Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11 - A Different Kind of Memory

When Eleanora Leszczuk was sixteen, Nazi troops rolled through her small village in Poland.  They took her and one of her two sisters and put them on separate trains to Germany.  She never saw that sister or anyone else in her family again.

Eleanora survived the war as a prisoner, working on a forced labor farm.  It was there she met Tony, who would become her husband, and there that she gave birth to her only child, Stan.  After the war, Eleanora, Tony and their son spent five years in various refugee camps in Europe before securing a sponsor who could bring them to America.  They settled in Detroit, found work, enrolled their son in the local parish school, and started building a new life.  Stan grew up, became a US citizen, was commissioned as an officer in the US Air Force, and got married.  (And I received the great gift of having Eleanora as a mother-in-law.)

At the time of the tragedy of 9/11, Eleanora was living near us in Ohio.  Tony had passed away a few years before.  In the patriotic fervor that followed 9/11, I happened to ask Eleanora why she'd never become a US citizen.  She told me she had wanted to, back when Stan did - when he turned 21 - but it was not possible for Tony (who had no formal education) and she didn't want to disrespect him by doing what he could not. I asked her, "What about now?  Would you still like to?"  She answered, "I'm too old.  They wouldn't want me now."

Of course, this wasn't true.  I downloaded the requirements for citizenship, including the test materials, and offered them to her. She spent months learning facts most of those of us who were born here don't know.  We helped her submit the formal request in the spring and, on August 8, 2003, her 77th birthday, 52 years after she came to this country, Eleanora took and passed her examination for citizenship.  Now all that was left was the official 'swearing in' ceremony.

In a fitting tribute to the enduring strength of our nation, the ceremony was scheduled for the afternoon of September 11, 2003.  It was a large group, all eager to become part of this great country. Eleanora was supported by Stan and I, her two grandsons and their wives, and her three great-grandchildren.  There were lots of speeches and the oath was administered and we all sang God Bless America.  And Eleanora Leszczuk became a brand new US citizen.



Two months later, for the first time, she went to the polls on Election Day and voted.



It's a better memory for 9/11, don't you think?


(I'll bring the groaners back on Wednesday.  Just don't seem to fit today.)

26 comments:

Larri @ Seams Inspired said...

What a fabulous way to commemorate. Thanks for sharing her story. Happy Monday! ☺

Angela Brown said...

With so many 9/11 memories that are pain-filled, devestating or like mine - dazed and confused - it is nice to read about a memory linked to something that makes you smile.

LD Masterson said...

Larri - Happy Monday to you, too. Thanks for coming by.

Cate Masters said...

Thanks for the heartwarming tale, a much needed change from the day's tragedy.

LD Masterson said...

Angela - Thanks. It's a really nice memory.

LD Masterson said...

Cate - I'm glad you enjoyed it. Sometimes we need to remember what's good.

Petra said...

That's an awesome 9/11 memory! It brought tears of joy. My mom also passed the examination for citizenship back in 1946. Happy Monday!

Gregg said...

That is a fantastic story! Made me teary eyed. Thanks for posting that. Being a third generation American, I take for-granted what others have to "earn." Second, I forget my great-grandfather came from England to America. I do not know if he ever became a citizen or not.

Isis Rushdan said...

Thanks for the change of pace, so to speak. I needed it! Great story.

LD Masterson said...

Petra - Kudos to your mom.

LD Masterson said...

Gregg - Actually I'm a first generation American. My dad came from England. He became a citizen and served in WW II

LD Masterson said...

Isis, Thank you. Glad you liked it.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

This was such an awesome post, not only to commemorate 9/11 but also just in general.

LD Masterson said...

Thank you, Sarah. She was an awesome lady.

Lydia K said...

What a lovely story to read after all the sad memories of 9/11. Thank you for this.

Maria Zannini said...

I tried to stop in earlier this morning, but my internet was schizoid.

Ref: ...and she didn't want to disrespect him by doing what he could not.

I love this. It just sounds so right. She was a wonderful woman and this was a fitting tribute to her and 9-11.

LD Masterson said...

Lydia - You're welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

LD Masterson said...

Maria - Thank you. She was a very special lady.

Jemi Fraser said...

What a lovely, lovely story! Huge congrats to Eleanora - I bet voting for the first time will rank as one of the highlights of her life!

LD Masterson said...

Jemi - She probably paid more attention to who/what she was voting for than the rest of us.

Sadly, we lost Eleanora to cancer last October. The US is poorer for having lost her as a citizen.

Rebecca Kiel said...

Fantastic! Thank you for the reminder that joy still exists on a day when sadness is so palpable.

Liz Fichera said...

I'm all choked up. Thanks for sharing...

GigglesandGuns said...

Oh how I cried reading this. The very best 9/11 story ever.


Mary

LD Masterson said...

Rebecca - Thanks. And thanks for "Following" my blog.

LD Masterson said...

Liz - Thank you for stopping by.

LD Masterson said...

Mary - Some tears feel better than others. Writing this brought me good tears.