This Wild Weather! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

The Earth's Face (Retrieved from huffington.com, January 16, 2016)

The Earth’s Face (Retrieved from huffington.com, January 16, 2016)

As a society, we must become increasingly concerned about the weather, the environment, our planet, and the sustainability that remains on Earth.  On Christmas Day here in Snellville, Georgia in the United States, the outside high temperature at my home was 76.5 degrees Fahrenheit.  While it was wonderful to enjoy such balmy weather in the winter, we must be reminded that such a temperature is off the chart for this time of year!  Such high temperatures in winter are definitely disturbing and unsettling.  The expected temperature in my area for this time of year is likely between 35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit, so the 76.5 that was reached recently is definite cause for concern.

During the last week of December 2015, it was so warm at my home that I had windows open and the heat was off.  My heat was off for the entire week – in the last week of December!  Rather than turn on the air conditioning – which I simply was unable to bring myself to do – I believed it a better alternative to allow the outside air to flow through the house by opening some windows.  I’m not sure that Mother Nature knows what is going on either; she definitely appears to be confused!

This brings me to the causes of such wild weather.  If we look back even 100 or 150 years ago, we will see a more substantial amount of forest coverage on Earth.  Last year, my son completed a project about international deforestation, and the information he gathered was shocking!  The Amazon rain forest, as well as old growth forests in Columbia, Canada, the United States, and other countries continue to disappear at alarmingly rapid rates.  When I think of the absence of all of those trees, I also think about the decrease in oxygen produced for our consumption, and the increase in carbon dioxide that also contributes to higher air temperatures and the greenhouse effect.

Pollution and acid rain are other factors that negatively affect our environment, increasing air temperatures and damaging or killing trees, respectively.  The United States is a country that has implemented and done much to enforce laws to decrease pollution being cast into the environment.  While more could be done here, it is already more than what is being done in many other highly populated countries around the globe.  In places such as China, Russia, India, Mexico, and other countries, I wonder what, if any, laws regulating pollution exist or which may be enforced at all?

About 25 years ago, I first visited Eastern and Western Europe, studying in Poland for part of one summer.  I recall that the smog and pollution in Warsaw, Poland hung over the city like a large black cloud.  When I first saw it, I thought it unusual that a rain cloud appeared so low over the ground, and concentrated and immobilized directly over the city.  In the next moment, I realized that it was all of the pollution in the air.  It was incredible!

While washing my hair in the shower in my dorm at Krakow, Poland, it was as if brown dye was coming off of my hair – and I have never dyed my hair!  It was sickening to see and realize the great amount of pollution in which the people in Poland lived.  While I stayed in Poland, I made sure to drink imported, bottled spring water, and to occasionally wash the dirt and grime out of my hair with it, as well.  It is no wonder all of the people who had cancer, miscarriages, and other medical conditions in Poland when they are breathing polluted air, and cooking with and drinking polluted water.  It was definitely angering and saddening to think that I could do nothing about it to help those people.

Further, this brings us to sustainability.  How many more resources remain on Earth to sustain people, plants, animals, and to maintain a healthy and safe environment for all into the future?  It is quite possible that Earth is already beyond it’s carrying capacity.  With average yearly temperatures continuing to increase, the Polar ice caps melting, vast forests disappearing, pollution continuing to devastate the environment, further expansion of the holes in the ozone layer, huge oil spills in the oceans, what will be left, not only for us, but for our future generations?  Will there be future generations that will be able to adequately function and survive on Earth?

We, as a people, have contributed to the destruction of our planet.  We are destroying our beautiful habitat.  So much more must be done to save our planet, but I wonder if it may already be too late?  We all have to do our part.  Sometimes, we may wonder how much one person can do, however I believe it is important to do whatever possible.  One person can recycle as much of their waste as possible – plastics, metals, glass, paper, cardboard.  One person can use less electricity, natural gas, and gasoline.  One person can wear a sweater or use a wool blanket rather than cranking up the heat another notch or two.  One person can take fewer and more economical trips driving a vehicle, combining all errands into one trip rather than several on different days.

Certainly, I do not have the power to enforce laws that regulate pollution or that protect our environment, especially when it comes to big companies.  However, I am one who can say that I have done my part, that I have done as much as possible to preserve the environment, and to teach and encourage others to do the same.  I can encourage children and adults to have an appreciation for the outdoors, to learn about the environment, and to be aware of ways to save and protect it.  I can take responsibility for reducing the pollution and energy use that I cause, and to oversee the recycling efforts of my family.

I have to believe that one person can make a difference, even if it is a small difference.  And, I am a person who lives to make whatever positive difference that I can, not only for myself, but for others, as well.  How will you make a positive difference for our environment, for future generations?  What will you do?  Whatever you will do, do it now, before it’s too late!

My Krakowiak Family Ancestry, Including Drewin, Tomaszewski, Babcock, Spires, O’Malley, and Clark (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

 

The Krakowiak Family (Lottie, Peter, Larry, Anna, John, and Maria), Gowanda, New York, 1958

The Krakowiak Family (Lottie, Peter, Larry, Anna, John, and Maria), Gowanda, New York, 1958

My mother, Anna Maria (Krakowiak) Babcock (born 1944) is from the Krakowiak Family; she was the middle child.  Her parents are Wladislawa “Lottie” (Bulera) Krakowiak (November 12, 1914-December 13, 2007) and Janek “John” Krakowiak (October 24, 1907-December 1, 1967).  Lottie’s and John’s other children include Peter Krakowiak, Maria Anna (Krakowiak) Spires Walker, and Larry Krakowiak.

Lottie’s parents were Wawryniec and Katarzyna (Mordka) Bulera, and John’s parents were Walenty and Jozefa (Stepnion) Krakowiak.  Lottie had two sisters, Staca, and Marianna (Krakowiak) Drewin.  Staca did not stay in touch with Lottie after her family immigrated to the United States in 1950, so I do not know what became of her.  Marianna had three marriages, and had a son with each of her husbands.  I only know the last name of her third husband, and not the names of the previous two.

Marianna’s sons have several children between them, and they likely have grandchildren and perhaps great grandchildren by now.  Marianna and her family lived in Kielce, Poland, and I was able to visit and meet most of them (15 of them) when I studied abroad at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow Poland in 1992.  Once Marianna died, no one remained in touch with each other, as only Marianna and Lottie communicated with each other at that time.

John is one of about 10 children from his family.  As an adult, he had one glass eye.  I don’t know what experience or situation caused him to get the glass eye.  I do remember my grandmother telling about how John’s mother had told him that no one would ever want to marry him because of his glass eye.  Once John married Lottie, and the family later moved to Germany, and then on to the United States, there were no further contacts or communications maintained between John or any of his family members.

From what I understand, both Lottie’s and John’s parents were farmers.  When Lottie was a young girl, she herded geese on the farm – that was her job.  In bare feet and on frosty mornings, she herded geese.  My grandmother had about a third grade education, and was fluent in Polish and German.  She took some classes in English upon coming to the United States, though never learned to write more in English than her name.  She also did not drive and never had a driver’s license.  She walked to her places of work (or was driven by others), and she walked to stores and businesses in the Village of Gowanda.  She worked at the garden nurseries of Knowles and Fisher, and she also worked additional jobs, such as being a waitress at the local diner in Gowanda (now Olympia).

The Krakowiak Family came to the United States through Ellis Island, and to the Buffalo and Western New York State area, in 1950.  Cousins to the Krakowiak’s were John and Josephine Tomaszewski of Gowanda, New York.  John Tomaszewski secured a guarantee of employment for John Krakowiak at the Moench Tannery in Gowanda.  Thus, the Krakowiak Family was guaranteed a sponsorship by the Tomaszewski’s, a condition that was required of immigrants for entry into the United States at that time.  The Krakowiak Family (all but John) moved to Germany from Poland in about 1948.  The reasons for the family’s move were to escape the effects of World War II, and to seek a better life in the United States.  They did not want to experience another war in Europe.

As a result of their citizenship in Poland, Germany was the best route out of Europe for them.  So, Lottie and her young family traveled on foot and by train to Germany where she worked at two or three large corporate farms, particularly in the kitchen.  (In her later years, Lottie was able to secure a number of financial security payments from the German government due to proof of her work at the farms.)

For about two years, Lottie worked on the farms until the Polish government allowed John to leave Poland.  Lottie and the children were forced to wait those two years because the Polish government had desired John to remain in Poland.  It was a tense situation during the wait because the family worried that John might not be allowed to leave Poland.  Once he died and reunited with his family, they sailed to the United States from Germany.

Once in Gowanda, the Krakowiak’s lived with the Tomaszewski’s until John was able to purchase a house.  The Krakowiak Family then remained on Union Street in Gowanda, often experiencing flooding in the basements of the two different homes in which they had lived due to rising waters and/or flooding by the Cattaraugus Creek that runs through the center of town.

For about the last one to two years of his life, John developed and suffered from cancer.  My family believes that the cancer was caused by John’s handling of the many chemicals at the Tannery without any protections.  John died from the cancer in 1964 when he was 60 years old.  My grandmother, “Babcia,” as we called her and is the word for “grandmother” in Polish, was healthy and well, living independently until she was 86 years old, at which time she was placed in the Gowanda Nursing Home.  She died as a resident of the Nursing Home when she was 93, about seven years after moving there.

My father, Bruce Babcock, married my mother, Anna (Krakowiak) Babock in 1963.  In 1971, I was born, and the following year, my brother was born.

My aunt, Maria (Krakowiak) Spires (and later, Walker) was already married to Eugene Spires (May 7, 1919-November 7, 1993) when I was born.  Maria and Gene had two children, Desiree “Desa” (Spires) O’Malley and Phillip Spires.  Desiree is married to Joseph O’Malley.  They have one son, Joey, and live in Connecticut.  I met Joey when he was a baby.  Phil married Dawn (Clark) Spires on October 17, 1992.  They have one son, Benjamin – named after his great grandfather, Ben Spires.  Phil is a Corrections Officer.

After my uncle, Gene, died after struggling with cancer for two years, Maria met Roger Walker.  Gene was 25 years older than Maria, and had been previously married.  Gene’s first wife died from cancer. Maria then married Roger; they live in Florida.

My uncle, Gene, was also a veteran of World War II, having served in the US Army, fighting in France during the war.  Gene worked for the State of New York at the Gowanda Psychiatric Center in the maintenance department, and as a painter.  Gene and Maria also operated a farm; and Gene owned a gun shop for many years, being a licensed firearms dealer.  My aunt also worked for the State of New York at the Gowanda Psychiatric Center, as well as when mental health patients were transitioned to community housing, then still being employed by the State through J.N. Adam Developmental Center.  She retired from there after about 27 years of State service.

To my knowledge, Peter Krakowiak never married, nor had any children.  Once he graduated from high school, he went into the Navy.  Once he completed his service in the Navy, he moved to and lived in Chicago for the remainder of his life.  My family has not heard from him in many years; he had kept in touch with my aunt, but she stopped hearing from him many years ago.

Larry also moved to and lived in Chicago for several years, where he was married to and divorced from a woman named, Pam.  Sometime following the divorce, he moved back to Gowanda, where he has lived and worked since then.  He does not have any children.

Much of the Tomaszewski Family still lives in or near Gowanda, though I am aware of John’s and Josephine’s oldest son and his family living in Chicago.  John and Josephine had three children, including two boys and a girl.  When the boys became adults, they married and had children.  The daughter, Gloria, is single and does not have any children.  The eldest son of John and Josephine is an airline pilot, likely long retired by now.  He may have also served in the Vietnam War, as I recall.  The Tomaszewski’s, therefore, are cousins, far-removed, from me; they would be considered my third cousins.

Other family related to the Krakowiak side of my family include the Covelli’s from Buffalo, New York, and the Turdly’s from Brooklyn, New York City.

John and Lottie Krakowiak, and John and Josephine Tomaszewski, are bured in Holy Cross Cemetery of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Gowanda, New York.  Eugene Spires is also buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Gowanda.

To follow is a collage of photos that I have of the Krakowiak’s, Drewin’s, Babcock’s, Spires’, O’Malley’s. and Clark’s.

Author’s Note: Information and images identifying my brother have been removed from this post as of April 27, 2016 as a courtesy per his request.

Four Generations of my Family (My Son, Me, Lottie, Anna), 2006

Four Generations of my Family (My Son-age 3, Me, Lottie, Anna), 2006

Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock as a Girl

Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock as a Girl

Wedding of Bruce and Anna Babcock, Gowanda, NY, 1963

Wedding of Bruce and Anna Babcock, Gowanda, New York, 1963

In this photo, my grandfather, John, is at the far left.  The fourth person inside from the left is my aunt, Maria.  At the far right are my newly-wedded parents, Bruce and Anna.  And, standing next to my mom is my grandmother, Lottie.  I do not know any names of the other people in the picture.

Bruce and Anna Babcock, and Parents at Wedding, July 1963, Gowanda, New York

Bruce and Anna Babcock, and Parents at Wedding, July 1963, Gowanda, New York

This is a photo of my parents on their wedding day in July 1963.  From left to right are Emmett Sprague, Bernice Gale (Briggs) Babcock Sprague, Bruce Babcock, Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Wladislawa “Lottie” (Bulera) Krakowiak, and John Krakowiak.

Baptism of Michele Babcock (-Nice) at St. Joseph Church, Gowanda, New York, August 1971

Baptism of Michele Babcock (-Nice) at St. Joseph Church, Gowanda, New York, August 1971

This is a photo of me when I was about two weeks old, just after I was baptized at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Gowanda, New York.  In the photo are: front, left to right: Phil Spires; Desiree Spires, Me (the baby), Maria (Krakowiak) Spires, and Eugene Spires; rear, left to right: Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Emmett Sprague, Bernice Gale (Briggs) Babcock Sprague, Wladislawa “Lottie” (Bulera) Krakowiak, and Fr. Rog.  My dad took the picture.

Michele Babcock on her Third Birthday with Cousins Desiree (Spires) O'Malley and Phillip Spires, Collins, New York, 1974

Michele Babcock on her Third Birthday with Cousins Desiree (Spires) O’Malley and Phillip Spires, Collins, New York, 1974

(L to R)-Michele Babcock (-Nice), Maria (Krakowiak) Spires Walker, Desiree (Spires) O'Malley, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

(L to R)-Michele Babcock (-Nice), Maria (Krakowiak) Spires Walker, Desiree (Spires) O’Malley, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

Bruce and Michele Babcock with Phillip Spires, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

Bruce and Michele Babcock with Phillip Spires, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

Michele Babcock with Peter Krakowiak and Maria (Krakowiak) Spires Walker, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

Michele Babcock with Peter Krakowiak and Maria (Krakowiak) Spires Walker, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

Eugene Spires and Charles J. Babcock, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992 (3) - Copy

Eugene Spires, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

(L to R) Peter Krakowiak, Desiree (Spires) O'Malley, Joseph O'Malley, Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

(L to R) Peter Krakowiak, Desiree (Spires) O’Malley, Joseph O’Malley, Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

(L to R)-Joseph O'Malley, Larry Krakowiak, Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

(L to R)-Joseph O’Malley, Larry Krakowiak, Anna (Krakowiak) Babcock, Gowanda, New York, October 17, 1992

All photos of my cousin’s wedding reception were taken by family friend, Alice Tschopp.

Dawn Clark Senior High School Photo, Gowanda, New York, 1985 (From Gowanda High School Yearbook, Jostens, 1985)

Dawn Clark Senior High School Photo, Gowanda, New York, 1985 (From Gowanda High School Yearbook, Jostens, 1985)

Sisters Lottie Krakowiak and Marianna Drewin, Gowanda, New York, Approx 1985

Sisters Lottie Krakowiak and Marianna Drewin, Gowanda, New York, Approx 1985

Me with the Drewin's, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Me with the Drewin’s, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Michele Babcock and Lottie Krakowiak, Gowanda, New York, Christmas 1997

Michele Babcock and Lottie Krakowiak, Gowanda, New York, Christmas 1997

Lottie Krakowiak, Gowanda, New York, Christmas 1997

Lottie Krakowiak, Gowanda, New York, Christmas 1997

Maria (Krakowiak) Spires, Roger Walker, Larry Krakowiak, Gowanda, New York, Christmas 1997

Maria (Krakowiak) Spires, Roger Walker, Larry Krakowiak, Gowanda, New York, Christmas 1997

I hope that you have enjoyed my information and photo record of the Krakowiak side of my family!

Sources:

Eighty-five: Valley Bugle (1985).  Gowanda Central High School Yearbook.  Gowanda, NY: Jostens.

Photos and information of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014), 1974-1992.  Snellville, Georgia.

Photos and information of Wladislawa “Lottie” (Bulera) Krakowiak, 1950-2007.  Gowanda, New York.  Now the Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (2014).  Snellville, Georgia.

Tschopp (1992).  Photos of wedding reception of Phil Spires and Dawn (Clark) Spires.  Property of Michele Babcock-Nice (1992).  Gowanda, New York.

Other photographers of other professional photos, unknown.

 

“Poland and my Polish Heritage” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Four Generations of my Family, 2006

Four Generations of my Family, 2006

My grandparents (now deceased) on my mother’s side were pure-blooded Poles, having left Poland and immigrating to Germany before coming to Ellis Island around 1950.  My Polish-American grandmother was Władysława, or “Lottie,” and my Polish-American grandfather was Janek, or John.  I never knew either of my grandfathers as they both died before I was born.  Grandfather John died following a two year battle with cancer, possibly brought on by working with the many chemicals at the Tannery in Gowanda, New York, where he lived.  Both of my grandparents worked very hard to put food on the table and keep a roof over the heads of four children, one being my mother.  Sometimes, my grandmother worked two or three jobs at a time, such as waitressing at a local restaurant and tending plants at a local nursery.

Life was not easy for my Polish-American grandparents who left Europe after World War II.  But, they left because they did not want to take the chance of experiencing another Great War, and they wanted better opportunities for their children.  After all, America was the country that was flowing with “milk and honey,” as they had heard.  For two people who did not have more than an elementary or middle school education, nor knew any English upon setting foot in the United States, they certainly worked hard and did the best they could.  Sponsorship of their family by cousins already in America helped pave the way for a different fate for their family than occurred for the siblings of my grandparents still in Poland.

My grandfather was one of about 10 children in his family.  I remember being told that his mother apparently told him when he was a young man that no woman would want to marry him because he had a glass eye.  In those days in Poland, being poor and having a disability meant having fewer opportunities, as well as potentially being a societal outcast.  When I think of such a statement, now, I think of how ridiculous it sounds, particularly with so many people who have disabilities making the best of their lives.

Me with the Drewin's, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Me with the Drewin’s, Krakow, Poland, 1992

My grandmother was the middle child in a family of three daughters.  Her sisters were Staca (pronounced “Stashia”) and Marianna.  Many years ago, Marianna visited and stayed with my grandmother for three months in the United States on a temporary visa.  And, many years following that, I had the privilege of studying at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, and seeing her again!  As a senior at the University of Buffalo in Buffalo, New York, I participated in the popular study abroad program to the Jagiellonian University in 1992.

In the midst of studying intensive Polish language at the Jagiellonian – with the intention of being able to properly communicate with my Polish relatives in Poland – I sent a postcard to Marianna.  A few days later, Marianna and her family arrived at my dormitory building, surprisingly unannounced, and took me out for the day.  I then made plans to visit them for a weekend, and got to meet 15 of my Polish relatives in Poland, including Marianna’s family, the Drewin’s, who lived in Kielce.  It was wonderful to see and visit with them all, and to provide monies to them that I brought specifically for them from the family at home.

Jagiellonian University Study Group at Wawel Castle and Cathedral, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Jagiellonian University Study Group at Wawel Castle and Cathedral, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Studying in Poland at the Jagiellonian University was a wonderful experience.  If I could have the opportunity to do it all over again (and at the same age as I was at the time), I would.  Studying abroad in Poland was highly recommended to me by my fellow student colleagues who were members of the University at Buffalo Polish Club.  Many of them lauded praises about the program.  Because so many of them said such great things about their experiences, I decided to apply for the opportunity to go.  It was very exciting to be accepted into the program, and to have taken the opportunity to go there.

Tapestry in Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland, 1992

Tapestry in Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland, 1992

While in Poland, I did much sight-seeing with my English-speaking (mostly composed of Americans) study group at the Jagiellonian University.  We visited the historic Wawel Castle and Cathedral, the amazing Wieliczka Salt Mines, the religious pilgrimage destination of Jasna Góra Monastery in Częstochowa,  and had regular opportunities to see Krakow’s St. Mary’s Basilica and visit Krakow’s main market square.

Entrance Building at Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

Entrance Building at Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

On my own, I also traveled to and visited Berlin, Germany during one weekend; and with a student colleague, I went to Prague in the former Czechoslovakia, for another weekend.  On yet another weekend, the same student colleague and I visited Vienna.  I found Berlin to be a historic city, one in which a person could still obviously observe the differences between the former West and East Germanies.  And, Prague is just an amazingly beautiful and historic city, with many historic structures still standing, having not been demolished in previous wars.  Vienna was an incredibly beautiful city, also being extremely modernized and commercialized.

Life-size Madonna and Child Statue in Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

Life-size Madonna and Child Statue in Wieliczka Salt Mine, Wieliczka, Poland, 1992

I have many memories of my time spent studying abroad and travelling in Europe.  I had such a wonderful experience in studying abroad that I returned to Europe two years later.  At that time, I travelled with my mom through the British Isles, including England, Scotland, and Ireland.  Following that, I went solo, traveling through many European countries.

St. Mary's Basilica, Krakow, Poland, 1992

St. Mary’s Basilica, Krakow, Poland, 1992

While in Europe in 1994, I used my Brit Rail and Eurail passes to travel by train, everywhere.  I traveled lightly with only a couple of bags, and remained in Europe for about one month.  In all, it was a fabulous experience, and I highly recommend it.  I would definitely do it all over again if I ever had the opportunity.

I am very proud of my family, my ancestors, and my Polish-American heritage.  While there are additional nationalities in my make-up from which I am descended, the Polish part of me is the strongest next to that of being American.  I am thankful that my Polish-American grandparents had the fortitude and courage to come to America, where they succeeded in creating a better life for their family, and their descendants to come.