KLEMENS AND KAZIMIERA MATUSZEWSKI, FEBRUARY 3, 2007
The true joy of producing ‘Our Story Of…’ is discovering among Detroit’s shy and often housebound elderly, true gems of personality. Klemens and Kazimiera Urszula Matuszewski, the parents of our friend and sponsor Ewa M. Matuszewski, are precisely ‘the ticket’.
At ninety-three, Klemens may forget a detail here and there, his gait may be slowed somewhat by the weight of years, but his mind is as sharp as ever… should he misplace a fact, he’ll confess it immediately. And such a wealth of facts—he’s a lover of history, much of which he’s lived in the flesh throughout World War II) with a particular fascination for the Napoleonic era, could and did keep conversations flowing for hours. Like a rusty gate receiving a dose of oil, Klemens’ memory improves dramatically simply by refreshing his thoughts, sharing his insights and background—at the beginning of the conversation, words like ‘Waterloo’ escape him, but at the end, our genuine interest in his amazing background and his lifelong love of learning for the sake of learning has lubricated his memory, and he is correcting us on the same facts!
We filmed this dynamic couple (set to celebrate their sixtieth anniversary) in their modest, spotless Royal Oak home, enjoying their memories, photographs of their two children, and frankly, shivering to consider the sacrifices that such individuals have made in decades gone by. Though a decade and a half apart in age, both Klemens and Kazimiera are survivors of the worst of Nazi detention camps, within one of which Kazimiera lost virtually her entire family.
Despite such tragedy, behind Kazimiera’s impeccable manners and precise hospitality lies a deeply-founded sense of humor and an absolutely self-sufficient outlook. Now that, regrettably, Klemens is no longer able to perform much of the ‘heavy lifting’ about the house, without complaint Kazimiera (Kaz, to her friends, among which we hope we can count ourselves) takes up the cause with vigor. It’s nothing, says daughter Ewa, to stop by in the summertime and find her on the roof, cleaning gutters, in the garden hoeing, or mowing the lawn. “She won’t allow a service to touch the grass,” Ewa says with a laugh. “She doesn’t think they do it right!”
“She shovels her own snow, too,” adds Klemens, clearly regretting the fact that physical reality prevents him from attending to such chores as he did in his youth. “It’s no fun getting old,” he says, “but that is a part of life.”
It’s a lesson that we, proud producers of ‘Our Polish Story’ are forced to acknowledge, but like the old adage about ‘those who do not learn from history’ being doomed to repeat it, we are committed to record those individuals who have not only learned from history, but have overcome the worst that it had to throw at them. The absolute determination to succeed against the odds is the dominant force that motivated such immigrants as Klemens (a successful surveyor for decades in Detroit) and Kazimiera Urszula Matuszewski (who sacrificed on countless fronts to see that her children received first-class educations).
And now, in the twilight of their lives, we are inspired and awed to discover that it’s a force that motivates them still.