09:23 AM

Cousins Across Continents

By Dawn Terrizzi, Public Services Librarian at Denton Public Library


In 1991 my great-aunt Mary, the oldest daughter of Nicholas and Catherine Szpet, received a letter from Jelenia Gora, a small city in Southwestern Poland. Nicholas and Catherine had immigrated to the United States from Europe in the early 1900s and met for the first time in America. The letter was from a Katarzyna Pawliszyn and addressed to my great-grandfather Nicholas at his home in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

As I finished reading the translation for the first time that December, my first cousin twice removed, Katarzyna, this woman whom I will never know, became a new member of my family. She knew my great-grandfather who died some 20 years before I was born. My great-grandfather helped give life to two of the most important people in my life – my Great-Aunt Mary and my grandmother Sophia – whose presence in my life became as familiar to me as the presence of my parents. And my grandmother, of course, helped give me my mother.