The person I admire most is my Great-Grandpa John. He was born in 1913,
in Lithuania, in the village of Meiliskiai, which is near the city of
Vilnius, the capitol of Lithuania. His real name was Jonas Olechna, but
it was changed to John Alekna when he left Lithuania.
He lived on a farm. He hated it, and ran away to go to the university
in the city. He knew 5 languages – Lithuanian, Russian, German, Polish
He was kidnapped by soome Nazi soldiers, because they wanted him to work
as a translator. He escaped by pretending to be dead in a ditch. He was
gone for a year, and no one knew where he was. While he was gone, the
Nazis burned down his village. His wife, Zofija (Sophia in English)
didn’t know if he was dead or alive. When the village was burned she
took her son, Alvidus (Alvin in English), to Vilnius, to stay with some
friends. Alvin waas my grandfather.
When he found his wife and son, he took them and escaped from Lithuania.
They lived in a displaced persons camp in Hanau, Germany until 1946.
They took a ship to the United States, and arrived in New Yo
became a US citizen on April 15th, 1955.
He was very brave. He saved his family, and brought them to a safe
place, where they could live in freedom and peace. He was a man of great
faith. He trusted God and knew that no matter how hard it was to get to
somewhere safe, that God would help him.
He prayed with me when I was a little boy, and we went with him to Mass.
When he moved to Massachusetts, he went to St. Mary’s church in
Westfield, and said he liked it very much.
When he came to the USA, he moved to Amsterdam, NY. At first he rented
a house for his family.
He weent to school at the Chicago Technical Institute and got a degree in
mechanical drawing, and got a job with General Electric. He worked hard
to support his family, even though it was very hard. He saved his money,
and bought a house on Sloan Ave., in Amsterdam, NY. He lived there
until he got sick in 1994.
When Zofija got sick, a few years after they came to America, and
couldn’t work any more, he took care of her at ho
told him to put her away in a nursing home, but he wouldn’t. He took
care of her himself. She never learned very much English, and he had to
do all the shopping. He took good care of his son too, and helped him
get into college.
When he had his stroke in 1994, and Zofija died, he came to live in
Westfield. Everyone thought he was a very kind man.
He was kind. He was also brave, and smart, and a good husband and a
good father and grandfather. When I was a little boy, he would color
with me, and play with me. He liked to dance to Polka music, and he
loved to make people laugh. He was the kindest person I ever met.
That’s why I admire him so much.