Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Bronislaw Grala & Teofilia Rogowska

Teofilia Rogowska was born ca. 1894. At the time of her birth her parents, Josef Rogowski and Maryanna Zakryewska [sp?], resided in Lyse, Poland. The only record of siblings found so far is that of Josef Rogowski, age 26 of Lyse, who immigrated to the United States on July 28, 1913 aboard the S.S. Berlin. The manifest shows he was on his way to his brother-in-law, Bronislaw Grala, in Lorain, OH.

A death certificate for a man named Joseph John (Rogowski) Rogus may well belong to Teofilia's brother. The record shows he was a retired steel worker living in Wheeling, Ohio, West Virginia. He was born in Poland on 17 Mar 1888 to Mary and Joseph (Rogus) and died 16 Feb 1954. I'll follow up on this lead to see where it brings us!

Bronislaw Grala was living at 86 Turner Ave. in Pittsfield when he met Teofilia. Coincidentally, around the corner from him lived a Leonora Grala and, possibly, her parents Adam and Mary. To date, I have not found if or how they are related to us.

He once told his daughter Bernice that he met Teofilia at a dance, "Teofilia was a tiny woman with long, dark hair and the first time I danced with her I knew she would be my wife."

They married at Corpus Christi Church in Housatonic MA on February 19, 1912 before moving to Lorain, OH where three of their children were born at 2848 Oakwood Ave.: Bronislaw (Benny) Jozef Grala, Jr. on January 20, 1913, Helena (Helen) C. Grala on March 2, 1914 and Bronislawa (Bernice) F. Grala on September 29, 1916. Sometime after Bernice's birth, they moved to 602 E. 32nd Street.

Between 1917-1918 the great Spanish flu pandemic killed more people than did the war. Teofilia became one of Lorain's 200 epidemic victims on November 30, 1918. A snapshot in Bernice's memory brings us to a moment when Teofilia, weak from the birth of her fourth child, and gravely ill with the flu, asks Bronislaw to bring the children into her room. "Sensing he was losing her my father thought he'd go crazy waiting for the doctor to arrive. So many people were sick and there were not enough doctors to tend to them!"

The image of Teofilia with her long, dark hair spread over the stark whiteness of her pillow remained with Bronislaw always. Before he died, he gave Bernice a container filled with dirt he had saved from Teofilia's burial site and asked her to throw some of it into his own grave. The rest, he said, was to be saved for herself.

I shared this poignant story with Benny's daughter, Betty, and appreciated her response: "Grandma Teofilia? Now that's an interesting name! My father used to weep whenever he played a Polish record of a ballad of a mother's love. He said one could only understand the song if one had lost a mother. But he had been so young, how could he remember? Still, it was the one and only thing I knew that brought tears to his eyes."

Gene's daughter, Cynthia, and I concluded that emotionalism - sometimes stubborn - is a reoccuring characteristic of the Grala clan.

After her death, Bronislaw was persuaded by his brother Francizek to relocate to New Britain, CT. Concerned about the burden three children would place on his sister-in-law, he made arrangements for Bernice to stay behind with a family who agreed to raise her. But at the last minute, he decided to visit his daughter to say goodbye. "I am sitting there playing with my toys when I see my father and run to him," Bernice recalls. "He started to cry when I threw my arms around his neck and decided he must keep the children together."

"To emotional and stubborn," commented Frank, Jr. (Francizek's son), "you should add these adjectives: industrous, strong-willed and disciplined. These have been proven by the generations as a rollover from our grandparents."

Imagine the strength and determination it must have taken to pack up and move three small children under such sad circumstances!

A death certificate was found today for Stanislaw Grala, the son of Bronislaw Grala and Teofilia (Rogowski), who was born November 25, 1918 and died May 18, 1919. Case of death was "milk infection", a very common cause of infant deaths at that time ... especially if the birth mother was ill with an infectious disease as was the Spanish flu.

The informant indicated on baby Stanislaw's death certificate was Domonik Rutkowski who, with his wife Michaeline (Krajewski), lived around the corner from Bronislaw and Teofilia at 3115 Elyria Ave. with their 6 children ranging in age from 4-15. Mr. Rutkowski is shown on the 1920 U.S. Census as being employed at the steel plant ... perhaps where Bronislaw also was employed.

Domonik & Michaeline
Understandably, Bernice's recollection of that sad time in our family history was through a child's eyes. However, we now know it was baby Stanislaw who was left behind to be raised by another family. While none of their descendants knew about baby Stanislaw, they now know he was a part of their family's history. Whether or not they are related to us remains another mystery to be solved!

Teofilia's story has been added to the Pandemic Influenza Storybook where you'll find personal recollections from survivors, families and friends. Go to www.pandemicflu.gov/storybook.

3115 Elyria Ave. Today

Postcards From the Past

After their marriage on February 19, 1912 Bronislaw and Teofilia left Pittsfield, MA and headed to Lorain, OH. Benny, Helen and Bernice were born there at 2848 Oakwood Avenue. Sometime later they moved to 602 E. 32nd Street where Stanley was born. After Teofilia's death on November 30, 1918 Bronislaw and his older children went to New Britain, CT where he met and married Maryanna on January 28, 1919.

Baby Stanley was left in the care of Domonik Rutkowski who, with his wife Michaeline (Krajewski), lived around the corner from Bronislaw and Teofilia at 3115 Elyria Ave. Stanley died there on May 18, 1919. Mr. Rutkowski is shown on the 1920 U.S. Census as being employed at the steel plant ... perhaps where Bronislaw also was employed.


We've learned that Bronislaw's sister Maryanna Grala (of Great Barrington, MA) married Stanley Krzynowek (of Lorain, OH) on January 25, 1906. His brother Joseph married Marianna Barsoy on January 30, 1912. This was the month preceding Bronislaw's marriage to Teofilia, so it appears both couples knew each other and may have returned to Lorain together. Joseph died on November 19, 1918. At the time of his death, Joseph was employed by the Clipper Steel Plant and lived at 813 E. 33rd St.

These old postcards from Lorain show us it was a bustling port with industries that would have supported shipbuilding ... like steel mills. With Lake Erie a few blocks away, there were also waterfront parks where Teofilia may have brought her children to play.

Bronislaw Grala & Maryanna Boguslawska

Maryanna A. Boguslawska was born November 8, 1894. At the time of her birth her parents, Anton Boguslawski and Valeria Grosinska, resided in Grzebsk, Mazowieckie, Poland. While little else is known about Anton and Valeria at this time, it is believed other children included Michael, Wladyslawa and Tadeusz. Maryanna died in New Britain, CT on April 13, 1987.

There are a number of variations on how she and Bronislaw Grala met. One is that he knew her from Poland and another is that they met through a mutual acquaintance in New Britain, CT. When queried about her decision to marry a man who already had a family, she'd say that she loved his children and felt sorry for them because they had no mother. From other stories told by Maryanna, her decision may also have been motivated by the fact that people were already referring to her as an 'old maid.'

They married at Sacred Heart Church in New Britain on January 28, 1919 and lived at 111 North Street where Antonium (Tony) C. Grala was born.
Jadwiga (Hedy) R. Grala was born on February 3, 1921. At the time of her birth the family was living at 104 Gold Street. About 3 months later, the family migrated to Baba, Ostroleka, Mazowiecki, Poland. From the bits of conversation Frank, Jr. (Franciszek's son) overheard between the two brothers, his consensus was that the American dollar was worth a bushel of Polish zloty and that a more comfortable living could be made back in their homeland.
It seems Bronislaw and his family stayed in Baba only long enough to plan their move to Pomorze (where Bronislaw found work as a miner) and make arrangements for their youngest daughter to live with Maryanna's parents in Mlawa. [Go to http://www.mlawa.um.gov.pl/history.htm for some interesting history about Mlawa.] For the next 5-6 years, Hedy's visits with her parents were far and few between. During that time the family moved back to Baba where the family farm was split between Bronislaw and his oldest brother Josef and where Stanislaw (Stanley) E. Grala was born on July 11, 1923.

Meanwhile, Hedy came to know and love Antoni and Valeria as her parents. When the day came that she was to leave them to rejoin her real family and begin school she was not happy. But she soon discovered she had a wonderful new house made of logs with a center fireplace [see THE BABA HOMESTEAD]. Just outside the window to her parents bedroom there were cherry trees and a waterfall flowed nearby. Best of all, she realized she now had many brothers and sisters to play with!

It seems Maryanna was not content to stay in Poland and may have been the one to persuade Bronislaw to return to America. He came back to New Britain in April 1928 took a job with Stanley Works until money was saved to bring his family over. Back home in Baba his son, Eugenjusz (Eugene) S. Grala born.
Benny and Helen were the first to be reunited with their father and are listed with him in the 1934 New Britain City directory at 23 Horace Street. With the exception of Bernice, who stayed behind at the family homestead to marry Frank, the rest of his family returned to America in May 1934. They are shown in the 1935 directory as living at 44 Gold Street where Joanna (Joan) A. Grala was born. Bronislaw and Maryanna purchased their home at 40 Gold Street in 1937.