My mother was born Katarzyna Mielnikowa, later changed to Mielnik , in Kowale Poland in 1914, during WWI. Her father was a Polish soldier and was killed fighting the war, her mother was killed during the war and my mother was left an orphan at the age of two.My mother never talked about her early childhood, I wonder if she ever had a childhood, an orphan who was placed from home to home.Today I can understand why. As a young woman at the age of 22 she was in one of Stalin's camps during the pogrom of 1936. She worked for a while on the Trans-Siberian Railway as well as on fishing boats out of Vladivostok, far eastern terminal of the Trans-Siberian Railway.I can't imagine how she endured those years. My father Walerian Brejwo , lived in Paczewice Poland, today known as Belarus,part of Lithuania, Poland and Russia. My father's parents worked a small farm in the villiage as well as my father.From Vladivostok my mother ended up working on the farm, I assume that is how she met my father. My mother never had any schooling and therefore she never learned to read and write.She begged my father's parents to let her go to school but they needed her to work on the farm. I remember her practicing writing her name for days when she had to sign a document. How she yearned to read and write and never given the opportunity. I would catch her thumbing through magazines, just looking at photos and she would ask me to read to her.
WWII had began in September 1, 1939, many Poles had to flee the country, but where to go ? My parents were placed in camp Buttnerfeld , Hannover Germany one of many camps they lived. During WWII the need for intimacy was needed, people often ignored the normal criteria for marriage. My parents were not officially married at this time,even when my mother gave birth to my brother Eugene. Life was hard, conditions in the camp included lack of privacy, over crowding and constant dependence of aid organizations made it difficult to raise children. Once again my mother is displaced, from the age of two she never had a place called home. In retrospect, I think coming to America was like stepping out of a dark horrible dream. Today I understand why she kept those years to herself, she left them behind when she came to The United States Of America, this was her new home.