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