Thursday, September 17, 2015

Italian & Lithuanian Maternal & Paternal Grandparents

Liz’s Italian maternal grandmother, Elisabetha (nee Sciamarelli) Albano, lovingly called Nana, left Calbria, Italy in 1902 with one child and her cousin with her children. They survived the agonizing Atlantic crossing, the rigorous examinations on Ellis Island, and rejoined their husbands in Chicago, where they worked for the railroad. Nana had nothing more then what she could fit in a trunk. She was a strong woman who was able to raise her large family of six children by owning and running a neighborhood Italian grocery store.
There is one endearing photograph of Nana standing proudly behind the store’s counter. Her stout rounded shoulders bear the weight of responsibility. Her thick dark hair pulled back in a tight bun made a formidable persona. Yet her starched white apron and her prideful smile welcomed all, even those who had no money. Not one soul ever left the store empty‑handed. All that remains of hers beside the few pictures is a meat grinder and a receipt for candy and a page from the stores’ account book. Unfortunately there is only one photograph of Elisabetha’s husband, Thomas. There is much research waiting to be done and perhaps then, other papers will be found along with family history within.  But what there is of my Italian grandparents, I will treasure forever and display my proud Italian heritage in the Family Museum.

Liz’s paternal & maternal grandparents were from Lithuania. Grandpa Anthony Yuknavich was born in 1888 in Uzubalici, Lithuania (at the time of his birth the area was part of Russia). Anthony had a high school education. His father did not want Anthony to go into the Russian Army so he bought him a ticket to America. Anthony arrived in New York on the ship Pisau from Hamburg Germany in June 1907. He lived in Portage, PA where he met Anna who lived in Wilkes Barre, PA. They married Sept. 17, 1917. Anna (nee Vaicuilionis) Yuknavich was born in 1887 in Vilkoviskis, Lithuania. She had no schooling but was artistically talented. She made carpets on a loom that was in the attic of their home. Anna got her citizenship papers in 1945.

Anthony & Anna, known by friends and family as Tony and Annie, lived in Bakerton, PA for 62 years. Grandpa was a quiet man who could speak several languages and liked to read. He was a dedicated husband and father, a good farmer raising produce and animals. He was also a coal miner and after years of dangerous work and unhealthy conditions, he was a frail man as he aged. Fortunately, he had three strong sons who took over supporting the family. The eldest son was my father, William.
Every summer when Liz was a child, her family  would go Pennsylvania to visit her  father's parents. Their house and farm was situated in a valley in the Allegheny Mountains. She loved the quiet mountains, especially because life in South Chicago was noisy and crowded. After her grandparents passed away and the house was sold, it is unfortunate that there was absolutely nothing of her grandparents handed down. No heirlooms or antiques. Just photographs. But they shall cherish always.  

Though there are no physical heirlooms, there was one thing handed down from Liz’s father’s parents – the desire to save. Be it that what they owned was cherished, and when financial times were hard, many times what was saved was used again and again. Liz’s father taught her to save and it is from that lesson that the Family Museum exists.


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