History of a picture

My mother send me this photograph today. Picture was taken likely in the early 1920s and hid from view in my relative’s photo album for over 100 years. It is my great-grandmother Katarzyna born 1878, and her daughter Maria born 1913.

I have always wondered how she looked like. What was her personality? What did she like? Sadly photographs do not preserve that information.

I tried to find some resemblance, and all I could come up with is that we both like polka dot dresses, necklaces, and hair split right in the middle.

From this limited information, I can still deduce few facts. My great-grandmother had children born during the World War I, some born on lands that no longer belonged to Poland. She lived through two World Wars. Not an easy life.

A child witnessing war, is one child too many.

She also lived through a true historic event for the Polish people, Poland being put on the map of Europe in 1918, after 123 years of partitions. Books have been written how a nation fought to preserve its identity, language, and culture for 123 years, when Polish schools no longer existed, where Polish books were not easily obtained, when Polish language was forbidden is schools and work.

Polish flag.

Today, many nations face the same struggles. Sadly, most nation on the planet didn’t learn much from our past history. In the past 100 years, no continent was war free. Neither is today.

Reading about history in books is very different than imagining your relatives going through those events. I refuse to imagine some of those events, it couldn’t have been easy.

History as read from history books is not always relatable.

A photograph can make life real. Importantly, as a scientist I know that I carry a piece of her, a very important part, my DNA, and as a woman, my mitochondrial DNA. Although we will never meet, she’s will always be a part of me.

DNA double helix.

As of today, I can put a face to a name. That makes me very happy.


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