When my mom (Wiesia) was about 13 her mom (Maria Glatz) moved to the US. (Can you imagine leaving behind 2 of your daughters so you can come to the US?) Mom and my Aunt Ela (Ela Bak) pretty much were on their own. My aunt moved to the States when my cousin was 4 years old (born 1971 Martin Bak).
My mom always wanted to move here. We were supposed to move as a family when I was a year old! Except that they shut down the borders (look up USSR / Poland 1980/1981) – we were apparently all packed ready to go and couldn’t fly out.
My first time coming here was in 1981 when I was a year and a half old. Back then they tried to keep families apart so that no one would move illegally. They only allowed mom and I to go and my dad and brother had to stay in Poland.
My second time coming here was when I was four and my brother was eight. This time they allowed the three of us come and my dad had to stay back.
At age 7, my dad and mom were able to fly out and my dad stayed in Bloomfield to establish residency and start working. We got a green card. After this, every year we would come here for 3 months out of the year. (In order to maintain our green card status we had to spend 3 months in the states).
When I was in 4th grade (age 10) I didn’t know that my brother was moving to the states (Wojtek Masiak). My mom had a lot of problems with him. He was a difficult teen. And made my life really challenging (more about that later). I guess my mom had enough and passed on the responsibility to my dad. I know she said she was worried he would end up in jail otherwise.
I will never forget the summer before 5th grade. We came here for the summer. I left everything behind. I had NOTHING of mine, never said good bye to my friends. A week before our flight home – I was at my Grandmas in Toms River and I will never forget the call. My mom called to say “we are staying – I will be going to school here.”
My mom left for 2 months to finish things up in Poland – pack up and rent the apartment, sell the car, take care of the logistics. She made it back for Thanksgiving.
September 1991 is when my journey started here in the States – at age 11 – grade 5. Within months we were already citizens of USA. My mom wanted us to have the same rights everyone else had.
I have dual citizenship – Polish and American. Pretty amazing! I remember how proud I was that first day when I could put my hand over my heart during the Pledge of Allegiance!