Wednesday, February 13, 2013
LITTLE GRANNIE AND THE POPE
This week when I heard that Pope Benedict had announced his retirement, I immediately thought of my Little Grannie (Lillian Braciszewski) and one of my favorite stories about her. I'm the one in the 1st Communion dress and she is behind me. Yes, by the beginning of 4th grade I was definitely taller than her! Okay, back to my story ...
Until 1978 all of the Popes (or at least all that we were familiar with) were of Italian descent. Then in 1978, a miraculous thing happened -- someone of Polish descent or at least from Poland was elected Pope. Little Grannie was thrilled to say the very least. By this time, she was a widow (Grandpa Leonard died in 1967) and never learned to drive so I would take her on errands -- grocery shopping (I could reach the highest shelf), to the bank and of course out to lunch. I was in college, had free time and you couldn't ask for a grandma that made you feel more special.
At first I thought she just felt a kinship to Pope John Paul II due to their shared nationality. Little Grannie told me that her grandparents and the Pope's parents were buried in the same cemetery in Poland. So, in her eyes they were almost relatives! Pope John Paul II visited the United States on a trip where he toured several cities. Little Grannie was a big Dodger fan (well, as big as you can be at 4'9") and used to listen to the games on her transistor radio. Well, she was as big a "Pope" fan as she was a Dodger fan and during that visit, I happened to be at her house (waiting for my car to get repaired) and there she was listening on her transistor radio to the commentary of where the Pope was visiting at that moment. I think she listened to the radio for his entire trip to the US.
Not until this week did I realize that the Pope's mother Emilia had died in 1929 when she was in childbirth and young Karol was only 8 years old. Lillian also suffered the loss of a parent, her father John Braciszewski died when she was 11 years old. So, there was more in common than I had originally anticipated.
Jozef Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II's father, is buried in Rakowicki Cemetery in Malopolskie, Poland. I don't know why I didn't think to research my ancestors based on this information that I have known for years. Maybe that is another purpose of remembering all these wonderful stories -- hidden clues that I hadn't previously thought of. Well, I would love to say that I researched the cemetery and found some of my ancestors but the only listing I could find so far, only has American soldiers who were buried there in a special section of the cemetery. The good news is that I have more information than I started with and will continue my quest to discover more about my Polish roots.