Syosset resident Janina “Jenny” Goldgraben passed away at the age of 87 on Saturday, July 16.
Janina and her husband lived in a senior assisted living center in Syosset for some years. Her eldest son remembers his mother as a compassionate and personable person.
“Janina was probably the toughest and most determined person I have ever met”, said Edmund Siejka of Seaford.
“She was the kind of person, that could go up to anyone and strike up a friendly conversation with them”, he said.
Goldgraben was born on May 12, 1924 in Schenectady, NY. She was the youngest of three daughters of first generation polish immigrants - Walter and Helen Siejka.
In her early life, Goldgraben’s father had a difficult time finding a job - she and her family moved from city to city in the state of New York. The Siejka family moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 1927, as Walter took a job shoveling coal into a furnace, while Helen worked full-time ironing shirts.
One day in the summer of 1929, Goldgraben’s father collapsed while shoveling coal. He was told by his doctors that his lungs were permanently damaged, due to a past accident involving a mustard gas explosion during his service in WWI, thus, he was deemed unfit to do this type of work. He was told by doctors to work outdoors and breathe fresh air. In 1934, Walter decided to move Goldgraban and her family back to Poland (just before the outbreak of World War II).
“The move back to Poland was not received well by certain members of the Siejka family, specifically Goldgraben’s eldest sister Sophie Siejka,” Edmund said.
Days before the family moved to Poland, Sophie, at the age of 16, allegedly ran away from home and was never seen nor heard of again. This truly troubled Goldgraben her whole life, and she attempted to search for her sister by hiring private investigators.
The searches were unsuccessful. The story was covered by Newsday’s Ed Lowe back on June 29, 1980 in an article titled “Looking for a Sister” and “Beginning in the Middle – in 1929.” The article says that there would be a third part, “depending on whether one long-lost party responds.” She never did.
In Poland, Goldgraban and her family felt helpless. Ultimately, the Siejka family survived the German bombing, by staying in the streets.
“Had they took shelter in many of the bomb cellars, they would have been buried alive by the buildings above the cellars,” Edmund said.
Walter was offered a deal by the Germans to work at a labor camp in Klagenfurt, Austria. The family was kept together at the camp, however the German's considered them prisoners of war. The family worked at the labor camp for five years, from 1940 - 1945. Goldgraben suffered severe damage to her hands, as a result of the strenuous work at that camp. In 1946, the Siejka family, thin and sickly from many years at the labor camp, took up residency in Vienna, Austria.
Goldgraben, with the intent of moving back to the United States, took a job as a waitress in the hall of a British military base. She worked at the mess hall for a couple of years, and earned enough money to eventually move to the United States. At this base, she met Edmund Siejka’s father, a British journalist. She conceived Edmund out of wedlock.
In 1948, Goldgraben and her son moved back to the United States. She was hired at Emerson Radio, where she assembled radios. Soon after, she married her late husband Henry P. Loving, a mailman. The couple moved to Woodside, Queens where they settled down for many years. She and her late husband had two children, a daughter, the late Monica Magnotta, and Paul Goldgraben.
One thing Edmund remembers and will always cherish of his mother is the fact that she knew how to laugh and have a good time. Goldgraben also had a knack for home improvement projects and gardening, and Edmund remembers his mother always fixing up the house. “She was very good with her hands,” he said.
The funeral mass was held for Goldgraben on Wednesday, July 20 at