Portrait of an Immigrant: Yvonne
Yvonne is a Polish immigrant. In 1940 there was a knock on their front door and the Nazi officer instructed her to get out of her home. At the age of 8, Yvonne, along with her sister and mother, would spend the war in a forced labor camp. Her mom worked in a munitions factory while Yvonne and her sister worked in the kitchens. For those five years her mother would say to them, “Don’t worry, God will not forsake us.” Her father had been drafted into the Polish army in 1939.
As the war ended their camp was liberated by the Americans. They moved the family to a camp for displaced persons. At this camp they were once again able to go to church. The only option was Roman Catholic and they were a Lutheran family. Yvonne remembers her mom telling them, “There is one God in heaven, it doesn’t matter what building you go to, we pray to the same God.”
With Europe in the throes of being divided between the allies they had to choose between moving west with the GI’s or living under Russian controlled territory. They kept moving.
Yvonne believed her father had died in the war and without a male head of house emigration was closed to them. Eventually, in early 1946, Yvonne’s mom made the decision to return to Poland. They were making preparations for the move when there was a knock on the door of their hut. Her dad had found them. After being liberated by the Russians It had taken him 9 months of searching to locate his family. They were together again but instead of returning to Poland, they headed for Canada.
In Canada Yvonne met a young man who was vacationing in Montreal. As a 15 year old Karl had been conscripted into the Nazi army. They fell in love and married in 1957. Some of Yvonne’s friends demanded to know how she could marry a German. She reminded them of the generosity many Germans showed them while in the camps, “we are only alive because of the Germans.” Grace and forgiveness were at work in her life. Love conquers all.
Yvonne and Karl raised their family in the United States. Karl worked General Electric and Yvonne as a bank teller. Eventually she rose through the ranks to become Vice President for Branch Operations at American National Bank.
Now retired Yvonne continues to share her financial acumen through her volunteer work with the local church where she also sings in the choir.
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