Know Your Roots, To Understand Your Branches: True Stories About My Grandparents Lives

They say, one couldn’t miss that which they didn’t experience…

How could a child who never had the fortune of experience a grandmother’s love, miss that experience?

I was fortunate. Partly fortunate, to know and spent time with my grandmother, my Mom’s Mother. She was the only grandmother who was still alive at the time of my birth. The time spent with her remains to this day, one of my most valuable and treasured memories.

How about my other three grandparents, whom I only knew from my parents’ stories and looking at pictures?

My other grandmother, Dad’s Mom, died from a heart attack when she was 50 years-old. My memory of her was the picture of an obese, stern-looking woman. No wonder, she wasn’t smiling, the stories I heard about her and how she raised alone five children, would make anyone cry but also admire her. With the understanding of today, I know she was a strong woman, a tough woman who did whatever it took to care for her children.

What about my Grandfathers?

My grandfathers, on both sides, were more “legend-like” characters, wrapped in mistery. My Mom’s Dad, was some kind of a law enforcement officer during the King’s regime, before the communists took over Romania. His career was never mentioned, as it could have resulted in his family going to jail. He died suddenly, of unknown causes and my Grandmother raised her four children, two girls and two boys mostly on her own…

Things were  not much different when it came to my Dad’s Dad. It is ONLY NOW, as I write this post that I notice a pattern!

My grandparents on Dad’s side, made the focus of many stories.

The most fascinating was about how he and my grandmother met and eloped.

My Grandfather was from Greece and found a job as a tabacco specialist in Romania.

On his way to Romania, he stopped at the boarder to rest overnight in the home of a Lipova family who had several daughters. Lipova was a small village at the boarder with Romania. The people in the village spoke a dialect, not Romanian or Greek, but closer to Slavonic (Ukrainian.) How the Greek communicated with his to-be wife, remained a mistery, or it showed words didn’t matter when instincts, called love, were involved.

The facts which were transmitted over generations, were those of a fairy tale: The Greek, my Grandfather, and one of the hosts’ daughters, Ana, fell in love overnight! The following morning, they eloped never to be seen again in Lipova!

The Greek tabacco grower and Ana, who at the time was 14-years old and didn’t speak Romanian or knew how to read or write, settled in the small Moldavian town of Birlad where my Grandfather had a good job.

At the beginning everything was dream-like! My grandfather and Ana, as a dutiful and fertile wife got pregnant immediately. They must have had an active love life, as she birthed 3 boys and 2 girls within the following 7-8 years. However, Greek men are known to be womanizers and his passion diminished, as Ana got older, fatter and therefore, less exciting!

The Greek grandfather began to arrive home later and later, drunker and drunker, until one night he didn’t arrive at all!

Ana was at the time pregnant with her 5th child, a girl. They waited and waited, but in vain. No trace of the Greek and no one seemed to know where he vanished!

Anna gave birth to my aunt, Stella, with the help of neighbors and friends. Strangers fed the family and everyone hoped that when the winter was over, the Greek father would magically appear!

When the spring arrived, someone found his dead body in a well, in one of the fields often used as a short-cut between the factory and my grandparents house.

It was assumed that my grandfather was so drunk, he tried to walk home in the dark and because snow covered the well, he fell in it and died a sad and miserable death.

This was how Anna became a widow with five children in a foreign town, barely speaking the language, unable to read or write.

My father told me stories from his childhood which stuck with me and gave me strength in the hardest moments of my life. I felt stronger knowing that determination runs in the family! My reasoning was that if Grandmother could do it, so could I! She raised her 4 children doing laundry and ironing clothing for the rich. Two of her sons went to college. The third boy, sadly died. One of the girls, my aunt Katherine, got married to a rich man and had two daughters. In those days, for a woman getting married to a rich man was the ultimate goal and the beautiful girls did, the less fortunate ones went to work. Her sister, Stella, was not as attractive, so she only got married much later in life, and worked as a secretary most of her life.

I started to write this post as memories flooded my mind, because it is a beautiful summer day.

When roses are in bloom, as they are now, I always remember with nostalgia and love the ONLY grandmother I had the luck of spending time with as a child. However, as I began to write, my mind wondered to stories about the grandparents I didn’t know personally, but who are also important parts of my roots and indirectly the roots of my family.

As I kept writing, for the first time I noticed a pattern in my parents’ families of origin: They both were part of families with four children, two boys and two girls and both my grandmothers, as different as they seem on the surface, were young widows and raised their children mostly on their own.  It is for the first time when I recognize and bow with respect to the generational strength proven over and over again by women in these families.

This post  started as a tribute to the only Grandmother I had the honor and luck of knowing but it turned into a tribute to the roots of my family… It ended up to be a story about the grandparents who are the roots I have but didn’t meet…

However, I feel my Grandmother, Olga, my Mom’s Mom, deserves her own story and place. She is the one whose wisdom and love guided me in hard times.  The memories of the time I had the luck to share with her and my aunt, Mom’s sister, Tincuta, continue to influence me positively,  providing strength and understanding.

To know our roots gives us a chance to understand and shape our branches, as they grow into the future.

May God bless both and the knowledge that one couldn’ttmp_20519-image-385207892 exist without the other.

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