Stanislawa Pieciak

Stanislawa Pieciak (nee Nawrocki), 91, of Brookfield and formerly of Chicago, died Oct. 12, 2013.

Born Nov. 8, 1921 in Lodz, Poland, Ms. Pieciak was a teenager when the German army invaded Poland in 1939. During the German occupation of the country, Ms. Pieciak and her sister, who was a year younger, were going to school in order to learn to be seamstresses. One day they were returning home after curfew and were taken into custody by German soldiers.

The two were loaded into boxcars and headed west into Germany, where they were forced into farm labor at a place near Ingolstadt, Germany. It would be the last time Ms. Pieciak would see either of her parents for more than 30 years.

While working at the farm, she met her husband, Onufry Pieciak, a soldier in the Polish army who had been captured by the Germans and sent west for farm labor. The two married in 1941.

In 1943, while pregnant with her first daughter, Ms. Pieciak was suddenly transported to the Dachau concentration camp, just south of Ingolstadt. Her husband had been arrested by the Gestapo when he was found in the company of a resistance group.

While being processed at Dachau, Ms. Pieciak was pulled out of line by the SS; she believed she would be killed on the spot. Instead, she was sent back to the farm in Ingolstadt. The man who owned the farm reportedly had connections with the Gestapo and had pleaded for her to be spared. Her husband remained imprisoned for two more years, until the end of the war.

The family remained in Germany after the war, immigrating to the United States in 1953 thanks to the sponsorship of her sister, who had married an American G.I. after the war.

At first the family lived in Houston, but later moved to Chicago, where they lived in apartment with two other families above a hardware store near the intersection of Western Avenue and Division Street.

Her husband worked in the steel mills while Ms. Pieciak worked first as a seamstress and then landed a job as a line worker at the Brach’s Candy Company, where she worked for 25 years.

Later they moved to a home in the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood of Chicago. After her husband’s death, Ms. Pieciak moved to Brookfield to be closer to her daughters. In 1970, after a long period of correspondence, Ms. Pieciak’s father visited the United States to see his daughters for the first time since they were taken to Germany as forced laborers.

In July, Ms. Pieciak suffered the first of two strokes, which were debilitating. Yet, she stubbornly fought to regain her health.

“She was very determined, very stubborn,” said her daughter, Irene Helwig, who lives in Lyons, “even in death.”

Ms. Pieciak was the wife of the late Onufry Pieciak; the mother of Irene Helwig and Sabina (Walter) Ciesielski; the grandmother of Laurelle (Steve Foley) Wallace, Kevin (Michelle) Helwig and Mark Ciesielski; the great-grandmother of Madison Leigh Helwig; the sister of Josephine Howell; and the aunt of many nieces and nephews.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 10 a.m. at St. Louise de Marillac Church in LaGrange Park, followed by interment at St. Adalbert Cemetery.

Hitzeman Funeral Home, Brookfield, handled arrangements.