From: Merle Hanson
I was quiet, gentle-souled and warm of heart. My grandchildren, my church and my family were what mattered. It was magic where we came from, with rivers and bluffs, and people laughed when a walnut dropped. No finer place than my old home.
I miss all those old folks and their laughing, and smiling. Life has never been easy and some think character comes from pain. I’m not so sure, but the old folks could laugh when things were bleakest. They kept us believing in tomorrow.
We spoke Kashubian and smiled, laughed, and prayed. We observed and heard the Prussians and told the baba, who told the priest. The confessional was more than just a place of penance in the old country and our learned priests knew the languages.
We laughed at the ignorance of the Prussians, being we understood their every word. We had little freedom, but in those brief moments when as a community and a person we felt oneness, we knew we would last far longer than Prussian control and freedom denied.
We had little but each other in our old church country. When we left home, we left all that we knew and much of what mattered. We found in Winona that those warm words of our grandmothers still echoed true. We were blessed.
I slowly lost my sight as I got old. I thought it would be bad, but a whole new world opened up to me. I learned to listen. We’d be a better world if we all did that a bit better.
The beauty of that dignified, hard, poor life was who we were. We worked hard and it felt good. Our life was the result of our hands and our minds. On Sunday, we gave thanks.
Pawel Libera was an early Winona area settler arriving here prior to the Civil War. He rests surrounded by family, and his bloodlines are still present in 2013 Winona. He died in 1916.