Anastasia - Life Goes Full Circle

Anastasia - Life Goes Full Circle
According to the old writing in an even older family Bible, Anastasia Makar was born at the turn of the twentieth century in Eastern Europe. The cursive patchy notes were written with a fountain pen, dipped in ink from an old-fashioned bottle. From my best recall, the country of her birth is listed as Austria.

She married Frank (Theodore) Potchak, a fellow immigrant, and together their collective legacy began. They raised six sons and two daughters and part of their brood was Chuck Potchak, my dad.

From family gatherings and discussions, I always assumed Anastasia, my grandma (Baba), was born in Czechoslovakia. Later, I learned that many of the borders of the Eastern European countries changed often throughout history. What was once Czechoslovakia or Austria-Hungary later may have been part of an entirely different political regime. Regardless of their geographical place of birth, my grandparents had one characteristic in common - they were Slovaks, and although their dialects were a little different, communications between the two never were in doubt.

Most of my recollections of Baba are sketchy at best. I can place her face from a combination of memory and old photographs, but I cannot define her voice, mannerisms, or anything else about her. One remembrance stands out - her funeral and viewing.

As was the custom of the time, Baba’s viewing was at home, the same house where she raised her children. The huge coffee pot, simmering in the enclosed back porch area off the kitchen, sticks with me, too. It was manned by cousins Steve and Bobby from Philadelphia. I remember, too, the house was overcrowded, and the incense used by the Byzantine Catholic Priest made breathing difficult.

It’s not that unusual for a memory to stick with a four-year-old, especially if the incident was one of such emotional magnitude. To solidify that remembrance, my sister, Stacie Ann, was born just a few days prior to Baba’s passing. Obviously, Stacie’s name was chosen as a close reference to my Baba’s name.

Time marches on and one day a few years ago our son Dave introduced us to his girl friend, who had grown up in the coal mining area of eastern Pennsylvania. Dave and Vicky (Victoria) began dating while students at Penn State, and when my wife and I were introduced to her, something intangible about the girl stood out. Soon after, we learned that Vicky’s mother’s maiden name was Grega – yes, another Eastern European name from the same region of origin as the Makars and Potchaks.

With Victoria, exchanging opinions and recalling common ethnic foods and religious similarities of our families became common conversation. We were elated when she and our son eventually wed.

About a year and a half after their wedding, David and Victoria presented us with our fourth grandchild. Our own parents were overjoyed at the news of another great-grandchild. But the biggest news to my Dad was yet to be announced.

When Victoria and David’s first child was born in January, I could barely contain my excitement as I told my dad that they chose “Anastasia” as their baby’s first name. At first there was silence on his end of the phone and I thought that maybe Dad didn’t hear me correctly. Then I realized it was taking him (now 86 years old) a few moments to gather his composure.


Someone once stated, “Life goes full circle.” When my dad recently held Anastasia (Greek for “Resurrection”) for the first time, the look on his face reflected to me that his life circle had been completed. Pride mixed with happiness and contentment became apparent without one word spoken. A heritage and family legacy would go on in this sweet, precious namesake lying contentedly in my father’s arms. All of us should be so fortunate and blessed.

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA