervisor, you know, for the next step. But my Polish isn’t that strong I have about even though I have high school Polish which by the way I was taught by a PhD in history, Dr. Plichta, for four years out of Loyola University. And the exams at the end were three questions. He could ask anything he wanted to and if you didn’t pass you will repeat the grade? I don’t know because… and I just assumed that everybody went to school on Saturdays. It was that kind of a thing. With the Girl Scouts it was very good because you… It wasn’t like the American Girl Scouts. I mean we did war games. We did knives. We did tiddly winks with blades. It was more military because these ladies were in the military and so…. It was… I don’t I think they’re more civilized than the American are. And it was because of the history [founded by Badon Powell]. It’s a British thing. The women who set up the Polish Girl Scouts passed away. I’m friends with her daughter. Her husband was the head of the Boy Scouts. He set them up and they had….There was never any abuse because it was ferreted out really early and monitored. It wouldn’t even have…. No, ok, it’s just, you know, and the same thing with….Yeah. So it was very secure. That was the main thing that….

DN: Maribel did you have any other questions?

BD: I could talk for hours.

DN: I have one question I wanted to ask you said that you made reference to the natural order when you were talking about your parents and death.

BD: Yeah.

DN: Do you want to tell us a little bit about that?

BD: The natural order is that you bury your parents. My brother died when he was twenty one. I watched my parents bury my brother. Don’t do that to your parents. It’s the cruelest thing and it took them ten years to get over it. As the oldest I was the one…and this was the worst event I think in their lives because it was the first vacation they had taken by themselves. John was already in…. My brother, he was out of college. He was in law school. My other brother was working. So they decided to take a vacation just that weekend. The youngest brother got drunk he pulled out of Bunker Hill and hit a tree. He didn’t take anybody with him but he sliced himself in half. The two brothers didn’t speak to each other. They were at odds because they were too close in age. There is also a history there. But any way….So the older brother got the phone call from the emergency room at Resurrection. I was at a party. John called me saying that Andy’s been in an accident and I go, He’s dead isn’t he?” And he goes, “Yeah” and I said, “Ok.” So then my husband picks me up. I went to with my brother. I said, “Where’s the body?” And he goes, “Cook County.” I said, “Have you called the parents?” He goes, “No that’s your job. “ I said, “Why is it my job?” “Because you’re the oldest.”So I said. ‘Ok. Let’s go for a drink.” So we went out for a drink and I go, “What’s the details?”

And then the hardest thing I had to do in my life but…. So I called and my mother answered and I’m at a pay phone. This is like, you know, somebody’s home. This is not cell, no cells. I said, “I want to talk to Pop. I don’t want to talk to you.” And I said, “Pop, Andy’s been in an accident. Don’t hurry, but come home.” So then about an hour later he calls and he goes, “I have to know, he’s dead right?” I said, “Yeah,” and I said, “It’s up to you whether you want to tell Ma or not.” So he obviously told her because they came home and they knelt at his bed and for the next six hours they wailed. Not cried, not sobbed but Muslim wailing. My parents out did themselves. It was like, ok this is tranquilizer time. He was supposed to be the one who stayed with them. He was the cute one. He was the smartest one. He was the bilingual. He had the Polish girlfriends. It didn’t pan out. So… and he had his own history. He didn’t want to grow up. That was basically it. And then like the minute the sun came out she goes my mother, where’s the body? We have a funeral to take care of and it was all business. She wanted an open coffin. She wanted his broken arms ok and the broken nose that we fixed once before he’d get into fights. And he’s buried with the Military with…. So it’s my parents and him in the middle. So I have three graves to take care of.


DN: I’d like to end on a happier note.

BD: No, no it’s a job done. I’m proud of it, let me tell you.

DN: Ok. So in thinking about your heritage as being an immigrant and coming from parents who were immigrants themselves first from Poland to England and then from England to the United States, what would you say personally, what do you think would be the strength of being an immigrant and the weakness?

BD: The weakness? You’re always… this isn’t your home. Even though you lived here even, though you’ve died here (taking deep breaths, crying). Your body may be here, but your heart is back there. That’s their perception because they fought and they were ready to die for that country. So that’s why any Girl Scout my age - we would kill in the United States for taking them in. Believe me they’re very strong patriots. But any way, yeah. Paderewski was the same thing. His body was here, no his heart was here, but his body was over there. So then they reunited Paderewski with his heart. You got to pick up all the pieces and get them all into together but if you… If you go to the Polish cemetery at Mary Hill… At Mary Hill there is a monument and at the base is soil from Katyn [Katyn, Poland Massacre: mass execution of Polish military officers by the Soviet Union during World War II]. Also, it’ll say, you know, the bodies are buried here but their hearts and their souls are over there. So…I’m being cremated so that’s my thing, ok?


DN: Well, you’ve given us a very sensitive and deep interview. We are very appreciative of the time that you spent. I’m going to stop the interview here.

BD: Thank you.