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WILLIAM J. BIEGA - PENNSYLVANIA
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My grandfather, Alexander Biega arrived in America in 1904. We know that he was only 14 years old, but we have not yet been able to find out where he was born, only that it was in southern Poland, in Galicia, which was then a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He had told family that he was born in Kraków, but we have no documentation. It is very likely that at least his father came from the Sanok area. He married Antonina Anna Sipior in 1914 in Pittsburgh (I am not sure of this date and am attempting to verify), she had come to America in 1911, also from Galicia. Alex was born on December 12, 1889 and died on September 15, 1967. Anna was born on May 16, 1889 and died on October 24, 1961.
My father, Bill Sr,. was born in Ohio on November 11, 1915, but shortly after that his parents moved back to Pennsylvania, to Woodlawn, now called Aliquippa, north-west of Pittsburgh. My two uncles Henry and Louis were both born there, May 19, 1918 and December 31 1920. They and their father all worked in the J&L steel mills in Aliquippa. All three brothers served in the army during World War II and were in Europe. Henry never married and died March 18, 1980. My Dad, Bill, died on September 13, 1962, two years after I joined the US Army.
I have pleasant memories of my grandparents, Anna and Alex. I usually visited them on Sunday afternoon. Buba always wanted me to eat. Time has obliterated the names of the Polish dishes she fed me, but I recall that I enjoyed eating there. I especially remember her cheese filled bread. Buba would always slip me a dollar when I was ready to leave. I have cherished her generosity. Alex worked hard at J&L in the Tin Mill. Not long before he was to retire he was involved in an industrial accident and lost all of his fingers on his left hand. Working in steel mills could be dangerous and deadly. When I would visit, Alex was usually home. I recall him sitting at the rectangular kitchen table reading a Polish language newspaper that he received from Chicago, smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee laced with canned milk. Canned milk gives coffee a distinctive taste that I still enjoy occasionally today. Alex did not speak much about his early years. Although there were other Biega families in Beaver county, Alex steadfastly maintained that they were not related to him. His claim was I have no brothers, no sisters, no relatives, and he did not like to have his picture taken. I know that I'm his grandson, because I have tendencies in that direction also. Alex had a dry sense of humor. For example when he learned that Lou's fiancée , Lucy Montini, would be his second Italian daughter-in-law, Alex proclaimed in his broken English "Aren't there any nice Polish girls in Aliquippa?" Aunt Lucy shared this story with my wife Diane and me during a recent visit.
My father married my mother Gertrude (Bella) Caratini in 1941. They were divorced in 1946, and I was their only child. Bill Biega Sr. never remarried and he died at a young 47 years. Bella remarried after several years, had a second family and she passed away on April 13, 2003.
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Here is some more of my family history.
The first of two daughters, Robin Anne Biega, was born in Columbus on April 22, 1968. In June of 1969 I took a position with Peoples United Telephone Company and we relocated to Evans City PA. Evans City was Diane's childhood home. Renee Diane Biega, our second daughter, was born in Butler PA on August 12, 1971.
When I reflect on the past, I am thankful that I listened to the advice of my elders and did not seek employment in the steel industry. I have never regretted it. Especially since the steel industry died in the USA in the late 60s and early seventies, jobs were not to be had in the Pittsburgh/Aliquippa area.
Robin Anne Biega Scaer, our oldest daughter, is married to Robert Mark Scaer and they have three children together, plus a daughter of Bob's in California. Their kids are Mark Scaer, 12 years old, Megan Scaer 10 , Madison Scaer 8, and the step daughter, Emily Scaer 18 in CA.
Although our experiences of relocating were not the same as Alex and Anna's, they gave me an appreciation of what my ancestors went through to seek a better life. Leaving friends and relatives knowing that they may never see them again and facing the unknown in a foreign land required a lot of courage in my opinion.
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Last update November 2006