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A discovery at Thanksgiving

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

How appropriate that I'm writing this on Thanksgiving weekend. Today would have been my mother's 98th birthday. And today I received news about a part of my family I know so little about.

Today I got email from a relative, Janusz Zebrowski. He is related to my birth father, Stanislaw Zebrowski. He attached photographs of my grandparents Josefa and Ignacy, and the house where my father was born in 1914.

I wept when I saw the pictures. For most of my 76 years I have known nothing about my birth father or his family.

Stanislaw met my mother Mary in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany after World War II. They married, I was born, they emigrated to Canada and split up - all in the space of 4 years. She took me and moved in with another Polish man she had met in the camp and who had also emigrated to Northern Ontario.

My mother ripped Stanislaw out of every photograph she had, and refused to talk about him.

Last year I discovered Stanislaw’s unmarked grave, in a cemetery in Kirkland Lake. He'd had a hard life in the logging industry until a stroke limited his mobility. He died penniless.

Apart from that, I knew nothing about him or any possible family still in Poland. I wanted to know where and how they lived and worked and had fun. Who was my father? Were there any pictures of him in Poland?

On a whim, I wrote to the town hall in the village of Nienalty, where my father was born. I told them my story, and asked if they could help me find a relative.

That’s how I found Janusz and got these photos. Janusz sent a new picture of my grandfather Ignacy, who somehow got to be a bodyguard for Tsar Nicholas II in the early years of his reign, and also served as the local mayor.

And there's a picture of the family homestead. There's the house where my father was born, the windows where he first looked out on the world, and the door he left through to join the Polish army in 1939 - never to return.

Now Janusz has promised to enlist other family members in my search for information.

On this day of Thanksgiving, on the anniversary of my mother's birth, I have so much to be thankful for.

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