A visit home

News | July 29, 2015

Hiking. A visit to McDonald’s. Moutaintops. Playing outside. A salt mine. A castle. A farmer’s market. Ice cream.

The Bergert family – David, Ewelina, Jonathan, Jacob – sunk themselves into all sorts of experiences during their summer vacation this year. The smiling faces told the story of a time long looked forward to, and a joy to be surrounded by family and friends. The vacation was in Poland – and a return home for mom Ewelina.

“My whole family is there, my parents, my brother, my cousins, my aunts…everybody,” she said. “This is the longest I’ve been away – five years.”

Ewelina left her home when she was 17 years old to come and study in the United States. It was 19 years ago this month when she boarded that airplane. Knowing very little English, she enrolled at Davenport Central High School. Her host family mom, Lynda Modlinski was by her side every step of the way.

“I remember praying that I would get a good family, and be surrounded by people who are kind,” she said. “And that’s what I got.”

She attended Holy Family Catholic Church, and learned all sorts of things about how life is different in the U.S. than in Poland.

It was difficult for her family to have her be away, Ewelina said. “My family wanted me to be happy wherever I was. I was in a new culture and very busy. But for them, they felt like they lost someone.”

As the year went on, she thought she might want to attend college in the United States. St. Ambrose University was her next step on the journey.

While there, she met David during her senior year. They decided to continue on with each earning a master’s degree in business administration. Then they decided to get married. Ewelina would stay in the United States.

Today, David works for a software development company. Ewelina teaches business courses at Black Hawk College – where she loves the diversity of the students’ backgrounds and their drive to get an education.

In addition to transitioning to a new culture, Ewelina has faced other challenges in life. A narrowing of her windpipe below her vocal chords meant either repeated surgeries or a tracheotomy. Ewelina chose the trach – you may notice one of her beautiful collection of scarves that she wears around her neck.

“My faith,” she said, “has gotten me through a lot of difficult moments in my life. God is always in the center.”

On the trip to Poland, Ewelina’s oldest son Jonathan took to playing outside with neighborhood kids and relatives. He knows just a little Polish; they didn’t know English. It’s the same with Jonathan and Jacob’s grandparents.

Ewelina smiled. When her parents took her younger son’s hand, it didn’t matter what language they speak, she said. And when Jonathan was running around playing games, they were able to figure it all out without speaking the same words.

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