Rosalia (Andres) Kolodziej passed away on February 1, 2019 at age 91, in Lowell, Michigan.
After WWI, Yugoslavia opened its boarders to immigrants, inviting them to farm its fertile lands. Rosalia’s Austrian father, Jan Andres, (St. Petersburg, Russia) and Polish mother, Maria Bojanowska (Bojanowa, Poland) married and settled in Srdevic, Bosnia where they raised their nine children and managed a large successful farm. As this was before electrification and powered machinery, farm work was done by hand and horse power. Rose’s chores as a child were to lead the cattle up to the mountains for summer grazing, keep watch over goats and sheep in the fields, beat and soften linen in the river, and card and spin wool. Just before WWII, Germany demanded repatriation of expats, forcing the Andres family to board a train to Germany, leaving their home, land, farm animals and work horses behind. Each person was allowed one suitcase, all else was then taken over by Tito’s Partisans. She had no opportunity to finish her schooling.
Rosalia spent much of the WWII in German work camps, where her mother passed away from malnutrition. She lived through the bombing of Berlin, witnessed the firebombing of Dresden, and survived a strafing run from an Allied fighter plane by hiding under the leaves in a rhubarb field. During and after the war, Rosalia traveled by foot extensively, as rail lines were damaged. Because she was fluent in several languages, she became the de facto leader of several groups of people, negotiating hostile border crossings, and sometimes fooled her captors into thinking she was from their own country. After the war, some of her family attempted to return to their farm but were turned back as the new Yugoslavia closed their borders to former landowners. She worked in Hungary for three years, before returning to post-war Germany where she completed formal education as a dress-maker/seamstress in Ingolstadt. Since Rosalia had no country of citizenship, she came to the US as a displaced person. She was sponsored by an uncle in Youngstown, Ohio, who had come to America after WWI. Just before Christmas of 1951, she boarded the USS General AW Greeley in Bremerhaven, Germany. During the harrowing trans-Atlantic journey, they rescued the crew of another ship that capsized during one of the worst winter storms of that era. She arrived safely at NY harbor in January, 1952 and stayed with her uncle’s family in Youngstown. Rosalia’s next move was to Detroit, where she worked in a bridal shop specializing in custom bridal gowns, and also sewing for wealthy Detroit women, creating custom suits, dresses and gowns. She also sewed drapery and reupholstered furniture. All the while, Rosalia studied for, and then passed all tests, to proudly receive her US citizenship.
In 1953, Rosalia married Eugene Kolodziej and they lived most of their lives in Warren, Michigan. She continued her education while working, to finally earn her High School degree and subsequently an Associate’s degree. She later worked and retired from Detroit’s Chrysler Trim Plant, sewing auto upholstery. She also dabbled in art and enjoyed gardening, cooking, and mushroom hunting. In 2000, Rosalia and Eugene moved to Rockford to be closer to their daughters and their grandson, Andrew. After Eugene passed in 2010, Rosalia moved to Lowell, where she enjoyed Bingo with new friends at the Senior Neighbors center.
Rosalia is survived by daughters Julie Kolodziej-Brown (Stephen Brown), Patricia Kolodziej (George Carroll); grandson Andrew Brown; nephew John Beregsasi; and numerous family members in Europe. Rosalia is predeceased by her husband Eugene, and all eight of her siblings.
A Memorial Gathering will be held on Sunday, May 5, from Noon to 2 PM at Roth-Gerst Chapel, 305 N. Hudson St. SE, Lowell, MI 49331. Memorial donations may be made to Emmanuel Hospice, 2161 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504; and Senior Neighbors of Lowell, 314 S. Hudson St. SE, Lowell, MI 49331.