Real Courage - Women and Children of Valor
Netherlands Remember Holocaust Survivors (English)
Holocaust Survivor - Eva Pencak - Polish Catholic Survivor
Non-Jewish Victims of the Holocaust · Five Milion Forgotten ·Survivor Stories and Diaries · Eva Pencak
My mother, Eva Pencak, was born on a farm in Poland in a little village near Bilgoraj. Eva Choma was a young single woman when Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. She spent the next several years as a forced laborer in Nazi-occupied Germany.
After the war ended, Eva, along with other former laborers, concentration camp internees, and others displaced by the Germans, were housed at Displaced Person camps set up by the Allied Forces. The camps were often former German barracks that became home for several years for thousands of these refugees. The camps were like small villages with schools, churches, temples and medical centers where many refugees lived for years until they could find permanent homes. Eva met her husband, Frank Pecak (later changed to Pencak) in a displaced persons camp in Wildfleken, Germany where Ewa worked as a kindergarten and preschool teacher.
Like most newly liberated Poles, Eva and Frank needed to decide what to do after years of war had devastated their homeland. Eva's sister, Marisa, who stayed in the family home, wrote that things were very difficult in Poland after the war. There was much poverty and a lot of anxiety about the new Communist leadership in Poland.
Eva had a half-brother, Josef Choma (later changed to Homer) who lived in Hamtramck, Michigan. She didn't have his address, but she sent him a letter by way of an American soldier who was returning home to the States. There was probably one chance in a million, but Joe Homer got her letter! He immediately invited Eva and her husband to come to the United States. By now, my mother had a child, so she wrote back to her stepbrother saying that she would love to come to the U.S., but she now had one daughter and another baby on the way. Josef Homer and his wife, Helen, graciously opened the invitation to include the new family.
Coming to the USA
It was February 1950 when they arrived in Detroit, Michigan, carrying a nine-month old infant, and all their possessions.
They lived with Helen and Joe for a few months, then moved to their own home in Hamtramck, Michigan. Frank and Eva worked hard and finally bought their own home in Warren, Michigan. Frank passed away in 1958, leaving Ewa alone to raise their two daughters. With her brother's help, she was able to make it. Both daughters attended college and fulfilled their parents' biggest dream.
Unfortunately for Ewa, both daughters decided to live in California. For several years, Ewa managed very well by being active in Lutnia, a Polish American chorale organization with which she performed for 20 years, and in the American Polish Cultural Center in Troy, Michigan where she worked as a volunteer.
In 1998, she began feeling vulnerable to the physical limitations that come with age, and she worried that she could no longer count on her numerous friends for the kind of care only ones children can provide.
With much anxiety, Eva sold the home she lived in for over 40 years and road across country with her youngest daughter, and son-in-law to California in July 1998. She chose Sebastopol, a small town in Sonoma County in Northern California, near her daughter's home in Bodega.
It was a very difficult move from her familiar home in a Polish community to California, where everything was different. Wanting desperately to stay in touch with her friends in Warren, Michigan, Eva learned to type so she could write letters more easily.
After a few months, Eva became very active in her community in the Santa Rosa area. She became very fond of Sebastopol. Eva joined the choir at St. Sebastians Catholic Church and participated until January. Eva also was a member of Young Christian Ladies, where she quickly became recognized for her fine European baked goods she brought to pot-luck meetings.
In August 2002, surrounded by family and people who cared for her, Ewa passed away in her home after an 8-month battle with congestive heart failure.
Eva is survived by two daughters, C. Satri Pencak Andersen of Bodega, Terese Pencak Schwartz of Westlake Village, two grandchildren, Eric Andersen, Sophia Eve Schwartz, and family and friends in California, Michigan, New York, Australia and Poland.