Maria Kreiling 1929 - 2018
Maria Filko Kreiling was born on February 3, 1929, in Denta, Romania, a small rural German community, to Anton Filko and Eva Rischar. An older brother died in infancy, her younger brother, Franz, is still with us. She had hoped to become a Kindergarten teacher but the war prevented her from furthering her education. She was active in the church, and since the town was small, a priest wasn’t always available every Sunday. When a priest couldn’t come for Sunday Mass, she led the Word Communion Services for the congregation as a young girl.
When WW2 broke out, her father was conscripted into the German Army, was captured and became a Russian prisoner for 7 years. Maria, her mother and younger brother decided to leave Romania and made their way to Austria as many of the local Germans were either taken away by the Russians or the partisans and put into work or death camps. They hitched rides, and walked, stole food from farmers’ fields, and did what they had to do to survive, until they reached a refugee camp in Austria.
In 1996, my parents, my children and I were part of a trip to Germany, Austria and Hungary with the youth group. One day while we were in Hungary, we had lunch in a restaurant along the Danube. Just outside the restaurant was what looked like an area to launch boats. It was actually a rope ferry to cross the river. My mother gathered everyone there and described to us how on a very early Sunday morning, they crossed the Danube in place just like this one. All the bridges had been bombed, so a rope ferry was their only way to cross the river. She described in vivid detail how they had to keep the horses silent and quietly cross the river at dawn.
We can only imagine all the hardships they had to endure during their refugee journey across Europe. After a stay in a refugee camp in Austria, they were taken in by a local farmer in exchange for work on the farm. They found some jobs, my uncle as a field hand, and my mother as a nanny/governess.
My parents met, they dated with my grandmother along, and were married. Shortly after that, Onkel Franz left for the USA. My grandfather was released from the Russian prisoner of war camp and miraculously found his wife and daughter. By the time I was born, and the entire family decided to immigrate to the United States, where my uncle was preparing an apartment for us. Sadly, having joined the US Army, he was shipped off to Germany before we arrived. , My parents and I flew to the US on a US troupe transport plane and landed in New York on July 15, 1955, where we were met by relatives and put on the train to Chicago. My grandparents came by boat.
Once in Chicago, my parents enrolled in night school at Lane Tech to learn English and got jobs. They both worked for 3M Revere for a number of years. In later years, my mother worked at Neumann’s bakery, and then for many years at Schmeisser’s meat market in Niles, where she was responsible for running the front of the shop and making potato salad and gravies, sewing up goose breasts at holiday time and also babysitting the Schmeisser boys. She never learned to drive but could navigate the entire city and suburbs on the bus better than anyone I know.
She was very active in the German American Community. She was the president of the Donauschwaben Women’s Auxiliary for 40 years, and ran the kitchen at the Donauschwaben from 1983 until her retirement not that long ago. Cooking, baking and feeding people was her life. She ran the kitchen that fed 500 people at a time, and made potato salad for German fest for thousands! She cooked for her family too, and often showed up at one of our houses with a ziplock bag of Schnitzel in her purse for someone to take home. When she couldn’t bake or cook as much anymore, she spent time teaching her granddaughters to bake and cook. She taught them to be frugal and not waste food and told them “it’s expensive to grow a cow!”
She was so thrilled to become an Oma, and even more thrilled when the great grand children arrived. You could see her eyes light up whenever these little people were around. She was so very proud of her grandchildren, and their accomplishments. They truly were the light of her life.
She had a deep devotion to our blessed mother. She sang in the Donauschwaben choir. She picked the hymns for the funeral mass herself many years ago, by telling Viki, “I like that hymn, you should sing it at my funeral.” 20 years ago, she gave Viki a book of Ave Marias and told her that she must sing one at her funeral. She was always in control.
It has been a long, hard journey for her and for all of us, but she is now at rest. Our faith tells us we will see each other again. When you arrive at the pearly gates don’t look for her seated at the heavenly banquet, you won’t find her sitting there. You will find her in the kitchen, directing the angels, supervising the meal preparation and teaching them to make Wiener Schnitzel.