Katherine’s Children

Katherine Fusiak (1887-1943) and three of her eight children: Augusta Jean Chomiak (1913-1986), Theodore William Chomiak (1922-2013), and Lillian Elizabeth Chomiak (1915-2016).

It’s simply amazing what comes into the light when cousins start exploring family history, too. Several weeks ago I shared a picture one of my maternal cousins discovered and today I’m sharing a portrait found by one of my paternal cousins.

The woman is my grandmother, Katherine, who died long before I was born. I’ve always been curious about her because she is the one grandparent I never knew.

Катерина Фюшяк (Kateryna Fusiak ~ my Aunt Lil showed me how to write her name in Ukrainian) was born on 19 November 1887 in Luzok Horishni, Ukraine, when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. She died on 22 October 1943 at New London, Connecticut.

Katherine’s parents were land-owning farmers. When her husband William, the son of peasants, left for America, she was pregnant with her second child and they already had a small daughter, Mary. According to my aunt Mary, who grew up with her grandparents in Ukraine, Katherine’s father, Konrad, who did not approve of his daughter’s marriage, was furious about not hearing from William, and with great resentment sold a cow to buy passage to America for Katherine and her new nursing baby boy, Jon. At the tender age of 22, on 19 February 1910, Katherine and 5-month-old baby Jon sailed to America on the SS Finland from Antwerp, arriving in New York City on 4 March 1910. She had no ticket, but was in possession of $19 which she used to pay passage for herself and her son. She was 4’11” tall with a fair complexion. She was identified as a “Ruthenian” on the passenger arrival record, a term used to refer to a group of Ukrainians living in Ruthenia and eastern Czechoslovakia.

Mary stayed behind with her grandparents and so Katherine did not see her firstborn daughter again until Mary was 18, when she finally joined her family in America after World War I. By then, Katherine and William were living on a farm in Montville, Connecticut.

Katherine was a devoted mother who admonished her eight children to stick together no matter what, as she believed that family was all they would have in this difficult world. Her grandchildren called her “Baba.” Katherine died of a strangulated hernia at the age of 55. She lies buried with her husband in Comstock Cemetery in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Three of her children did not survive into adulthood. Jon Stephen died when he was 9 years old, of appendicitis. Augustine was about two when he got into some pills or something that poisoned him. Olga, a toddler, met her death by scalding when she pulled a pot of boiling water off the stove, a horrific accident that my aunt Lil was old enough to remember first hand.

In the portrait above, daughter Mary is missing because she was still living in Ukraine. Jon had already died. My Aunt Jean is on the left, my father is the little boy, and my Aunt Lil is on the right. My Aunt Em was not born yet.

Katherine had a very hard life as a farmer’s wife who made it through the Great Depression living off the land. Her husband was a harsh, bitter man, who regretted leaving Ukraine and apparently hated this country. I admire her courage and fortitude.

My father always spoke of his mother with great fondness and missed her dearly. Even during his last illness he asked for her. He had enlisted in the army during World War II on 4 February 1943. Sadly, only eight months later, on 22 October 1943, his mother died. Only 22 years old, he came home on leave for her funeral and then returned to duty. I am struck with a little synchronicity here because Katherine was 22 when she saw her mother for the last time, and my father was 22 when he saw his own mother for the last time.

My father often credited his mother with raising him to respect women and appreciate their strengths. As an example, he often told the story of her ability to drive a hard bargain. A butcher came down from Norwich to the farm in Montville three times trying to buy a calf for less than the price Katherine wanted to sell it for! But she got her original asking price, impressing her son, and the sale was finally made!

little fellow identified

Albert E. Weekes (1907-1991)

My cousin sent me a little puzzle I enjoyed solving. He is also going through boxes from the grandparents! Along with the front and back of this postcard he sent a question, “My middle name is Weekes and I saw this post card from Weekes to Swift… may be of interest to you and also I don’t know who the kid is on the photograph, might you?” It took me a couple of hours, going over my data stored away at Ancestry, to find someone who fit.

So finally I could write back:

My best guess for the identity of the little fellow in the picture would be Albert E. Weekes (1907-1991). He is our 2nd cousin, 3 times removed. The postcard was sent in July 1911, when he was 3 years 9 months old, and the message says the picture was taken when he was 2 years 9 months old, which Albert was in July of 1910. He was 10 years younger than his next older sibling, his sister Bertha.

The post card is from his parents, Mr. & Mrs. G. A. Weekes, George Albert Weekes (1849-1917) & Mary J. (Hilliard) Weekes (1867-1952).

The post card was sent to George’s first cousin, Mrs. Edward E. Swift, Susan Flora (Freeman) Swift (1864-1963). She is our 3rd-great-aunt, Aunt Flora, of Woods Hole.

Our ancestors in common are my 4th-great-grandparents, Isaac Weekes (1780-1841) & Elisabeth (Allen) Weekes, profiled here. The cousins, Mr. Weekes and Mrs. Swift, were their grandchildren. They have many descendants and I haven’t found all of them yet, I’m sure!

Godspeed, Draken Harald Hårfagre

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre leaving the pier at Mystic Seaport

Monday morning the Viking ship Draken Harald Hårfagre set out from Mystic Seaport for her next adventure: Expedition America – East Coast Tour 2018! We were there, with many others, to see her off!

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre leaving Mystic Seaport

The world’s largest Viking ship sailing in modern times had arrived at Mystic Seaport in October of 2016 and has spent two winters here. It’s been fun having her so close by to go look at and dream every once in a while. I thought of all my ancestors who have bid ships farewell in the past, never knowing when (or if) they would return. I managed to get myself all worked up emotionally and shed more than a few tears during the day.

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre leaving Mystic Seaport

But, much to my delight, I learned that after visiting 14 ports along the east coast the crew plans to return to Mystic Seaport on October 20! That can only mean she will be spending another winter here! 🙂

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre

We quickly left the Seaport and followed the Mystic River in order to catch sight of her again.

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre coming down the Mystic River
7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre coming down the Mystic River

And then we raced over the Mystic River Bascule Bridge and found a spot just south of it.

7.9.18 ~ Mystic River Bascule Bridge drawn up for the Draken Harald Hårfagre

There was so much excitement and anticipation in the air. Two shop owners standing next to me said they had closed their stores for a few minutes (in tourist season, no less!) to come see the vessel pass by. I got goosebumps when she emerged and someone on the other side of the river sounded a Viking war horn! People were cheering and waving and taking pictures. What a wonderful show of support for the sailors.

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre, through the drawbridge
7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre ~ kayakers enjoy their view

Our next plan was to proceed down to Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough, a waterside restaurant in Noank, to see whatever we might be able to see. We almost missed her when Tim spotted her out of the corner of his eye, moving at a good clip through the marina.

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre near Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough

I scrambled up a steep little hill to get a better shot. (My muscles still hurt a bit.)

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre near Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough

And then she was gone.

7.9.18 ~ Draken Harald Hårfagre near Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough

I had hoped to see her set sail but it was not to be. We went down to Costello’s Clam Shack and had lunch on the upper deck. The ship came into view briefly but she didn’t set sail and disappeared again. After lunch we went down to Groton Long Point and saw her on the horizon, but still no sail. Oh well. But there are some amazing pictures of Draken Harald Hårfagre under sail on the website.

By the way, we were delighted to see Katherine three times at the end of June and beginning of July. She is very excited to tell everyone that she will be having a baby brother soon! (End of October.)

6.25.18 ~ Nature’s Playground, Stamford Museum & Nature Center ~ my own little Viking princess, Katherine, in her ship

What a delightful afternoon Svetlana and I had at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center in Stamford. Our little granddaughter led us on a grand tour of the playground, the nature trails and the animal farm. The otters were especially cute. Many thanks to Vladimir & Svetlana for always welcoming us into their home and sharing with us the never-ending joys of grand-parenthood.

fatigue

2.2.18 ~ Fota Wildlife Park, Carrigtwohill, Cork, Ireland ~ Lar gibbon (?)

My goodness I am so very tired. A side effect of the radiation that might last up to three months. So I am trying to go with the flow… Radiation seems to have lowered my immunity and I came down with yet another cold while in Ireland. All the same, I’m so happy we went!

One amazing positive thing has happened since my ovaries were removed: I haven’t had a migraine since the surgery. It may be too soon to jump for joy but I’m keeping my fingers crossed and keeping a small supply of Zomig on hand, just in case.

After my second dose of radiation on a Wednesday we hopped on the plane to Ireland. I slept most of the trip over, the first time I ever fell asleep on a jet. We arrived first thing Thursday morning, Ireland time, and after the hellos we both took a nap. When we came downstairs we had lunch and then Larisa and I walked Katherine to her afternoon Montessori school. It felt so good to stretch my legs and breathe in the fresh air.

2.2.18 ~ Fota Wildlife Park, Carrigtwohill, Cork, Ireland ~ bundled up Katherine

On Friday Katherine skipped school and Tim, Larisa and I took her to Fota Wildlife Park in Carrigtwohill, County Cork. I think I will save most of the animal pictures to pair with quotes but will share a few here.

2.2.18 ~ Fota Wildlife Park, Carrigtwohill, Cork, Ireland ~ a rook introduces itself

Ubiquitous in Ireland: brown sugar for your tea; greenery; unheated bathrooms; sinks with two faucets, one for cold and one for hot; sheep; and rooks. A rook is “a gregarious Eurasian crow with black plumage and a bare face, nesting in colonies in treetops.” Of course one found me and insisted on telling me its story. 🙂

2.2.18 ~ Fota Wildlife Park, Carrigtwohill, Cork, Ireland ~ the rook certainly had a lot to say
2.2.18 ~ Fota Wildlife Park, Carrigtwohill, Cork, Ireland ~ in the gift shop I bought a book on Irish birds and identified the rooks we saw every day and everywhere
2.2.18 ~ Fota Wildlife Park, Carrigtwohill, Cork, Ireland ~ the rook seemed to be wondering if I understood now…
2.2.18 ~ Fota Wildlife Park, Carrigtwohill, Cork, Ireland ~ Katherine excited to see penguins!

As many of you know, Katherine adores penguins!

2.2.18 ~ Fota Wildlife Park, Carrigtwohill, Cork, Ireland ~ Humboldt penguin

A wonderful time was had by all!

persistently, abundantly, miraculously

1.22.18 ~ Cork, Ireland ~ Katherine has been taking good care of her beloved Purple Penguin ♡ photo by Larisa

One morning you might wake up
to realize that the knot in your stomach
had loosened itself and slipped away,
and that the pit of unfilled longing in your heart
had gradually, and without your really noticing,
been filled in — patched like a pothole, not quite
the same as it was, but good enough.

And in that moment it might occur to you
that your life, though not the way
you planned it, and maybe not even entirely
the way you wanted it, is nonetheless —
persistently, abundantly, miraculously —
exactly what it is.

~ Lynn Ungar
(The Way It Is)

After recovering from surgery and the bad cold I then had about a week of feeling good. I couldn’t wait to get back to my chores and even happily spent a morning giving the bathroom a thorough cleaning. It was fun to go food shopping with Tim, run errands together, cook a few meals, do some laundry, and enjoy a lovely long walk on the beach.

Then Wednesday I had my first radiation treatment and it went very well. But the predicted side effect of fatigue hit the next morning and I wound up sleeping most of the day. If that is the only side effect, though, I am grateful. I still feel sapped. Being a morning person usually full of vim, vigor and vitality, I woke up this morning wondering why on earth I felt so sluggish and it took me an hour or so to figure out that it must be lingering fatigue from the treatment. (And why was I looking for the eggs in the dishwasher?)

So Tim volunteered to do some food shopping today. And I am going to make a packing list!

Tim and the kids planned visits to fill the two week period between my 2nd and 3rd treatments! I will be getting my 2nd treatment (at Smilow Cancer Hospital in New Haven) on Wednesday and then going straight to Providence to catch a flight to Ireland to see Larisa & Dima and Katherine!!! And then the next week we will go to Georgia to see Nate & Shea!!! We will arrive home the night before my 3rd and final treatment.

I may be a tired blob but at least these trips will help pass the time and my radiation oncologist thinks they are a great idea. I do hope I get to see Blarney Castle and more of Cumberland Island National Seashore. But whatever happens it will be wonderful seeing the kids again. ♡

joys may sometimes make a journey

Chinstrap penguins ~ Image source: AnimalSpot.net

The Things that never can come back, are several —
Childhood — some forms of Hope — the Dead —
Though Joys — like Men — may sometimes make a Journey —
And still abide —
We do not mourn for Traveler, or Sailor,
Their Routes are fair —
But think enlarged of all that they will tell us
Returning here —
“Here”! There are typic “Heres” —
Foretold Locations —
The Spirit does not stand —
Himself — at whatsoever Fathom
His Native Land —
~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #1564)

Goodbye, Old Year

my turn

11.19.17 ~ Katherine walking in Ireland ♡

For all the products making claims, exercise may be the only miracle cure for both physical and mental health.
~ Mark Bertin
(Mindful, December 2017)

So, after so many years of Tim’s health problems (2007 – heart attack followed by triple by-pass surgery ~ six years of diverticulitis attacks followed by a sigmoid colon resection last January) it looks like it’s my turn for surgery, a hysterectomy. My uterus is full of pre-cancerous cells. Sigh. After spending 26 years wondering if I might get breast cancer like my mother it was a surprise to discover that it is my womb in danger.

Surgery tomorrow. One night in the hospital. If all goes as planned I will be home Wednesday in time to watch the first episode of season 5 of Vikings. 🙂 Then we can plan our trip to Ireland! I cannot wait to take a very long walk with my granddaughter ~ I miss her so much!

11.19.17 ~ Katherine feeding the sheep on a farm outside of Galway, Ireland

new adventures

10.20.17 ~ Katherine loves reading her books

Katherine and her parents have moved to Cork, Ireland!!! For a year or two. It’s been an exciting summer and autumn as Dima & Larisa have been preparing for this grand adventure. Happily all of Katherine’s living ancestors, four grandparents and two great-grandmothers were on hand in North Carolina to celebrate her 3rd birthday in September. Grandpa Tim has discovered that flights from New England to Ireland are cheaper than flights to North Carolina so we surely will be visiting them soon. 🙂