Kathe Gogarty

Transcription of Kathe Gogarty
Interviewee: Kathe Gogarty
Interviewer: Sarah Altinbasak
Date: March 13, 2014
Place: Chicago, IL.
Transcriber: Sarah Altinbasak
Total Time: 32:30

Copyright © 2014 Edgewater Historical Society


KG: I’m German, I’m German. I’m not Romanian. I’m German. You see many years ago lot of these German people from **** they all settled in different countries like Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, there’s a lot of Germans in these countries you see. So, that’s what we spoke at home, was German, and at school we also you know learned that is we spoke German, and Hungarian, because we are right at the Hungarian border, and because to Hungary and so therefore we were learned Hungarian but not Romanian.

SA: Very interesting.

KG: Yes, yes.

SA: Oh, so were you born in Germany?

KG: No, I was born in Romania.

SA: Ok.

KG: Yes. I was only twelve at the time when I was separated from my family because of the war. You see, I was really just a very small girl and I didn’t see my family for twenty two years.

SA: Oh boy.

KG: Yes, and then of course I came after so many places I had been to. Because we were refugees you see, and we came to Germany and then in ‘52 I came to America so this place person. Yes.

SA: And so what would you consider your cultural identity to be mostly.

KG: German, German oh yes, because my name was Gruberman, so we had German and that was my mother’s tongue you see.

SA: So you’ve been in the US how many years now?

KG: I came here in 1952… ’50.I’m here actually sixty-two years.

SA: Wow.

KG: Would you believe it? And when I came here I didn’t speak a word of English, so it was very hard. I was just twenty at the time, and actually I celebrated my twentieth birthday about two weeks after I arrived here, and I came here through a Catholic bishop. They found my cousin who was distant cousin who sponsored for me. So that was how I was happen to come here. Yes.

SA: Very interesting.

KG: And I lived with them for five years, and they were wonderful people to this day. And the children of course. She died some years ago. She was 98 when she died and her children are still some of them are still alive. And they’re just wonderful. They treat me like I’m their sister. Lovely people, yes.


SA: So where in the United States was that? Was that in Chicago?

KG: That was in Northfield, and 803 **** that’s where I lived for five years.


KG: And then five years later my husband married me. Actually I went back to Germany for a visit and on my way back - this was in ’55 - when I went back. Then I I didn’t see my family because they were behind the iron curtain. Then as I came back on the Atlantic Ocean I met my wonderful husband who I married a year later. Yes, he came from Ireland. So he was from Ireland, yes. He was an engineer and so we had six children of five boys and a daughter. They’re all grown up and now I have also two that is six grandchildren, for my son has three children and my daughter has three children so that’s, yeah.

SA: Sounds wonderful.

KG: And then my oldest granddaughter, who’s going to be she’s actually twenty eight. And she’s getting married June 22nd so we were all going to meet in Seattle on June 22. Excuse me June 21st she’s getting married. My wedding day first was 22nd anyhow that’s all the children [are] going to be there to see my granddaughter Courtney, so it’s going to be quite an occasion

SA: Sounds like it.

KG: Yes, yes.

SA: So, at what point did you decide to come to Chicago from where you were?

KG: Well I tell you, you are talking about from Northfield? You see because my husband worked for Mercedes Benz. He was service manager there for many years - eight and a half years to be exact. So when we got married we moved to Chicago and that’s where we’ve been living ever since. He worked on Broadway of course, 5000 north… what was it… 6500 I believe. We’re at 5348 Magnolia, and that’s where we’ve been living now for many years, fifty seven years.

SA: Have you always been in Edgewater in Chicago?

KG: Yes, yes.

SA: Since you came here.

KG: Yes as a matter of fact, when all our children went to school at St. Ita’s - and that’s just about one block away from our home you see - and so therefore we’ve been very active in our parish. Why, I’m also a choir member. I’ve been singing for twenty five years. All our children were at St. Ita’s for twenty two years - when the first one started till the last one graduated. And there was never a year between [when] my children were not in school. So twenty two years in one school, that’s a long time isn’t it? Yes.

SA: So how do you like Edgewater?

KG: Well to be honest with you it’s a great neighborhood. I must say I know lot of people, I know the *** very well and I know a lot of people. Especially through church and through school I met a lot of wonderful people. Yeah, I don’t know if you’d be interested to hear this but this was about I think about twenty eight years ago, my granddaughter was just a little baby and there was a big fire on Lakewood…


KG: … 5353 Lakewood. Believe it or not I was at the table looking out the window. We just had tea with a friend of mine in my kitchen and I looked over there. I saw the smoke coming through the leaves. And of course I jumped up quickly and called the fire department. But I didn’t know the address right. I had to go through the alley. So my friend who was with me stayed with the baby. And I ran over and the fire department came. I told them exactly where to go but meanwhile I was trying to go into the house to tell this lady who was babysitting and she didn’t speak a word of English. She was Spanish lady. And I asked her to please…. I said, “You have to get out of the house because there is a fire.” And I did not know but the baby was in there, in the crib upstairs. And that’s where the fire was. So thank the good lord it was just at the…. Actually it was the fire was in the closet, probably wires whatever, you know, and there was….It was quite a big fire there so I was quite blessed that I was able to help that this child was saved. Because only for that, the child would have been dead because of all the fire and the smoke and all. But my neighbor next door who was just around the corner. You see, because I live on Magnolia, and this was 5300 Lakewood and this man saw me running. So he followed me and he went in the house. Because he was more or less told by the couple who were not there who had the baby they’re gonna be out of town; to keep an eye on the babysitter and the baby. Hhe’s the one who ran in and got the child out.. So it was quite a big thing. And then not too long later the mayor at the time asked me to come down and receive a plaque but I was very shy. I didn’t have the nerve to go down and I said, “No.” I just couldn’t do it. But then I got this medal from them telling me how courageous and what you say, when someone does something, it starts with an H…

SA: Humble?

KG: No, not humble. I can’t think of the name. They kept on saying that word you know. You know when someone is doing something really very, I mean saving a life , it’s quite a wonderful feeling to do that. So I did receive that letter from the mayor. You know so, I felt very, as I said, it was a good feeling. Yeah.


SA: Is there anything else in particular that you like about Edgewater?

KG: Well yes. I tell you we also had a lot of meetings and all, which of course I don’t attend anymore because of my age you see. We used to have these garden walks and they were always very lovely. Not to brag or anything, but my husband was quite a builder. We had a beautiful year. We won the best of show in the neighborhood for our garden. It was really lovely. And it made me feel really proud because he really built a lot of beautiful flowers which we’d grow from bulbs and so it was quite nice. And of course we had lots of lots of friends who would often visit so much. But since I’m there all these years, I continue as long as I’m capable to stay and in a very old house of course. Yeah but it’s about 108 years old you know, the house itself. But I’m very comfortable because my husband did so much remodeling and all. So yeah, and how can you just leave and go somewhere else? You know ,[it] brings back a lot of beautiful memories, yeah. But the people are all very nice people in our neighborhood, they really are. And I do know many people, yeah.

SA: So, is there anything in particular that stands out to you about what it was like growing up in Romania?

KG: Well yes. We were very poor of course you know. We came, I came from a very small town that’s why *** would be the next city. Therefore when you get out of grammar school you have to go to this city to go to high school because there was no high school in this little town. And that’s why I had to be separated from my family, because the war coming. So suddenly I couldn’t go back home again and I had to escape you see. And that’s the reason I didn’t see them for so many years you see, yes.


SA: Did you, besides the war and everything, do you remember before that? What kind of like experiences did you have? Did you enjoy growing up there?

KG: Yeah you know, you just do exactly what you….When you live in a little small town you are more or less not used to anything luxury you know. What I mean you more or less feel that we are blessed for what you have you know. Oh but there in that little town everyone had just to live on you know. For instance we’re all had little farms and perhaps we had chickens and ducks and that kind of thing. So we did all our own…. My dad owned a lot of vineyards. So he made wine. You see that was his living, so it was mainly hard, very hard work over there, yes, yes.

SA: So you said you identify most with being German.

KG: Yes definitely definitely.

SA: Is there any particular cultural aspects that you think you still have, that you have that are German? Anything that is German that you identify with? Besides, any specific things that you do that would be considered German?

KG: Well I do a lot of being a housewife for so many years, you see, raising a big family. I do everything. I do my own baking and everything. I love baking and cooking too and I love children, I always enjoy children so my house was always kind of in and out with children.

SA: So you’re saying that it’s like the values that you have?

KG: Yes, I do. I love children and children kind of take to me because somehow children are very smart. They know when you like them you know

SA: Uh huh.

KG: Yes.

SA: Is there anything else that you would identify about you that more relates to being German than anything else?

KG: Well let’s see now, let me see now, I don’t quite understand you.


SA: German food?

KG: German food. Well of course there’s so many….Yes I do. I like the wiener-schnitzel you know, you heard of that right?

SA: Yes.

KG: Yeah, I don’t drink any… that is I don’t drink any beer of any kind like that, so therefore… but no. We have… but of course we love our potatoes you see. And we like our schnitzel and that kind of thing, yes. And the Germans they really know how to cook of course. I was so little so I really don’t know too many recipes. Once I got married I learned to cook whatever they cook here. But I still go back and do a few things. I make a lot of soups and that kind of things, and I bake a lot for our parish you know. I do bake a lot for our neighbors and our friends, because I enjoy doing that. I always like to make people happy.

SA: Sure.

KG: And it’s a great feeling when people appreciate it because people just don’t go in for baking. They don’t take the time because they are working, and I never really worked you see - raising our children. And when our grandchildren came along, I took care of them. And so therefore I didn’t really have a job afterwards you see, after I got married.

SA: Uh huh.

KG: Yes, my husband traveled a great deal, in fact he was in the ****. He traveled to… all over. He was in Kuwait a few times and in Libya and Malta. He traveled a great deal. He was a wonderful person. Wonderful husband and a good father. So I was really blessed to have such a great man. Yeah.

SA: Is there any what about Romanian food?

KG: Romanian food, that I’m not too familiar with because don’t forget I was too small when I left there you see. Although I do know Romanian people in my neighborhood. But I never ask for the recipes of any kind. In fact, my neighbor across the alley, her husband is Romania ***. Whereas my name was Gruberman so that’s real German whereas *** is a real Romanian name.

SA: Well, you’ve been here now for a long time since sixty something years.

KG: Sixty two years to be exact.

SA: Do you feel American?

KG: Oh yes! Definitely! Definitely! Because don’t forget it’s been so long, I mean sixty two years to be in the country. It’s almost like you were raised here, even though I wasn’t. I did get used to… it took a while to get used to, I would say, the language especially, to learn the language. I was always afraid to talk on the phone, because I never had the experience before, talking on the phone you see. Therefore it took me quite a while to kind of, but then because of my husband’s speaking. He came from Ireland. He spoke of course English. So I did learn a lot from him. I never went to school here you see. I just learned it on my own. I worked right after I came here. I did all kinds of work you know.

SA: Sure.

KG: Yes.

SA: So you came and you didn’t speak any English.

KG: Not a word, not a word.


SA: How long would you say it took you to learn?

K: A good year until I was able to communicate a little bit. But now my cousin, thank god she actually was born in Romania….She came here as a child when she was four years old. Her parents were German and so she knew some German. So we’re able to communicate but not with her daughters, no. Her daughter and, of course she had a son and five daughters you see, and so we were able to talk with each other with our hands more or less so.

SA: Yeah.

KG: Yeah.

SA: How would you describe the immigration process, actually coming over here from Germany?

KG: Yes, well. I tell you I was just very fortunate to come here. Since I was a little person the trip didn’t even cost me anything. So actually what the *** …. They brought soldiers over to Germany and then they would bring us, these displaced people, over here. My cousin, she did pay for my train fair form New York to Chicago. But the boat itself was free, but we had to work on our way. We all had jobs to do. People who spoke some English did some paperwork, whereas I took care of children, that sort of thing.

SA: And that was along the way.

KG: Yes. Oh yeah. I was on the boat for six days. It was very rough, I came in a ***. Excuse me it was actually March. The ocean was very rough. Very rough. So many people were sea sick and nothing luxuriously of course because it was a transporter .Never forget [it] was called General ***. I came on that boat with… you know, it was a long time ago, sixty two years ago, can you imagine?

SA: Yeah.

KG: It was hard, I shed many tears believe me. Especially with my family, because I was just a child, twelve years old being away from your parents. I was very homesick and I didn’t want to come here. It was really my sister who begged my cousin if she would be kind enough to try and bring me over here. Because they were afraid that there was going to be another [war] and they wanted me to be safe. And so I would always refuse and say, “No. If I could do… could go to America, I would never see you again, because that’s going to be another part of the world.” I never knew that three years later I was going to go back to Germany just to visit - but not to Romania because the war was in Hungary in that time when I was there in ’55. And therefore I couldn’t see my family. Romania was very hard country to go into you see, and many years before. Remember that man **** who the leader in Romania? He was very…. He didn’t like a king, so that his wife and took everything from poor people. Both were assassinated later on you know.

SA: Uh huh.

KG: Yeah, so I tell you it was quite a…It’s very….But see, being German, German government took…. I have two sisters living in Germany now. One is ninety three, and the other one is eighty five. I just visited them last September. Therefore they live now in Germany for the last twenty years because being German, German government took all these people with German names over to Germany. And they have a good pension. My sister was a teacher and all. So they living quite a comfortable life. Of course their husbands died and all. (Oh my dear, what’s this for? You are too kind. Thank you so much, thank you thank you…..)

KG: Boring right?

SA: No, no, not at all!!!

KG: Well thank you.

SA: So you had said that you didn’t get to see your family for awhile?

KG: Twenty two years, my dear, from ‘44 until ’65, I couldn’t go into Romania you see. So finally in *** I was just expecting my fifth child, but five months. And at that time it was the first time that *** let people go in for a visit. That’s why my husband thought before the baby was born, it would be good for me to go. And because I was really very anxious to see them. My mom and dad were both alive at the time. And then my dad did die six months later. Would you believe that? So I was very fortunate to see them again. But the sad part was that my mother was became blind so she could never see me. Both of her eyes were taken out during the war. It was very hard because people, they didn’t get good care you know. And apparently it was just… and I never knew of this until I went to see them you see. So I went there exactly from ‘44 to ’65. It was twenty two years I didn’t see them and that’s a long time.

SA: Sure

KG: You know. Yeah, and then I had two sisters. We were actually five girls in our family and two of my sisters were taken to Siberia. Because we’re Germans and they took all these people with Germany to Siberia. One of my sisters who is now ninety three, she escaped from that camp that the other one who was twenty five, she did not. She was afraid if she escaped she would be shot. So she was taken to Siberia. And then she died in the coal mines about a year later you know. Yeah. So my parents went through a lot too. And then for I would say about two years they didn’t know where I was because there was no communication anywhere you know.

SA: So how did you finally get in touch them to tell them you were going to come back?

KG: At that time I was able to write to them. Yeah I was write to them at that time for **** who was the president or the leader in Romania. He would allow that you can write and you can receive letters from them or send letters to them you see. So they knew I was coming. So it was quite an experience to see them once again

SA: Sure

KG: And my dad was really holding on, he was seventy nine, so he was really holding on to time just to see once again. And then right after the baby was born, which the one now who lives in Ireland. He is the one who will… you know the words…. I sent a telegram to say that I had all my children, in C-section. So I never really told them I was expecting because they know I would have to go through surgery. So I actually… when this was coming home, and I was expecting, they were really worried. So as soon as the baby was born, I sent them a telegram and told them everything was fine, the baby was fine. Six C-sections you know.

SA: Wow.

KG: Anyhow I did yeah. So but thank god I held the children and all. I was very fortunate, very fortunate. Yeah.


SA: So is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you would want to share with Edgewater about you or your experience or anything?

KG: Well all I can tell you is that Edgewater is a great place to live. I know so many people that are very glad to live there. Of course so many people had already left as you know. Some came, some went, moved away and so….But no, it’s a great neighborhood. And we have some now… there are a lot of professional people who moved in, doctors and lawyers. And also it’s really a wonderful neighborhood. People really take pride in their homes. So it’s a great neighborhood. Yes, I get mails all the time if I’m ready to sell the house and all. But where would I move to? I know people would like to come and live there because it’s convenient. I’m only one block from Berwyn which is the L station. And the bus is there. And it’s really wonderful. And it’s one block from our parish and school. And it’s a great area because I don’t drive. I never really learned how to drive so it’s very nice to be able to walk everywhere you see and get public transportation, yeah.

SA: That’s true

KG: Yes.

SA: So a lot of, you feel like a lot of families are trying to move into Edgewater?

KG: Oh definitely, so many people want to move in and they keep after people who are out there and their age is the thing, but it’s time for them to leave or to move. So I’m kind of… would like to sell their home and make a profit of course right?

SA: Sure.

KG: Yes, no. It’s a great neighborhood. I would recommend it to anyone because it’s quite safe, . Of course you know nowadays you have to be always cautious about things because you know you hear of so much. But when are safe today even in the best of neighborhoods you have to be very cautious you know yeah.

SA: So where do you feel most at home. If you had to call one place in the world your home where would it be?

KG: Well to me, this is my home now, I raised my big family here and I was married to my husband for forty three years or more. Therefore I do find that this is my home. I do speak to my sisters quite frequently in Germany and so that, it’s wonderful to see, I might go there every couple of years, like I was there last September, and every four or five years I go and see them so, yeah, but this is really my home now.

SA: Edgewater?

KG: Yes, yes, exactly. And I don’t want to leave because to me it just has a special meaning and I know all, everyone. When you’re active in the church and active in in so many things, you just meet so many people. They are all as I said, wonderful people, I can only say they are great people to know.

SA: Uh huh

KG: Yes, yes. Are you from the Edgewater area too?

SA: No, I moved to Lakeview two years ago.

KG: That’s a good area.

SA: I’m from New York

KG: Well I see, that’s wonderful.

SA: I do like Edgewater.

KG: Do you like Chicago? Yes?

SA: It’s been a little bit of an adjustment but yeah.

KG: I can imagine. But again, it’s great, I’m sure being young. You have a lot of nice friends and yeah that’s great and it’s always good to have good people around too.

SA: Yeah, it helps.

KG: And I’m sure you have a good job and that means a lot. Because today it takes a lot of money to survive doesn’t it? Yeah.

SA: Yeah. So is there anything else you would want to add before we finish?

KG: I am absolutely humbled by you asking me because how do I say, my English is not bad but at the same you’re almost afraid you’re going to say it right or wrong you know what I mean?

SA: No!

KG: Yes. No, I must say I am very grateful, very grateful, and I thank you for asking me. It was a pleasure meeting you

SA: You as well.

KG: Of course I know Ara Mayian for many years because he is in our parish. I never met his wife, but this is the first time today but I met him many…. He knows all….He knew my husband and all my children so it’s been a long, long time. Yes.

SA: Ok. Well, if there’s nothing else you wanted to add.

KG: I guess but thank you.

SA: Well thank you very much.

KG: You are so welcome.