Today is International Women's Day, recognizing and celebrating the achievements of women all over the world. Many of us are quick to play small and not acknowledge our own achievements believing that only those women in the news who do great things are worthy of these commendations. But I find that this particular day is the perfect time to honor the women who made it possible for me to be here today.
My mother, pictured above, was a woman of many achievements although she'd be quick to say that she didn't do anything special. She was an excellent student, Secretary of her Senior class in high school, and Editor of the school newspaper. Her parents could not afford to send her to college so she became a secretary at Family Finance in 1949 and worked there until she gave birth to me in 1961. After I graduated from college, my mother went back to work as a co-owner with my father of our family's jewelry store. Throughout her life we often talked about us both longing to be published writers. Shortly after her death in 2020, I found an incredible short story she'd written stuffed in the back of a bedroom dresser drawer. I will publish it posthumously one day soon. The name "Stella" is derived from the Latin word for "star." She certainly was a star in my book.
I was blessed to know both of my grandmothers (pictured above) until they died exactly two weeks apart in June 1999. Ann Suchar Krutz, on the left and Anna Beitko Habucky, on the right, brought so much love, luck (Grandma Krutz was a frequent winner at Bingo) and good Polish cooking (Grandma Habucky made the best halupki) to my life. Both women were born in the US and took charge of the household as most women did in their day. One of my biggest regrets is not asking them more questions, especially about their own upbringing. Where did their parents come from? What did they know about their grandparents?
I never knew any of my great-grandparents, but I do have photos of two of my four great-grandmothers, pictured above. Mary Pacovsky Krotz was born in 1868, a few years after her family arrived here from Bohemia. She married my great-grandfather, Frantisek Kroc, in July 1891 and they raised five children together. I have a few more details about her on my Ancestry.com family tree and plan to write more about the Pacovsky line as I've recently learned more about her father, my great-great-grandfather, Frantisek (Frank) Pacovsky. With respect to my other paternal great-grandmother, Martha Muchichka Suchar, I only know her name and a few select details discovered on website searches, but she is ever on my radar.
On my maternal side, Mary Murzyn Beitko was born in 1877 in Russia Poland according to an early census record. My mother told me that her grandmother was a tiny woman who walked very fast. I don't believe she knew any English, but as children, my mom and her siblings seemed to understand what she said. She arrived in the US with two daughters in tow...I believe my great-grandfather was already here...and they had 7 more children together before her death in 1949. My other maternal great-grandmother was Mary Holody Habucky. I italicized her maiden name because I'm not 100% sure that it is correct. On my grandparents' marriage license, my grandfather's mother's birth name is written as Notody, but an extensive search has turned up nothing on that name. However, I have many DNA cousins with the last name Holody. This line is another ongoing search.
Without these amazing women and the ones who came before them, I would not be able to celebrate them here or at all. Knowing the little I have learned about my ancestors humbles me. Their lives had to be much more challenging than mine. They faced war and poverty and probably other fears that I could only imagine; however, they survived it all. They crossed an ocean, and worked hard to create a new life for themselves and their families. Today may be International Women's Day, but I honor these women everyday.