How many people would wait 32 years to be reunited with the person they loved?
That is exactly what Kathryn Geremesz and her husband had to do. The incredible story of this amazing woman, who celebrated her hundredth birthday on October 31st, spanned a century and two continents.
Kathryn was born in Galicia, a region in the southwestern part of Ukraine. When she was born in 1920, the area was part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire. Then it became part of Poland and later part of the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). This probably accounts for the fact that, besides her native language, she speaks German, Russian and Polish, as well as English. However, she is not proficient in English, which is why when I interviewed Kathryn, her friend, Roman, interpreted for us.
She lived for a time in the United States with her parents and met her late husband, Stephen, who was also Ukrainian, here. However, she and her parents moved back to Ukraine in the early 1930s.
There must have been a spark between Kathryn and her future husband because Stephen followed her there and in 1933 they were married. She became pregnant and the couple lived together in Ukraine for a short while. Then he came back to the states to make arrangements for her to join him here.
But fate intervened. War broke out in Europe trapping Kathryn and their daughter, Irene. After World War II ended, Stephen tried to bring them to the United States, but by then, her native country was part of the Soviet Union.
“It was a very hard time for me,” she says. “I didn’t think he would ever come back.”
Through the long years they were apart, they wrote to each other, and once her husband was able to visit. Meanwhile, her daughter grew up in Ukraine, married, and had children. Kathryn almost gave up hope of ever being with Stephen again.
Finally, in 1965 Kathryn was allowed to immigrate to the United States. She and her husband settled in Philadelphia and she gave birth to a son, Steve. Sadly, her son passed away at the relatively young age of sixty-five, never having married. Her husband, Stephen died eighteen years ago.
In Kathryn’s later years, her great-granddaughter, Natalia, obtained a visa and would come to Spring Hill for six months at a time and stay with her. It must have been wonderful to see her great-grandchild and speak her native language again.
Despite the sadness she has endured, Kathryn considers herself a happy person even though her husband and son are both gone. A devout Catholic, Kathryn wears a crucifix around her neck and spends most of her day now reading the Bible in her room surrounded by objects of her faith. A faith that sustained her through years of war, hardship, and separation from the man she loved.