LtoR:Andrew, Stanley, Walter, John

The earliest Koldras relations that we can document at this time are Blase (Btazej) Koldras and his wife, Agnes (Agnieszka) Lesniak who were the parents of Joseph Koldras. It is not known if there were other children in their family. Joseph Koldras (?-1908) married Zofia Czaja (1857-1912) on November 10 1881. Zofia's parents were Jan Czaja and Marjanna Chochorowska Czaja. Joseph and Zofia were to have ten children, only six of whom survived into adulthood.

The Koldras' were known as a very tough family. It was said that if you walked across their property, you took your chances with a beating. Joseph Koldras met a violent end in June of 1908. His daughter Mary Ann, related the story in a letter to Helen Koldras Manning.

When she was nine years old, Mary Ann was in the field taking care of the cows. A neighbor boy came along and was teasing her. He pulled the babushka of her head and wiped the cow's backside with it. This was very upsetting to Mary Ann and she began to cry. When her father happened upon her and saw her crying, he flew into a rage. He chased the boy and beat him with the horse whip that he had in his hand. When the boy's father saw his son had been whipped by Joseph, he came looking for him with his hoe. A scuffle ensued, and Joseph was injured in the head. He lingered for three days, then he died as a result of his injuries.

Apparently, there was some sort of trial or court case over the murder. Joseph was ruled to have been in the wrong, so charges were dismissed against the boy's father.

Joseph's wife Zofia, was known to have had kidney problems, and died in 1912 at the age of 54. There is a story that after her death, a relative came to the house and cleaned it out, taking pillows, blankets, everything. When Andrew, then about 17, realized that his younger sister had nothing to sleep on, he went to the barn and brought her the horse's blanket. The relative later returned most of the possessions.

John Koldras

John "Jan" Koldras

John Koldras was born on October 21, 1882. He and his wife, Anna (1890-1972) briefly lived in America. Jan married his wife Anna, on August 28, 1907. Jan also fought in Haller's Army. Jan passed on October 8, 1958 just before his 76th birthday. His son, Walter (Wladyslaw) was very nice. Walter married Antonia Palka and had five children. He was a milk collector in Poland.

Stanley Koldras

Stanley & Anna with her brother John LesniakStanley Koldras was born on January 17, 1885 in Nowy Sacz Trzetrezwina. Stanley married on June 1, 1914. his wife Anna Lesniak, who was the sister of Andrew's wife Catherine Lesniak, had five children. Like many of the Koldras brothers, he reportedly really liked to drink.

Stanley served in the Austrian Army in an Artillery division for three years. While in the United States, he was a member of the Z.N.P. Organization.

Stanley Koldras' Haller's Army papers state that when he enlisted, he was 34 years old, 66 inches tall, 153 lbs, had Blond hair, blue eyes and a round face. His occupation was "farmer" He was recruited on December 14, 1918 in Chicago, Il. He was a citizen on Poland and said that his brother Andrew was his closest relative in the US.

Stanislaw, son of Stanley  KoldrasStanley and his brother Jan, both came to the US without their wives, and children. They joined Haller's Army mainly because they could get free passage back to Poland. (Helen Manning quipped that was funny because they left Poland to escape serving in the Army.)

Stanley’s daughter, Janina remembered her father returning to their home after the War. She said his uniform was all ragged and dirty, and he was penniless. He exclaimed "I should have stayed in America!". The picture on the left is of Stanislaw Koldras, Stanley's son at the time of his wedding.

Stanley passed away in about 1975. His wife was gone for some time before him. Sally and Charlotte visited their graves when they were in Poland in 1976. Stanley and Anna are buried on top of each other as is the custom in their area.

Michael (Mihal) Koldras

The third child born to Joseph and Sophia was a son Michael, born July 7, 1887. The baby died after only a few weeks, on July 23, 1887. This unhappy event marks the beginning of a period of tragedy in the Koldras' family life.

Bernice (Bronislawa) Koldras

Baby Bernice, Joseph and Sophia's first daughter, was born the next year on August 28, 1888. She died on January 19, 1899 at the age of just 4 months 21 days.

Adalbert (Wojciech) Koldras

Adalbert was born on January 25, 1891. He lived just 7 days, passing on February 1, 1891. Joseph and Sophia had buried three of their children in four years. It must have been a very difficult time for them.

Their next child, Andrew (Jedrzej) survived and had many children and grandchildren. He is mentioned at the end to make this narrative easier to read.

Walter (Wladyslaw) Koldras

Walter was the seventh child born to Joseph and Sophia Koldras on August 13, 1895. He married Adamina Piechocka (1898-1979) on Febuary 10, 1918. The couple were married 24 years and had four children, John born November 24, 1918, Joseph who died from Influenza, Helen born December 2, 1921, and Lillian born July 12, 1924.

During his working life, Walter Koldras worked as a cabinet maker for Great Northern company in Chicago. He is said to have crafted beautiful furniture. He made a china cabinet for his family's kitchen. Walter passed on April 18, 1963.

Adamina Piechocka Koldras(1898-1979)Adamina was also born in Poland, though in a different town called Kramsk. She had three brothers and two sisters. Adamina's family could only spare one child to go to school. That child would teach all the others. Adamina had only about three years of schooling, but taught herself amazing things. She followed one of her brother's and a sister to America.

When she was first married, she worked at the Palmolive factory in housekeeping but was scolded by her husband. He said she would never learn to speak English unless she got a different job, because all the ladies she worked with spoke only Polish. During the war, she worked for Wells Gardner on their radio assembly line. Later she worked for Campbell Soup scraping carrots. Lillian remembers that her arms turned orange from the work.

Adamina was a person who always had to be doing something. She was gifted at crochet and sewing. Adamina could finish an afghan in a week. She could see a dress and make it without a pattern. Adamina also taught herself astronomy. She would point out the constellations to her friends and children and tell about them.

Adamina Piechocka Koldras(1898-1979)Like most people of the day, Adamina was quite superstitious. She believed that if you were pregnant, you should not see a dead person. She also had many folk remedies, for instance, if you had a boil, you could tape a dandelion leaf to it, and it would be cured faster.

Adamina and Walter had four children. John Koldras born November 24, 1918. A baby boy who died of whooping cough around the same time as Catherine and Andrew's daughter Helen. Helen Koldras was born December 2, 1921. Lillian Koldras was born July 12, 1924.

Walter and Adamina's son John Koldras served in India during WWII. All the men in his unit were assigned a "tent boy" who attended to their needs, and a mongoose who's job it was to protect the tent from snakes. John married Mary Wawrzyniak, a neighbor. John later worked as a percision grinder for Continental Can. He operated machinery that created machine parts. Mary worked for an insurance company. The couple had two sons, Gary Koldras, born in 1955, and Michael Koldras born in 1956. Mary died July 23, 2001. Michael Koldras married Kimberly Szymborski born 1969 in 1996. Michael and Kimberly welcomed a son, John Koldras born in 1999. Their daughter Lauren Elizabeth was born May 16, 2001.

Walter and Adamina's daughter Helen, met her husband, Richard "Dick" Manning on the tennis court. In 1946, when she was 24, Helen had just moved into a new neighborhood. She loved to play tennis and took her racket to the local court to look for a partner, as was the custom of the day. When she approached the court, she only saw one person there, a young man. She worked up her courage, went up to the young man and asked him to play tennis. Thus, began a 47+ year romance.

The couple used to go on long walks together. During one of their walks, Dick said off handily "Let's have a Polish Wedding", Helen absent mindedly answered "Yea", then realized she had just accepted a proposal for marriage!

Helen and Dick had a long and happy marriage. The couple had three children, Claire, Daniel, and Richard. Spouses and Grandchildren.

When Walter and Adamina's youngest child Lillian (b. July 12, 1924 - Jan. 28, 2003) was growing up, she was very thin. It was considered a "curse" to have a skinny child, so she was constantly fed beer with a raw egg in it to "fatten her up". It never worked. Lillian married Florian Bartose(1916-) on May 18, 1946. They had three children.

Carol Bartose was born February 17, 1947. She married Earl Arndt (b. July 3, 1941), on September 24, 1966. Carol and Earl have two sons, Jason Arndt born December 2, 1971, and Jordan Arndt born December 20, 1974. Richard Bartose was born April 8, 1950. Their third child, Robert Bartose was born April 18, 1951. Robert married Manuosa Manua and had two children, Robert and Christopher Bartose. He is currently married to Luisa Manua, and they have four children together, Richard, Jorge, Phillip, and Andrew Bartose.

Mary Ann (Marjanna) Koldras 1st

Mary Ann was born on Febuary 14, 1898. She lived only three days, passing on February 17, 1898.

Mary Ann (Marjanna) Koldras 2nd

The next year, Sophia gave birth to another daughter. This child they also named Mary Ann, the same name they had given their last daughter. This was apparently not an uncommon practice.

Both Mary Ann's parents were dead by the time she was 12. She had nowhere to go, and no relatives to care for her, so she traveled around the area working for her room and board. When she was 16, she was sent to town to sell vegetables by the owners of farm where she was living at that time. While she was there, a lady approached her and offered her a job. Mary Ann was hesitant, so the lady offered to show her where she would be living and then Mary Ann could make up her mind.

Mary Ann KoldrasThe place where the lady lived was a very large mansion. When Mary Ann saw it, she immediatly returned to the farm where she was living to give notice and collect her belongings.

Mary Ann was to replace a girl who had been with the family for some time and had recently had a baby. It seems that the girl, who was unmarried, hid her pregnancy because of the scandal. She gave birth to a boy in the night and still got up to do her chores in the morning. The mistress noticed that the girl looked pale and very week and questioned her. The girl broke down and admitted that she had given birth the night before. Her plan had been to dispose of the baby when it was born, but she could not bring herself to do it.

When the kind mistress learned the girl's story, she offered to adopt the baby boy as her own. The mistress gave the boy love, and the very best education. He eventually became a priest. This lady was very kind to Mary Ann. She sent her to cooking school and taught her many of the finer domestic arts.

Mary Ann & Peter's Wedding PhotoMary Ann's daughter-in-law related the story of how Mary Ann met her husband, Tiotr (Peter) Kubisz to Helen Koldras Manning. Mary Ann, who was 33 years old by this time was in the market shopping for the household when she noticed a young man looking at her, he was 26. She saw him at the market several times and eventually he approached her to chat. They knew each other for two years before they got married. Mary Ann's kind employer gave the couple many gifts to start their household with. The mistress' kindness and generosity is still remembered and appreciated by the family to this day.

Mary Ann is said to have had the very same distinctive bright blue eyes as her brother Andrew Koldras. It is believed she may have passed in 1981.

Mary Ann had a son Tadeuz, and also daughter Kristina. Tadeusz married a girl named Zofia and had four children. Krystyna married Stanislaw Szczechowicz and also had four children.

Mary Ann & Anna Koldras

Anna Koldras

On September 21, 1901, Sophia gave birth to another daughter, Anna. Anna was Joseph and Sophia's tenth child. Nothing more is known about her at this time, but she survived into adulthood. See picture with her sister Mary Ann. Helen Manning has one of the beautiful vests that the sisters made. Family lore stated that the Koldras brothers who came to America left two sisters in Poland.

Andrew Koldras

Andrew John Koldras was born on October 10, 1892 in Nowy Sacz, Trzetrezwina. As a boy of about 12 or so, Andrew had a job as a groom for a wealthy Jewish business man. When the gentleman would go into a building to conduct his business, Andrew would stay outside to water and brush the horse. He told his children that he really enjoyed this job because at the end of the work day, he would get a very good meal.

Andrzej Koldras sailed for America on the SS President Grant from Hamburg, Germany on June 4th, 1912 and arrived at Ellis Island, New York on June 20, 1912. Andrew signed a Declaration of Intention when applying for his citizenship in Chicago on July 26, 1918 which stated that at the time, he was 26 years old, a saw grinder by trade. He described himself as fair complected, 5 feet 6 inches tall, 140 lbs., with brown hair and blue eyes with no visible distinctive marks. It is interesting to note that he said he was born in Nowy Tacz, "AUSTRIA" and that his last residence was "Austria", and that his wife was born in "Austria". It is also interesting that the document was pre-printed with the folowing language. "I am not an anarchist; I am not a polygamist nor a believer in the practice of polygamy; and it is my intention in good faith to become a citizen of the United States of America and to permanently reside therein; SO HELP ME GOD."

To Do: Look up history and boundaries for this time period. Also, same document has him renouncing "forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince postentate, state, or sovereignty, and particularly to (very hard to read here) Charles, Emperor of ______, _____________----, of whom I am now a subject." This might be a clue to the country mystery.

Andrew's future wife, Catherine Lesniak was born on April 30, 1894. Catherine's mother had a lot of children and died at an early age from a miscarriage. Catherine was about 10 and learned to bake the bread for the whole family. Catherine's father Casimir, was Mayor of Trzetrezwina, and had a little store that sold tobacco.

When she was 17, Catherine's father had arranged for her to marry a much older, but well to do man in the village. Hers was to be the first marriage performed in the brand new church. At confession, she told the priest she didn’t love the rich older man so the priest told her not to go through with the marriage. Her father was furious, and thereafter always picked on her for not marring the wealthy man. Her brother in law, Stanley Koldras who was married to her sister Anna, was leaving to come to America- so she decided to escape as well. She basically ran away. At some time later, she wrote her father a letter of apology for running away. This letter was found in his belongings after he passed. Unfortunately, when it was shown to Catherine on her return trip to Poland, she ripped it up.

Catherine Lesniak and Andrew Koldras had gone to the same school in the country. Some people teased her by saying that she ran away from her village to find and marry Andrew in America.

Catherine kept a duck to help raise the money for her passage. She would pluck the duck's feathers and sell them, then eventually sold the duck. Feathers were an important commodity at the time in Poland. She remembered that the other immigrants on the ship with her brought sacks of feathers with them. They could use them for pillows or comforters, or sell them if they needed money.

Catherine sailed on the SS President Grant which left from Hamburg, Germany around March 21, 1913 and arrived in New York on April 2, 1913. When her Uncle took her to the dock to catch the ship to America, he advised her to try to get the top sleeping bunk. The bunks were stacked five high, and after a short while at sea, many passengers became sea sick. She was grateful for his advice. Catherine also told her children that as the ship entered New York Harbor and the passengers saw the Statue of Liberty, many, including her, were moved to tears.

Stanley and John Koldras lived with Andrew, so it is easy to see how the couple came back into contact. Andrew and Catherine married on October 4, 1914. Stanley Koldras was Godfather to Andrew and Catherine's first child, Charlotte.

In 1919, Andrew and Walter got into a bar room brawl. Andrew ended up using a knife on a fellow combatant. As a result, Andrew picked up his family, and moved to Cleveland to avoid prosecution. The 1920 Census shows the Andrew Koldras family living in Cleveland and Andrew was working as a laboror in a Grease Shop. The family members were listed as follows: Andrew, Katie, Lottie, Bertha, Rose.

While there, they lived near the Stezowski family. Andrew and Catherine's third daughter Rose was born in Cleveland. Joseph Stezowski would come over and cut the children's hair. Andrew and Joseph brewed their own whiskey during prohibition. Eventually, Andrew's work in Cleveland ran out, so the family returned to Chicago.

Andrew was a lover of animals. He was always bringing home stray cats and dogs, which would annoy Catherine. When Andrew left for work, she would open the back door and shu the animals out again. He was very fond of his pet canary. In one instance, one of his stray cats tried to make a meal of Andrew's favorite canary. He saved the bird then booted the cat out the back door, cursing it for being so ungrateful for his hospitality that it would dare attack his beloved canary.

There is another story about Andrew and a bird. He was visiting his daughter Rose and playing with her children's pet canary. While examining it, Andrew noticed some mites or other critters on the bird and decided to give it a bath. He was at the kitchen sink, trying to wash the bird which was fluttering to avoid the water so he held it tighter, apparently too tight. Rose said the bird's eyes almost popped out of its head and then it stopped moving. Andrew felt horrible about the incident, but thinking fast, he grabbed his coat and ran down the street to the pet store to "get another bird" before Carol and Tommy came home from school.

For a time, Andrew worked for the Simonz Saw Company in Chicago. He worked on a machine which held a sawblade between two magnets. One day the saw blade shot out of the machine and hit Andrew in the neck, seriously injuring him. During his recovery, he was approached by a lawyer and brought action against the company. He received a small settlement, but was off work for some time with seven children to care for. In the 1940's, the saw company moved to PA. and Andrew went to work for U.S. Steel.

Andrew is said to have loved cowboys and Western Movies. On occasion, he would take his daughter Charlotte to the movies to see a western. At the time, the movies cost 10 cents a ticket.

Sally told the story about how the family learned that the United States was going to war. On December 8th, 1941 the family was at home listening to the radio when the news came about Pearl Harbor. It was the feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day. She said that everyone was sort of expecting the U.S. to get involved because of the war in Europe, but they were very surprised that the Japanese attacked us before the Germans. They could hardly wait until the next paper came out at 3 pm to read more about it.

Almost everyone in their neighborhood was effected in some way, either by having a son or husband, or other close relative involved. But the war brought a little more prosperity to the area. There were more jobs to be had and so more money.

During WWII, Catherine Lesniak Koldras sent packages with essentials, like coats and blankets to her relatives and those of her husband's who were suffering the occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany. When she returned for a visit 30 years after the war, the families she had helped were still grateful.

Catherine's Famous Recipes
Ma's Hamburgers
Koloc (Cheesecake)
Potato Pancakes
Catherine was a devout Catholic, but like many country folk, believed strongly in superstitions, the supernatural, and herbal remedies. They were a big part of rural life in Poland. Dreams were thought to be particularly significant. They believed that if you dreamed of a dark hole, muddy water, or of loosing a tooth, it meant that someone was going to die. But, if you dreamed that someone died, it meant that there was going to be a new baby in the family.

Andrew passed away on May 28, 1969. Shortly before he became ill with lung cancer, he reportedly had a dream in which his own father came to him and took him by the hand. Andrew was a long time smoker and would generally roll his own cigarettes out of Bull Durham tobacco. Andrew often said how proud of his children he was, especially his five daughters. As he was dying, told his wife that he would come back and pull on her toes and tell her what it was like. This thought terrified Catherine, who was very superstitious. After Andrew died, she would not sleep in their bed for fear of seeing him. She also felt that he would try to contact her on November 1, All Souls Day. She would stay up all night waiting for him each year.

Soon after Andrew's death, Catherine sold her house and worked out an arrangement where she would spend three months with each of her daughters. This arrangement worked out well, and gave all her grandchildren a chance to know her well. She continued this custom for a number of years. Catherine passed away at the home of her daughter Stephanie on November 29, 1977 at the age of 83. Catherine and Andrew are both buried at St. Adalbert Cemetary in Niles, Illinois.

Growing Up
Paper dolls. Nicknames, Andrew was a devoted reader of the Polish newspaper every day. Catherine would generally get it while Andrew was at work and read it through then carefully fold it up again and have it waiting on the table for when he came home. Andrew was the king of the household and liked everything "just so".

All the Koldras children, attended St. Ann's Catholic grade school in Chicago. The school was run by Sisters of the Nazareth order. St Ann's served the Polish community. Polish language and history were taught, and Confession, Prayers, and most Masses were given in Polish. Tuition was .80 cents each per month. Unlike most Catholic schools today, uniforms were not required.

When Albina was in third or fourth grade, she was with her class on the way to confession. The nuns demanded silence in the halls. Apparently, Albina got the giggles and a nun yanked her out of line and made to return to the classroom alone without attending the ritual. When Albina came home from school, she was very upset. Andrew didn't think her punishment was appropriate, and was upset that the nun didn't know the meaning of forgiveness. He took her out of the St. Ann's and enrolled her in the public school where she finished her education.

After Sally had already graduated from the grade school, St. Ann's opened a High School, which Edwin attended. Sally was the only sister to graduate from High School.

Just before the start of WWII, Clarence Stezowski's mother was the first one to send the girl's Nylons. Before that, they wore Rayons which were baggie and didn't stay up. During the war, Nylons were very expensive and difficult to come by, so the girls would at times use makeup on their legs, and eyebrow pencil to make the stipe down the back.

At night, the girls would tell ghost stories. Albina had a rosary hanging on the wall near her bed and when the El went by, the rosary would rattle. The girls would take it as proof that ghosts did exist and had great fun scaring each other.

Charlotte Koldras Kopec
Charlotte was born on August 30, 1915 at her parents home in Chicago. As a child, she was called Lotti. Charoltte did not speak English when she started school. She spoke only Polish which was what was spoken at home. Get story about appendicitis and Catherine's brother paying the bill? Before she was married, Charlotte worked as a candy wrapper for the Babe Ruth Company in Chicago. She would occasionally bring home toasted almonds, which were a very special treat for the family. Charlotte married Tony Kopec (Feb. 8, 1914-Oct 7, 1997)on October 16, 1937 at St Ann's Church in Chicago. Tony Kopec had a twin brother John, who died from the flu when he was two weeks old.

Story by Charlotte Koldras Kopec (7/14/00)

Tony Kopec was one of twelve children. His parents were Casimir and Josephine(Skawinska) Kopec.

Josephine Skawinska was born in Poland and, along with her brother and three sisters, was orphaned when she was just 8 months old. She was raised by her oldest sister in Poland. At some point, her brother came to America. later Josephine decided to join him.

She came to America with the clothes on her back and a few pennies wrapped up in a hankerchief. During her interview at Ellis Island, she realized that she did not know her birthdate, the officials guessed at her age (14) and sent her out to make her way in New York.

While wandering around the streets, Josephine overheard two ladies speaking Polish and went up to them asking for help locating her brother. Miraculously, the ladies actually knew him and were able to help the two reunite.

She wasn't in New York very long before she met and married Casimir Kopec who was also born in Poland. She was about 15 or 16 at the time. Josephine and Casimir moved to Pennsylvania where Charlotte believes their first child was born. They were not in Pennsylvania very long, when they moved to Chicago where most of their other children were born.

After they moved to Chicago, Josephine worked in a factory where she sorted feathers, then in a rag factory. She had a system that when she was working and her baby needed nursed, the older kids would bring it to her. Casimir Kopec worked in a factory where they made broom handles and yo-yos. He was noted for playing the "same sad song, over and over again" on his violin. One day, Josephine had had enough and smashed it.

Find out from Ron if he has any dates. Where do they rest? Names and dates of other children.

Their son Anthony was born February 8, 1913 in Chicago. When Tony was born, his mother was expecting just one baby, she had little shirts and diapers all ready. Josephine was in fact carrying twins, which no one knew until the birth. Sadly, Tony's twin brother John died from flu at two weeks old.

Anthony also worked at the yo-yo factory and had some chums from work who lived across the street from the Koldras family. While visiting his friends on the third floor, he was introduced to a girl on the first floor who was good friends with the Koldras girls. This was during the depression, and not only did Tony have a job, even though it didn't pay much, but he also had a car. He would take Charlotte for rides in his black coupe, a Model A Ford with a Rumble seat.

When Tony brought Charlotte home to meet his family, his father was sitting at the kitchen smoking his pipe. Tony said "This is my girlfriend Charlotte." Charlotte remembered that his father Casimir replied "So What." Charlotte said that Tony would visit almost every evening after dinner. This was in the depression and no one had any money. One evening when they were out for a drive, Tony "popped the question". Tony had already spoken with Charlotte's father and gotten permission to ask for her hand. No one in Charlotte's family tipped her off.

Charlotte and Tony were married on a beautiful day in October. Charlotte remembers they hired a cook for their wedding. The lady came to start cooking on Friday. On Saturday they had the service and then hosted a meal in the basement of the church. Rose, Bernice, and neighbors Jean and Marge stood up for Charlotte. Sigmund, John Koldras, Ziggy and ? stood up for Tony.

Charlotte and Tony took a day off for a honeymoon then went back to work. They both worked and saved their money to pay off the $35 still owing on Tony's car, furniture, and everything else needed to set up housekeeping.

Charlotte's Famous Recipes
Meringue Cookies
Rosette Cookies
Charlotte and Tony had two sons. Ronald Joseph Kopec was born on February 13, 1941. Charlotte was pregnant with her second son, Don at the same time that her sister Bernice was pregnant with her second child. On May 30, 1945 Bernice went into labor and Tony, who had a car, took her to the hospital where she delivered Janet. Charlotte was kind of discouraged that her sister was delivering and she was not. She lay down to rest and her water broke. Tony then rushed Charlotte to the same hospital, where Don was born 13 hours later. Eventually, the sisters were allowed to room together for their week long stay.

In 1946, Charlotte and Tony borrowed money from Charlotte's sister Rose and Tony's mother and bought a grocery store on 1812 W 18th Street which they named Kopec's Grocery Store. The store had an apartment behind it. They moved in on Don's first birthday. The store was filthy when they took over. Charlotte said that she and Tony scrubbed and scrubbed to make the store presentable. The store sold canned goods, milk and eggs, veggies, lunch meat, sausages, bacon, bread and cakes, shoe strings and polish, toothpicks, needles and all manner of convenience items. They also sold penny candy which they bought in lots of 80 pieces for 60 cents.

Charlotte said that when customers would come in the store, a bell would ring in their living area. She would stop what she was doing and go into the store. She said that Don, who was a baby, was trained to stay in his highchair while she was up front with customers. This was a really challenging time for Charlotte. When they bought the store, Tony left his job as a machinist. After a few weeks, he had to get his old job back. They were famous for their baked ham and fresh bread that they made on Sundays. This store was next to the Bafia Funeral Parlor and this is how Albina became acquainted with her future husband, Eddie. Charlotte is Godmother to Rich Stezowski, and Tony is Godfather to Bob Stezowski.

Ronald Joseph Kopec, or "Joe" attended DePaul University and graduated with a degree in French in 1963. Joe joined ROTC in college. Because of the draft, he expected to serve in the military, and the ROTC offered the top 10% of graduates an officers commission. Joe went from his DePaul graduation ceremony to his Army induction ceremony. Joe entered the army as a 2nd Lieutenant and trained at Fort Benning, Georgia. He also completed paratrooper training which included 5 successful jumps. Ron served in Military Intelligence for the US Army in Germany and Viet Nam. He later taught at West Point. Joe married Rose DeFrancesco of Wood Dale on December 29, 1985. Rose was born on October 16, 1951. Their daughter Antonia, who was named for her grandfather, was born on September 24, 1990.

Donald Anthony Kopec (Godmother: Stephanie), married Barbara Gembara on November 28, 1970. Barbara was born June 15, 1945 in Chicago, the daughter of John and Sonia Gembara. The couple met in while in college, and married when Don returned from service in Viet Nam. Don and Barbara have four sons, Peter John born June 2, 1974 in Carmel, CA. Stephen Anthony Kopec was born October 16, 1976 in New York, John Joseph was born July 4, 1980, and Joseph Donald born April 5, 1988. Bob Stezowski is Godfather to John Kopec, who in turn, is Godfather to Bob's daughter Margaret Stezowski.

Bernice Koldras Sysko
Bernice Koldras was born on January 24, 1918, at the home of her parents in Chicago. Andrew named Bernice for his lost little sister in Poland. As a child, Bernice was described as the tomboy of the Koldras girls. She would happily jump over a fence to be first.

When she was 13 or 14, Bernice got a job babysitting for a family with two children. Every penny counted in the Koldras household and Bernice was eager to start earning. It was a live in position as both parents worked. Bernice learned to cook and strain vegetables to make baby food. She also became very good at ironing. Bernice would take the street car home every weekend and turn over the 3 dollars a week that she earned to her mother. She worked for the family for a number of years, then arranged for Rose to take her place. At 16, Bernice took her sister Charlotte's birth certificate and got a job in a laundry.

As a young lady, Bernice had a lot of boyfriends calling on her. Most of her dates were by streetcar - but one young man came to get her in a big green delivery truck. Her sisters were hysterical with laughter and teased her mercilessly.

Bernice's future husband Casimir Sysko (Szyszko) was born in Wilks Barre, Pennsylvania on May 1, 1917. Casey had a brother Anthony who died around 1980, a sister Mary Sysko Baczwska, and another sister Monika who lives in Bialystok, Poland.

His parents had come from Poland to work in the mines. There was a horrible mining accident and Casey's father was blinded in one eye and his father's brother was killed. After a while, Casey's father started experiencing serious health problems. The doctor suggested the family move to a better climate. Poland was the only place they could think of, so they returned to their native land. Casey was raised in Poland, and later immigrated back to the United States.

Casey's brother Anthony had returned to the United States, and in 1940, just before WWII, Casey joined him in Chicago. Their mother came over later. Casey worked in a Foundry which was very hard work, then as a dishwasher. He moved on to the Drawery Brewery until he retired. Never one to sit around, Casey then went to work at St. Paul's Church.

It was not long after Casey returned to the States when he met Bernice. At the time, Bernice was working in the Dleader Laundry as a press operator for .20 cents an hour. She would work 10 hour shifts and bring home $12 a week pay. Bernice remembered that on really hot days, her supervisor would call the girls into his office to have a shot of brandy.

One day, a co-worker convinced Bernice to go to a Polish Picnic all the way on the North Side of Chicago. It was there that she met Casey when he invited her to Polka. It was not long before Bernice and Casey were engaged to be married.

Casey had asked Bernice ahead of time to be his wife, but he needed to ask her father's permission before the engagement could proceed. Casey came to the Koldras house to speak with Andrew, he had brought the ring to give it to Bernice in front of her parents. Andrew and Catherine liked Casey, and were very happy that Bernice would be marrying a "nice Polish boy". It was important to them that they liked their children's mates and their families, because it was expected that the families would have a fairly close relationship.

Bernice and Casey married on October 4, 1941. Bernice chose the date of October 4, because it was her parent's anniversary. Bernice and Casey had their reception at the same hall Rose and Dee would later use. They followed many of the traditions at the time, one of which involved the bride and groom sitting at a table and the guests would form a line and when it was their turn, they would throw silver dollars on a plate and Bernice would dance with them. When it was time to serve dinner, the Polish band would play a wedding march and the Bride and Groom would lead everyone in a line to the tables.

After they were married, Bernice and Casey rented a one room apartment in back of Charlotte's in-laws. It was a very primitive place with no hot water. Bernice had to wash the clothes in cold water and heat water to bathe.

At this time, the United States was at war and Casey went into the Army. The night before he was to leave Sally and Rose went to visit Bernice and Casey at their apartment. Casey was trying to pack his bag and Sally and Rose kept throwing pans and other things into it to tease him. He was not really in the mood to be teased then and got very angry. Everything worked out though because after he reported for duty, Casey was released from service because he was married before Pearl Harbor.

Bernice and Casey had two children, Jerome Sysko born March 21, 1943 (pictured at right). Jerry was interested in the Church as a very young boy. He attended St. Phillips High School and joined the seminary directly after graduation. Jerry is a Brother in the Order of Catholic Augustinians and has served in the United States and Poland.

Janet Sysko born May 30, 1945. Janet and her first husband, Tom Michelic had two sons. Thomas W. Michelic was born January 8, 1966. He is married Rene Choisser (b. March 5, 1958) on April 16, 1994. Rene is the daughter of George P. Choisser and Marlene Zimmerman Rizzo of Palos Park. Tom and Rene have a son Andrew born in 2000.Steven G. Michelic was born April 30, 1968. He married Jill Kanikula (b. January 26, 1967) daughter of Michael and Kathryn Kanikula of Western Springs, on August 19, 1990. Steve and Jill have a son Casey Thomas Michelic who was born May 24, 1997 and a daughter Carley born in 1999.

Janet later married Terry Lucas. They were married for about 20+ years. Terry passed August 16, 2001.

He moved on to the Drewery Brewery until he retired. Never one to sit around, Casey went to work at St. Paul's Church.

Rose Koldras Stock
Rose Koldras was born on December 12, 1919 at her parents temporary home in Cleveland, Ohio. Rose was affectionately called "Rozia" by her mother. As girls, Bernice, Rose and Sally slept in the same bed. Rose was known as very sensitive and artistic. She was gifted at drawing. Rose drew, and cut out little paper children, desks and Nuns and the Koldras sisters spent hours playing "school" with them on the floor. While in grade school, Rose and Sally were ordered by their father to attend Harcerzstow meetings (Polish Girl Scouts) which they both hated.

In High School, Rose had trouble with acne and was subjected to numerous home remedies brewed by ladies in her neighborhood. She and Sally slept together, and Sally remembers that whenever she would borrow Rose's clothes or makeup, no matter how carefully she folded the garment, Rose would always know.

Rose was also a huge movie fan. One of her favorite past times when she was young was to go the movies at the Marshall Square theatre. She was always up on the new movies and all the actors and actressess who were popular at the time.

After Rose left her live in babysitting job which she inherited from Bernice, she went to work at Victor Gaskets. She worked there for a number of years, possibly until her marriage.

Rose was very close with her sister Bernice. Rose was Bernice's first bridesmaid at her wedding and was Godmother to Bernice's daughter Janet. Bernice remembered that she and Rose lived quite close together and that Tommy painted Bernice's house for her.

Rose met her husband Stanley "Dee" Stock after the war when he returned to Chicago. Dee was born 15 Jun 1919.He had some very difficult experiences in the South Pacific, and had contracted Malaria. Dee was remembered as a shy, but very nice and gentle man. Bernice remembered that he loved to go to the movies and that musicals were his favorite.

Dee is known to have had three brothers, one of whom was a bachelor, and a sister. During his service in the South Pacific, his mother and one of his brothers died. When he returned from the war, he lived with his sister Mary. Dee worked very hard at a Punch Press. His family name was changed to Stock from Stoch at some point before his marriage. Dee passed on 3 Jun 1992.

Rose was also skilled at flower arranging. For a while after her marriage, she made fiber flower arrangements which were sold at the local White Hen convenience store. Rose is also famous for being the first one in the family to get a T.V.

Rose had a big heart. When Stas Koldras became too ill to live on his own, Rose agreed to take him into her home and care for him. Clarence and his son, Richard Stezowski remodeled her attic into a bedroom for Stas where he lived until Rose's passing on December 26, 1995.

Rose and Dee had two children. Thomas "Tommy" Stock was born August 8, 1956. As a youngster, he often played with is cousin Rich Stezowski during the summers. He was also known as an excellent student in school. Tommy passed on August 31, 1994. Carol Stock was born September 7, 1959. On July 19, 1986 she married Michael Sommer (b. May 27, 1956), son of Carmella and Pat Sommer of Chicago. Carol and Mike have two sons, Matthew born December 5, 1994, and James "Jimmy" Patrick born May 12, 1998.

Helena Koldras was born July 30, 1922. She died of Whooping Cough (the cemetary certificate says Bronchial Pnummonia), on February 19, 1923. She is also buried in St. Adalbert Cemetary in Niles, Illinois, Section MD #3414.

Stephanie "Sally" Koldras Stezowski

Stephanie Helen Koldras was born on March 22, 1924 at the home of her parents with a midwife attending. As a girl, Sally was known for her beautiful white-blond hair and for her beautiful singing voice. Andrew would often call on Sally or Stefca as she was known to sing Polish songs for him and his friends. There was some legal confusion about Stephanie's name because her birth certificate listed her name as Albina Koldras.

Andrew Koldras belonged to a Polish Lodge which sponsored a Polish Girl Scout type organization called Harcerzstow where young girls would learn Polish songs and crafts. He thought it would be a fine idea for Sally and Rose to join. The girls absolutely hated going. The neighborhood kids would tease them by calling them "Polish Buttons". After a while, their mother Catherine took mercy on the girls and said they should go for a long walk and just tell their father they had been to the meeting.

Sally's Famous Recipes
Famous Gingerbread Recipe
Legendary Perogis
While in High School, Sally worked at babysitting and also took full time work in the summers. She said when you would go for the interview, they would always ask you if you were returning to school in the fall, she would say no, and go anyway. One summer she worked at a pickle factory with Charlotte putting the labels on jars. Another summer she had a job where she would ride the street car which cost 10 cents to a cookie factory. Sally's job was to close the cookie boxes. She earned about $12 a week which she turned over to her mother. Catherine cried the first time Sally gave her the wages. Catherine really wanted Sally to finish school and encouraged her to graduate.

Stephanie married Clarence Stezowski (b. March 19, 1925), son of Joseph and Mary Stezowski of Cleveland on June 1, 1946. Stephanie and Clarence had three children, all born in Cleveland, Ohio. Judy Lou Stezowski was born January 7, 1948. After a very successful career with McDonald's Corp., Judy married Daniel Pettinger, son of Barbara and Harold Pettinger of Iowa, on June 1, 1985. Judy and Dan have two children, Michael Pettinger born April 11, 1987, and Anne Claire born March 10, 1989.

Sally and Clarence's second child, Robert Stezowski was born on October 23, 1951. Bob's Godparents are Rose Stock and Tony Kopec. When it was time for Bob's Baptism, Tony had to have surgery so the ceremony was put off for a few weeks. A neighbor started teasing Sally by referring to Bob as "the little devil" because of the delay in baptism.

Bob married Ann Marie Trompeter, daughter of Mary and Robert Trompeter of Elmhurst on October 25, 1986. Bob and Ann Marie have a daughter Margaret "Maggie" Mary Stezowski born July 14, 1994 at their home in Villa Park. Maggie's Godparents are John Kopec and Dana Trompeter.

Richard Andrew Stezowski was born August 2, 1957. Rich's Godparents are Edwin Koldras and Charlotte Kopec. He graduated from Northern Illinois University in 1979, and makes his career in Data Processing as a Senior DBA for Amoco in Chicago. Rich married Karen Anne Wunderlich, daughter of Agnes Hamill and Arthur Wunderlich of Addison on August 18, 1991.

Karen's Favorite Recipes
Shepherd's Pie
Peanut Butter Bars
Wonderful Pumpkin Cake
Rich and Karen met while working on a Community Theatre Production called "Pinch Penny Phantom of the Opera". Richard built the set, and Karen came to the show three days before the opening to fill in for a sick Stage Manager. Karen was supposed to leave nine days later for a new job in England. Chalk another one up for "love at first sight"! Rich and Karen have a daughter, Clara Hamill Stezwoski born January 24, 1997. Clara's Godparents are Margaret Ellis and Daniel Pettinger. Alexander Josef Stezowski was born May 20, 1999. Alex's Godparents are Bob Stezowski and Judy Pettinger. William Bryan Stezowski was born August 15, 2003. Don Kopec and Anne Marie Stezowski are William's god parents.

Stanley Koldras
Stanley "Stas" Adam Koldras was born on March 29, 1927. Stas served in WWII and developed a stress related disorder. Stas never married, and lived with his sister Rose Stock for many years. Stas is Godfather to Edwin Koldras' oldest son, David. He currently resides in a Veterans home in Chicago. Stas passed January 1, 2001 at Hines Veterans Hospital in Illinois.

Albina Koldras
Albina, youngest of the Koldras sisters, was born on January 16, 1930. Albina is Godmother to Stephanie and Clarence Stezowski's oldest child, Judy. Eddie Bafia's parents were Stanley and Anna Bafia. Eddie's mother, Anna Zelinski Bafia was the oldest of 13 kids. I believe she was born in PA, possibly Mt. Pleasant. Her father died when he was just 32 years old of a burst appendix. This was a terrible hardship for her family. Her mother took in borders to make ends meet. Anna baked bread every morning and was able to put a loaf on each of the family's 24 steps to cool. She also remembered having to scrub the backs of the borders, which she hated.

Stanley was from Zakabaie in Poland. He emigrated to Pennsylvania, and like many Poles went to work in the coal mines. Stanley hated the coal mines. He had come from a beautiful region of Poland and he felt that he "didn't want to die underground." Stanley met Anna as a border in her mother's home. Her family was distressed that she was getting married because she was so young, and they depended on her. But the two were determined and had a 3 day wedding celebration. Stanley's sister Anna had married a Mr. Patarek(?), and moved to Chicago. Anna had a cousin who was working at livery for a funeral parlor in Chicago. Stanley and Anna moved to Chicago where their relations were able to help Stanley get a job in livery as well. Stanley was later able to take the 10 month course in embalming to become a funeral director.

Stanley and Anna opened the Bafia Funeral Home at 1810 W 18th Street in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. They worked very hard and built up their business. Stanley and Anna had a beautiful building with stained glass windows and a little casket in the front window. The Lesniak Roofing Company was two doors away. This is the same area the Koldras family was living in, and later Charlotte and Tony Kopec opened a grocery store was next to the Bafia's.

Stanley and Anna's son Ed had been to seminary, but realized the life was not for him. When he returned to his parent's home, he was looking for work and started doing odd jobs for Charlotte and Tony Kopec. Eddie helped Charlotte wash the walls and became good friends with the couple. Meanwhile, Charlotte's youngest sister Albina was 16, would help Charlotte out with her children while she was working at the store.

Albina was casually seeing another fellow, but Eddie was very interested in her. She was hesitant to go out with Eddie because she thought his parents would look down on her for dating a young man who had just left the seminary. Finally Charlotte scolded Albina for putting Eddie off, and Albina admitted that she really did like him. On December 14, they had their first date. Eddie took Albina to see the show 'Sweethearts' at the Civic Opera in Chicago. Albina remembers Eddie ordering wine with dinner which was unusual for her because she was so young.

Albina remembers being crazy about Eddie. He had a great sense of humor and was noted for his punns. She said her heart would skip a beat when she would see him comming down the street wearing his grey shark skin suit. On December 14th of the next year, Albina was at Charlotte's house caring for Joe and Don. She was doing the ironing when Eddie came in, he said he couldn't wait for Christmas- would she marry him.

Albina married Edward D Bafia (May 11, 1926-November 26, 1984) on January 8, 1949. The couple had three children.

Lawrence "Larry" James Bafia was born March 29, 1951. As a boy, Larry would spend time in the summer with his cousins Bob and Rich Stezowski. A popular activity at the time was slot car racing. Rich remembered walking along the railroad tracks to get to the slot car racing track with Larry in the lead, then Rich, and Bob following. It was quite a distance for the boys to walk. After a while, they decided to build their own wooden slot car track in the Stezowski basement. The project spanned several months. They hand routed the track which was a figure eight, this was no small feat. Then attached the electrical leads to make in Rich's words, "an AWESOME course". Rich said they played with that track for many years.

Larry graduated from Columbia College in Chicago. On January 10, 1981 Larry married Mary Ann Sokolowski. Larry and Mary Ann currently reside in California.

Donna Marie Bafia was born to Albina and Eddie on May 25, 1954. Clarence Stezowski is her Godfather. Donna graduated with a degree in Art from Columbia College in Chicago. On November 5, 1977, Donna married Regino "Gino" Saenz who was born October 7, 1951 in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico. Gino immigrated with his parents through El Paso, TX, at the age of three. The family settled in "the old neighborhood" around 18th street". Donna and Gino met at the neighborhood park playing basketball. Gino is a Chicago Police officer.

Donna and Gino have three children. Catherine Saenz, who was named for her great-grandmother, was born on July 31, 1978. Catherine is a gifted student and musician and has graduated from Harvard University. Nicholas Saenz was accidentally born at home on April 12, 1982. Nick is studying at MIT. Jennifer Saenz was born June 27, 1984, currently attends Harvard University.

Albina and Eddie's youngest child Christine Ann Bafia was born June 13, 1959. She married Mark Hoffman on August 24, 1986. Mark was born on September 29, 1958. They currently live in Chicago.

Edwin Koldras
Edwin Koldras was born on October 2, 1934 when his mother was 40. At the time of her pregnancy, Catherine was said to have been a bit embarrassed about having another child "at her age", but when Edwin arrived, fell head over heals in love with him.

Story about Edwin as a very small boy disappearing for a whole day, because he went to the World's Fair with some older boys to look for money. Need to get story about Edwin's newspaper stand and how he outwitted the thief. Edwin joined the military and served in Japan. He sent his mother and sisters many beautiful artifacts. He was very close to his sister Sally, and was Godfather to Sally's son Richard Stezowski.

In 1959, Edwin attended Michigan State University. He graduated in 1961- completing a 4 year degree in 2 years. A dean's list student, he earned a degree in Economics.

Edwin married Pamela Flecken (b. Sept.3, 1934), daughter of Alice and William Flecken of London, England on June 15, 1963. Pamela came to the United States to join her parents who emigrated after WWII.

On July 1, 1965 Edwin joined Merrill Lynch Securities. He was selected as one of nine, from a field of over 900 applicants. Pamela and Edwin had two sons.

David Koldras was born on December 15, 1963. He married Lena Seminara (b. December 21, 1963), daughter of Angelo and Giovanna Seminara of Palermo, Sicily, on May 30, 1992. David and Lena have a son, Nicholas Koldras born June 20, 1995.

Michael Koldras was born April 19, 1968. He has his own landscaping business in the western suburbs.

Family Traditions
The family celebrates together in two main events a year, Koldras Family Picnic, and a Family Christmas Party.

Christmas on Cullerton St., Chicago By Janet Sysko Lucas

The "big day" was Christmas Eve for the Koldras family. The house was filled with the wonderful aroma of fresh baked cheese bread and traditional meatless dinner prepared by Busia.

Families began to arrive at the cozy home late in the afternoon, filling every corner of the kitchen and living rooms. The tree was bright with "bubble lights", radiators provided a toasty seat along the windows. Grandpa (Andrew) was normally found in his kitchen chair with a bag of loose tobacco (Bull Durham brand) while Busia scurried about the kitchen. These bags were saved, washed and used as gift wrappers for the silver dollars Uncle Stas would pass out to the nieces and nephews later. A high level of anticipation filled the children while they waited for the last of the family to arrive. After they acquired a telephone, a long-distance call from daughter "Sally" in Cleveland added to the excitement of the day.

There would be the breaking of oplatki. A time for each family member to take a moment to wish other members their special blessing for the coming year. This process was filled with laughter, sometimes tears, always love, hugs, hand-shaking, etc.

Singing of carols, and the dreaded "turon" (pronounced too-royn). A creature hand-made by Grandpa delighted the older boys, frightened the younger children causing screams and squeals throughout the room. With it's wooden head, clapping mouth and big bell, it may have represented the animals at the holy stable...I am not sure.

After the passing of Andrew and Catherine, their children continued the tradition of love at Christmas. The get-together had to be changed to the Sunday before Christmas, due to the many families' obligations, the meal is a wonderful "pot luck" and the tradition of oplatki and love continue. In 1997 the 4-generation party was surprised and delighted with a new turon created by Robert Stezowski!

Often times when the family is together in celebration, they sing a traditional song.

Sto lat, sto lat niech zyje, zyje nam,
Sto lat, sto lat niech zyje, zyje nam,
Jeszcze raz, jeszcze raz,
niech zyje, zyje nam, niech zyje nam

Good health, good cheer, may you live a hundred years, one hundred years.

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