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Michalina Ostapczuk arrived at Ellis Island on the Estonia out of Dantzig (now Gdansk) on October 21, 1929, shortly before the Great Depression. As she would later tell us, "I left Poland and people were standing in line for bread. I came to the United States and people were standing in line for bread."
She was born April 12, 1912, in Zbaraz, the fourth and youngest daughter of Kazimierz Ostapczuk (b. about 1872) and Jozefa Wesolowska (b. about 1879). Her parents were married on February 05, 1899 in Zbaraz.
She would not often talk of her life in the Old Country. In sharp contrast to today’s culture of glorifying victimhood, she simply wanted to get on with her life. As her town was adjacent to the Russian border, she did have vivid recollections of some fighting in World War I. She remembered Cossacks being bivouacked in her town, and that one day a messenger came through saying that the enemy was coming and all the Cossacks suddenly left heading East. She also remembers her mother telling them to put pillows up before all the windows and stay down because of bullets.
At the age of seventeen she decided she wanted to go to America and visit her father, whom she had not seen since she was a child. He had left shortly after her birth, arriving at Ellis Island on December 22, 1913, on the George Washington. His Affidavit of Support for our grandmother (dated June 19, 1928) lists him as 56 years old, earning $22 per week as a laborer at the Rector Cafeteria at 71 Pine Street, and having $1000 in savings. He lived at 35 Avenue A, New York, NY.
Michalina traveled alone, in steerage, across the Atlantic, with $20 in her possession on Visa Number 4796 issued at Warsaw Sept 20, 1929, and arrived in New York to find no one there. She is described as 4'11", fair complexion, fair hair, grey eyes. The authorities called her father and he came down to get her.
She worked as a maid at a house in Bloomfield, New Jersey.
On September 4, 1933 Lena Ostapchuk of New Jersey married Felix Furmanuk (sic) at St. Mary’s Church, Clinton, Massachusetts. Felix is 24 and was listed as a "chairworker" from Sterling. She recounted that her father knew the Furmaniuk's from their village of Zbaraz.
They would have three children, Zygmund, Ronald, and Mary before his sudden death January 23, 1949, "at home, presumably subdural (brain) hemorrhage)." Residence listed as Princeton Rd, Sterling. He was 38 at the time, listed Babchi as "Helena Ostapczuk" Listed his father as Wojciech Furmaniuk and his mother as Mary Wojciesczuk. Death certificate listed him as a "machinist."
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