Friday, March 9, 2012

My Father " Pop"

My father and I
Most people knew my father as Walerian Brejwo, to me he was Tata, Polish for father. I called my father Tata as a child but eventually I matured and so did the name that connected me to him, from my teen years to the day my father passed away I affectionately called him "POP". Pop was born to Bleslawa Brejwo and Anny Rubiel on September 29, 1914 in the village of Pacewicze. Pacewicze is a small village in the providence of Lida  near the border of Russia and Lithuania now known as Belarus.In 1922 Belarus became a republic of the Soviet Union. Pop rarely spoke of his parents , my grandparents and I have been  searching for information of my grandparents and so far unsuccessful to fill in my history. Pop was one of three children, he had a brother and a sister.

I draw on my memories of stories Pop told my siblings and myself. Pop did not have the opportunity to advance himself in education , he did have 6th grade education and was able to read and write.Pop grew up on a farm in Poland and had the responsibilities from an early age to work the farm.Looking at the large size of his hands you knew he was a hard worker, his hands were always callused and rough. Pop was not a tall man, but he was fit and handsome with strawberry blonde hair and hazel eyes. Pop always stood proud and strong even in the faces of a crisis.

Pop was not educated by the traditional sense of books,teachers, schools but he was self-educated in photography, music and arts. My strongest ,most positive connection I have with my father is the above mentioned. I vividly remember as a child smiling for the first camera my father ever purchased, a Beacon. I cherish the photographs taken from my father's camera and I am fortunate to have the Beacon in my possession. I myself have developed a passion for photography, when I am behind a lens  I know I am stopping that second in time in a photo to cherish forever. Taking a snap shot in present time in order to remember the past. My brother is a great artist as well  and listening to a song or playing a piano piece brings me back to my youth.

Pop's first job in the U.S.A was as an janitor in 1952, cleaning offices on Wall Street. Growing up as a teen, friends would ask me about my father's occupation,my answer was he worked on Wall Street. As little kids we never saw much of my father, nights were spent working and daytime we were in school.He managed to send his children to a Private Polish Catholic school, good schools were important to him. Pop loved the ocean many summer Sundays were spent in Coney Island. He took us on trips to the Bronx Zoo, Prospect Park, Orchard Beach and other places around New York and Brooklyn. There was another side to my father, he was also very stern. Bad behavior or misconduct led to having us kneel on raw rice in a corner of the room for an hour.The time my mother was in the hospital giving birth to my sister , my father made us oatmeal for dinner , I would not eat it and Pop made me sit at the table for four hours before he gave in and let me get up. I think because I was the only girl at the time, he was a little easier on me. When my mother was killed in 1970 that was a very hard time in his life, my sister was only ten years old. It took Pop a long time before he pulled himself together.

It has been thirty years since Pop's death on February 16, 1982, at the young age of 68. He died of a massive heart attack and died instantly, my brother found him in his garage leaning on the car. Pop retired from work two years earlier and he was just starting to enjoy life after all those hard years living through WW II and living ten years in DP Camps in Germany. I think of Pop often, a talented man who never was  given the chance to show his talent.

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