Immigration is a very hot topic in America. People from all cultures continue to clamor to be a part of the American dream. Please allow me to share a story - not my story- but the story of an immigrant turned American citizen
I have been traveling for a few weeks, and one of the greatest things about traveling is meeting new people. I made a new friend this week whose story is truly inspiring. With all of the talk and protests going on in America right now regarding immigration, Katherine's story is the great American success story.
Katherine's life began in Poland, living with her parents and brother and sister in a one bedroom apartment under communist rule in the small town of Rapa, Poland. To make more money for the family, her mother milked cows and tended a garden. Her parents felt the oppression of the communist government, knew that their lives would not improve under communism, and applied for visas to move their family to America. They waited 10 long years until their visas were granted in 1962, when they traveled ahead with their two children, while Katherine stayed behind for a short time. The day that Katherine was scheduled to leave Poland for her new country was November 22, 1963, the day that President Kennedy was assassinated. After making her way from the country to Warsaw on that fateful day, the communist government denied her departure, and sent her back to her home in the country. After 9 long weeks and more applications filed, Katherine was finally permitted to leave Poland.
When she arrived in America, Katherine had only a few possessions: $5 in her sock, and a small suitcase containing a few dresses, a pair of shoes, a sweater, and some underclothes. She did not even have a phone number to reach her mother, and through the kindness of a stewardess contacting a man who spoke Polish, Katherine was able to reach an aunt whom she had never met The aunt united Katherine with her family, and then came the task of finding a job, learning English, and assimilating.
In Poland, Katherine held the position of bookkeeper for a company, and she was also in charge of the payroll. Her first job in America was that of a live-in maid. She did everything in the house for a single Hungarian woman who was an artist: she shoveled snow, walked the dog, cooked, laundered, swept, dusted, shopped, and kept the house in perfect order. Her pay was about $25 per week in 1964. One day, while shopping with her employer in a delicatessen, Hearing that the shop owner understood Polish, Katherine spoke to him in Polish, asking him for a job. She told him she had been a bookkeeper and payroll manager in Poland, and he hired her to work with his business accounts! Although she had completed some college in Poland, Katherine had to study to pass the high school equivalency test in the United States, while she also took English classes at night. Through hard work and determination, Katherine eventually became head teller of a bank, managing all of the branch tellers, all of whom had college degrees.
Katherine returned to Poland only twice, once to marry her beloved Werner, whom she had known since childhood. The government would not allow his request to emigrate to the United States because they were not married, so Katherine became his bride in a church in Poland so she could get him out of the country. She went back another time, when Poland was still under communist rule, and realized that Poland held nothing for her, as her family, her husband, and her allegiance were all in America. Katherine studied to became a naturalized citizen as soon as the US government allowed, which was 5 years.
At the end of our time together, I asked Katherine this question: "What is the BEST thing that happened to you since you came to America?" This was her answer: " I got a job, I drove a car, I could own a house, I had a yard, and I have freedom." I became teary-eyed at her outpouring of thankfulness, for these are privileges I have always known. She forced me to look at my life with a new perspective.
Please know that this is not a political post, but rather a post of gratitude. Gratitude for freedoms which Americans take for granted, gratitude for hearing a story which makes me love and appreciate my country more; gratitude for the many immigrants who have helped to build every aspect of our country; gratitude that I met someone who had such courage that she came to America with $5 in her sock and one small suitcase, looking for a better life, who worked hard to achieve success. Katherine's story is much like the story of many others, and she has offered this writer pure inspiration. Thank you for reminding me of what it is to be an American.
*Note: Katherine and Werner celebrated 50 years of marriage in 2017. They continue to
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GRADY GETS GLASSES was the winner of Best New Children's Book 2016 from The Authors' Zone. For more information about The Authors' Zone, please visit http://www.theauthorszone.com/submissions/
Visit Dede's webpage for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER. Many colleges have made the book required reading. Signed copies are available www.dederittman.com Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics.
I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books. Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self. However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37 years. I remain inspired!
Elementary teachers in Western Pennsylvania and beyond - I am willing to come into your classroom in person or as a virtual field trip through a group called Field Trip Zoom. Check them out! http://www.fieldtripzoom.com/
Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book. I would appreciate the exposure, and I would make signed copies available for purchase in your classrooms following the reading. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org The website www.gradygetsglasses.com now has plush Grady bunnies for sale!
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