Monday, March 15, 2010

Karolina Furman's Latter Years

The Latter Years

In the 1920s, Karolina Furman's children in the USA had 13 more children between them. But I'm sure her real joy came in 1922 when her daughter Anna married Sebastian Rys at the church in Zgorsko and had 4 children in quick succession, Janina (1923), Maria (1924), Teresa (1926), and Stanislaw (1928). Anna may have had more children but the birth records available to me on microfilm end in 1929. I'm sure Karolina was happy to have and hold her grandchildren, play with them and watch them grow. At the end of the decade, in 1929 and 1930, Karolina's eldest grandson in the USA would give her 2 great grandsons.

The 1930s started out well for Karolina. In September of 1933 her youngest son, Michael, married Anna Dziekan at the church in Zgorsko. They had a daughter, Maria, in 1937 and another daughter, Kazimiera, in 1939. Two more great grandchildren were born in the USA. But as the decade came to an end Poland was once again at war. It was invaded by Hitler on September 1, 1939 and by the Soviet Union on September 17, 1939, beginning WWII. Karolina lived to see just one more Christmas with her children and grandchildren and then she died 5 months later on January 18, 1940 (age 75). She was buried in the parish cemetry near the church in Zgorsko. I'm told her grave is no longer there.
Chapel and parish cemetery in Zgorsko

At the time of her death, Karolina Furman Laska had 5 children, 21 grandchildren in the USA, at least 6 grandchildren in Podborze (perhaps Anna had more beyond what appears in the records through 1929, and Appolonia may have lived in a nearby village and had children of her own), and 4 great grandchildren in the USA. She was the first in her family born "free" and she lived through one world war and into the start of another. I wrote extensively about her children and grandchildren not because that was the only information I could find related to her life but because children and family were her life. Motherhood was the only role for women in Poland in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

In her lifetime, Karolina would have seen the introduction of indoor plumbing and electricity (but she may not have had either in her own home), automobiles (she certainly wouldn't have had one of those), and telephones (nope, she wouldn't have had one of those either). She would have traveled periodically to the nearby towns of Radomysl Wielki and Mielec (each less than 10 miles away), probably as far as Debica (19 miles away) and Tarnow (25 miles away) on occasion, and possibly even Krakow (78 miles away), but probably not any further. She was very likely illiterate. Her world would have centered around farming and the seasons, her family, and her Roman Catholic faith. She was an ordinary woman who led a simple life by today's standards. All the same, she was my great grandmother and I'm grateful to her for all she did to raise her children healthy and well and because she had the courage and strength to let her eldest son go off to America to make his own way. If not for that course of events I would not be here now.

God bless you and may you rest in peace, Great Grandmother Karolina.

Previous articles about Karolina:
Chronology of Karolina Furman
Karolina Furman's Childhood
Karolina Furman's Family Life


  1. What do you mean when you say the grave is no longer there? Has her body been moved, or has the grave eliminated to make space for someone else. I had read in Germany that the graves are only used for a period of time, but, what happens to the people?

  2. I've read Karolina's story straight through, Jasia, and I've ended with a tear. You've told such a sweet, sweet story about this great-grandmother you never knew but who had such a tremendous influence on your life because of her children and the way she raised them. I've enjoyed getting to know her and learning more about your Polish ancestry.

  3. It's amazing that you've been able to put together so much about her life. I'm certain that her life was far from easy and hope that her family brought her joy. I think she'd be pleased to be so well remembered by a great-granddaughter so far away in both distance and time!

  4. Thank you, thank you all for your kind remarks!

    Claudia- Yes, graves are not generally purchased in Europe as they are here in the USA, they are leased. When the lease is up you have to pay to renew the lease or else the remains are removed and the grave site is leased to another family. I have no idea how long lease periods are, what they cost, or where the remains are put when they are removed. But I did request a photo of her grave from the current parish priest (a very nice man) and he informed me that she no longer has a grave site.

    Judith- I'm so pleased you were touched by Karolina's story. It's quite a challenge to write about someone you have so little information on.

    Apple- I hope Karolina would be pleased to be remembered by my article. It's interesting to ponder the question of what people who were born long ago would think about today's technology. Karolina probably never ventured far from her little village and her little corner of the world but now her life story is available to the entire online population of the earth! I hope she'd feel honored.

  5. What a wonderful tribute!And thank you so much for teaching me some of the "how" of putting together a ancestors life story when you have little information.
    It was a honor to meet Karolina.

  6. Thank you dustbunny! And you're welcome! :-)

  7. Thanks for sharing your great-grandmother's story. I don't know what it is, but I always feel sad when I come to the end and know the person died. Not like I didn't know it was coming, of course, but in some small way, even reading about ancestors' lives makes me feel like I know them a little - and it's sad to see them pass away.
    Great job.

  8. Thank you Nancy. I know what you mean about the sadness. I feel it too.

  9. This was a great tribute to your great-grandmother, Jasia. You have done a nice job delving into her life story with limited sources. It inspires me to try to do the same with some of my not-so-well-documented ancestors.

    Photographs, letters, etc. can certainly shed insight into our ancestors' lives, but it is easy to forget how blessed we are to have these vital records to glean information about their lives, as you have done so well in this tribute to Karolina.

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  10. You did a great job with Karolina's story, Jasia.

    I'm glad Claudia thought to ask about the grave, because I wondered for a moment when you said you'd been told the grave was no longer there, and then I figured you must have meant the grave marker, not the actual grave. I'd never heard of graves being leased before! So now I have the same questions in my mind that have occurred to you about the lease and what happens when it runs out.