“To this day, Russ and I are best friends. We continue to get together to relive our time in St. Hedwig Orphanage,” writes local author Mike Krecioch in his memoir, Orphan’s Asylum (Xlibris, 2008). “Between us, we did not come up with a whole lot of negative experiences. We firmly believe that our time spent at St. Hedwig helped us to cope with a not-always-predictable existence in the real world. It made us what we are today.”
Krecioch’s book recounts the eight years he spent—1948 to 1956—at the St. Hedwig Orphanage in Chicago, Ill. Krecioch, along with his younger brother and sister, was sent to the orphanage not because his parents were deceased but because after his parents separated, his father was unable to care for the three children and disputes among the extended family contributed to poor living situations for the Krecioch kids.
The book (deceptively brief at 148 pages but packed with text in self-publication style) is told in stream-of-consciousness, rather like a grandfather recounting his adventures from his armchair. There are some shining moments, but Orphan’s is meant to be more of a personal odyssey than a a work of literary artistry. Read it not for the turns of phrase as much as for the unique perspective of a young person growing up in this environment.
What’s most surprising about Orphan’s is (as the above quote demonstrates) how very un-Oliver Twist it comes off. No child labor, watery gruel or cruel beatings take place. Instead, the children of St. Hedwig seem as happy as can be expected. Under the tutelege of well-meaning nuns they’re fed, educated and schooled in household chores. As Krecioch explains upon his re-introduction to the family unit, “all three of us kids were trained by the nuns to be independent … We were taught to live life and be a productive member of society.”
Though Krecioch does flirt with his feelings toward his father—the father who, for all purposes abandoned his children—this sub-plot is mostly glossed over. In light of current news feeds about Nebraska’s Safe Haven law which allows U.S. parents to turn their children over to Nebraska state hospitals, Krecioch’s story seems especially timely.
—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter