[caption id="attachment_6252" align="alignright" width="224"] Margot Kielbasa immigrated from Germany in the 1940s with her husband Stefen.[/caption]
It may seem like a lifetime ago to Margot Kielbasa, but the story of how she came to live in Fulton, Missouri, is truly timeless. It’s one of courage and determination, and ultimately, love.
At just 14 years old, Margot was sent to live on a farm, where she would work for four year and she wasn’t allowed to leave. Why? Because it was Germany in the mid-1940s.
“Hitler was in leadership at that time, and if you didn’t go to high school, they sent you to work. So mom was sent to a farm, where she got up and milked cows the very next day,” said her daughter, Lana Wetherell.
Lana fondly recalls how her mother and father met, and how they forged a trail during tragic times.
“My dad, Stefen, was from Poland, but was forcibly sent to work on the farm, and that’s where he met my mom. When the war was over, he wanted to take her with him to the United States, but he couldn’t do that unless they got married.”
Shortly after their marriage, they learned of a program through the Catholic Church that paired immigrants in need of relocation with a Catholic host family in the United States.
“The woman who brought my parents in had never married and didn’t have children of her own. But mom and dad helped her on her farm, and when she died, she gave the farm to my father. It’s really quite remarkable.”
That set the Kielbasa family on a firm foundation on a new continent, where they would go on to have two children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Stefen died in 1999, but his legacy lives on in the family he helped establish here in the United States.
Lana recalls a handful of times her family wasn’t warmly welcomed in this new land, but for the most part, they were quickly adopted into the wider community.
“I didn’t feel all that different growing up,” Lana recalls, “except for the fact that we didn’t have any family around here. No grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. That was probably the biggest thing.”
Lana did get to meet her German family when she and her mother traveled there in 1978, and they enjoyed several weeks of sightseeing and family gatherings.
“It was a neat thing, to see where they were from. But they did so much here, too. They worked hard, made a good life. Dad knew English but never learned to read or write. But he always had a job and always worked. He was a laborer and worked construction on the state hospital, the Missouri School for the Deaf, and even the nuclear plant.”
We’re grateful that fate brought the Kielbasas to Fulton, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to share their story!