Thursday, March 22, 2007

Email from Susan Schmitz Doll (a Brencick; my father's cousin)

I'm not sure you remember me, but Norb and I met you for the first time when we came to Tacoma probably 15 years ago or so and had dinner with you, Abigail and your parents. Although your Mom said that I had met you when you were very little and lived in Columbia, I really didn't remember and you must have been babies. Your Mom cooked for us and we had a great evening visiting and sharing family stories. Your Dad and our family (Schmitz) had been very close when he lived in South St. Louis. In fact, we road to SLU together for several years. Time and distance kept us apart and visiting in Tacoma was the first time I had seen him in probably 20 years or so.
We touched base with you, Abigail and your Dad at Tony's wedding in California also.
My two sisters (Kathy and Linda) were there along with my parents (Uncle Mike and Aunt Rose). You might remember.
Anyway, I think it is GREAT that you are going to Croatia to "hunt down" relatives. It is a beautiful country!!!!! I need to go through my "stuff", but more than 30 years ago, I went to Croatia with 3 friends. Grandma Brencick (your great-grandma) was still corresponding with Grandpa Brencick's (your great-grandpa) sisters who were still living there. Their names were Kata and Danica and they lived in a small village south of Split (I think) and about a mile or so from the Adriatic. Grandpa Brencick used to walk to the Adriatic to swim from his home. They might still have lived in the original house that Grandpa was born in - I don't remember that part.
Grandma gave me their address and asked me to stop and see them. I made no promises since I was traveling with 3 others and I didn't want to impose upon them. I took the address and one morning (possibly in Split), I showed someone at the desk the address and they said in their very limited English and with lots of jesters, that it wasn't very far. Everyone decided to try to locate the address and off we went. After one stop at a house, we finally found the village and went up the back way. It felt sort of like an alley and I don't think it was paved at all. There were grape vines growing on trellises and a house about 50 feet from the alley up a stairway. I knocked/ran the bell and someone appeared. None of us spoke Croatian nor did any of them speak any English. (The only thing Grandma taught me was "dobroutro" good morning and "pis me vrit" kiss my ass. She was a character. I'm sure your Dad has filled you in on her.) I tried to explain who I was by saying " Matta, Rosa, (grandparents), Matta (my Uncle Matt, your grandpa), Vinco (my Uncle Vince, your great uncle Vince), Rosa (my Mom, your great aunt Rose) and then me" over and over again. Finally something clicked with them, they ran upstairs and brought out my parents wedding picture. It was one I have seen since I was very little and we had made a connection! I pointed out and named everyone in the picture and everything just clicked. They ushered us into their home and gave us something to drink and wanted to feed us. I had heard Grandma telling us that they were very poor and only had meat (chicken) one or two times a year on special holidays. Needless to say I was not about to take food from them! We were there about an hour or two and they contacted someone up the road who supposed spoke English. That didn't work! We just talked through signs, etc. It was truly a moving experience and one that still brings tears to my eyes. It was wonderful!
I took pictures (or maybe slides) of Kata, Danica, etc and will try to find's been so long.
After my trip to Croatia, I know that your aunt Janice, great grandma Brencick, my parents, and lots of cousins (your Dad's first) have been to visit. I have sent your email to all of my cousins, asking them to send you info or to touch base with you. If you want their email addresses, please let me know. I know for sure that Tom Brencick (your Dad's and my first cousin) keeps in contact with our relatives in Croatia, visits them and takes them things they might need/sends them money. I think Danica and Kata have died, but Tom could give you LOTS of current info. He lives in Germany and has lived there for many years, although he travels around the world quite a bit. His email address is
I know that we have pictures of your great-great grandparents somewhere. Also have family pictures of your great-grandma, grandpa and grandma, dad, and lots of Brencicks from when we were all little. Would you be interested in any of those types of things?
I have looked at your blog-site and it was great! You write so well, I'm very impressed. It reminds me lots of your Dad. He was so talented in that way. I think you mentioned on your site that Brencicks lived on an island, perhaps, but I don't remember anything about that.
I have no idea what kept our families apart for all these years, but I want you to know that you are always welcome here and will always be family. If ever you get to the St, Louis area, please let us know. I would love for you to meet all your St. Louis Brencick relatives.
Please pass these sentiments along to Abigail also.

Hoping to hear from you. I'll also be checking out your blog site.

Susan Schmitz Doll

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