The patron saint of Poland is Saint Hedwig of Silesia. The Marczynski family lived at 17 St. Hedwig’s Avenue in Dunkirk, New York, attended St. Hedwig’s Roman Catholic Church and studied at St. Hedwig’s Catholic School; naturally, Casimir and Mary named their third daughter Hedwig.
Hedwig Adrianna Marczynski was born on July 10, 1913 in Dunkirk, New York, the third of nine children born to Casimir and Mary (Witkowski) Marczynski (and the twelfth of Casimir’s eighteen children–although I have a hunch that he had a third wife and more children in Poland). They all called her Hattie, and she was everyone’s favorite sister. Hattie was only able to go to school through sixth grade, but she was smart, witty and sharp. She worked as a barmaid in Fredonia and learned how to make cocktails, but she was also very serious. When I asked my grandparents for stories about Grandma Hattie growing up, my grandfather said, “She was a lot like your mother. She’d laugh, but she didn’t want you to have fun.” Thanks, Gramps.
Stanley Adam Zielinski, my great-grandfather, was born on March 26, 1905 in Springville, New York to John and Pauline (Gostomski) Zielinski. He was the oldest of four children, and the family was close-knit. Hattie met Stanley at St. Hedwig’s church one Sunday morning, and it was “love at first sight;” they were married shortly after at St. Hedwig’s Church on July 12, 1934. At the time of their wedding, Stanley was working for Brooks Locomotive Works in Dunkirk as a boiler maker, and Hattie was working as a seamstress and “machine operator” for Van Raalte. Their marriage announcement in the Dunkirk Evening Observer reads:
The marriage of Miss Hattie Marczynski, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Casimir Marczynski of St. Hedwig’s Avenue, to Stanley Zielinski, son of Mrs. John Zielinski of Lord Street, took place August 4 in St. Hedwig’s Church, the Reverend John Klimek performing the ceremony and saying nuptial mass. The bride, who was given in marriage by her father, wore a white satin gown with a lace jacket and train. Her tulle veil was arranged in a turban effect, and she carried a shower bouquet of roses.
Stanley and Hattie purchased their first home at 316 Lord Street in Dunkirk, and they eventually built the small yellow house on McDonough Street that my sister and I would visit each summer growing up. My great-grandparents worked around-the-clock to provide as many opportunities for their two children as possible: Stanley continued to work for the railroad and as a boiler maker, and Hattie started a family farm while working as a seamstress. They also balanced each other well: Hattie was sometimes serious, and she taught their children the value of hard work and the importance of being disciplined, responsible and focused. Stanley taught my grandmother and her brother to take risks, to have fun, to care for others and to seek out new adventures. Stanley was a dreamer, and Hattie knew how to make a plan and bring their dreams to fruition.
On October 19, 1964, Hattie lost Stanley to a brain aneurysm after 30 years of marriage; it happened suddenly, and Hattie and their children didn’t make it to the hospital in time to say goodbye. Hattie never remarried; instead, she told her grandchildren and great-grandchildren stories of Stanley’s kindness and compassion, taught us to work hard and, most importantly, to dream.