The American Creed to me is that refugees and struggling families can find refuge in the United States and create a new life for themselves. My family is a family of immigrants who struggled to help build this nation and increase opportunities for all Americans. Being born to a loving family and comfortable home in a country like the United States is a blessing that I can’t deny. However, I always wondered why I got comfort and privilege while my ancestors struggled to flee from political unrest and poverty. They were exemplary citizens and now I have to honor their legacy by working hard, getting an education, and use my citizenship to serve my community. To understand the purpose of being a citizen, I look to their stories of courage and service as a guiding light to how I can lift up refugees and other people going through life struggles.
First, let me introduce you to my Russian ancestor, Anna Zawadowska. Born in Imperial Russia, she lived comfortably amongst a family who owned land and raised horses. After the Bolshevik revolution and the overthrow of the Tsar Nicholas II, instability arrived in Russia and her family was in serious danger. Arriving on a ship to the United States, many of my family members stopped in Ellis Island to become naturalized. Some of my relatives, like a disabled lady in a wheelchair, were sent back to Bolshevik Russia. However, Anna was one of the lucky ones and she was allowed, along with her family, to settle in Illinois. My Polish ancestor, Anton Novak, also immigrated to America away from political tensions. Anton and Anna soon meet each other at a wedding and they decided to get married. However, he had a son from a previous marriage, but Anna having a heart of gold, took care of him, along with her other children with Anton including my Great Grandpa Steve Novak.
Steve Novak was born in Canada, but he moved at a young age to Northern Michigan where his family started a horse farm. Anton used his horse raising expertise to contribute to the community, and he became a city councilman. His farm helped feed hundreds of migrating people during the Great Depression while also providing employment and a place to stay. Steve Novak meet my Great Grandma Jannette at Central Michigan University, and got married after World War II. Her family was among the original colonists, but regularly intermarried with immigrants to this nation and other minorities. Prior to their marriage, Steve served in the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and trained fighter pilots at Syracuse University. He was also stationed in Nagasaki after the war to aid rebuilding efforts. After the War, they settled in Lower Michigan and ran a construction business and horse farm. Steve and Jannette went on to help open a homeless shelter and helped veterans transition back into society. It was while living in Michigan in the late 1940’s that my grandma was born.
In the 1960’s, my grandma meet my grandpa. His family was also a family of immigrants. My Great Great Grandfather John Tassos immigrated from Greece to Chicago, and he and his family ran businesses there. It was there that he meet my Great Great Grandmother who immigrated from Lebanon. Together they moved to Michigan and ran businesses there. It was there that my Great Grandpa Steve Tassos was born. Steve Tassos also served with distinction in World War II in the European Theater, and after the war my grandpa was born. He married Great Grandma Jean, and they helped their family run a restaurant. After my grandpa Tassos was born, Steve Tassos began working in the automotive industry as served as the Union representative for many years. Together, with his wife, they became known as members of the community who always had their doors open and provided food for any emergency or occasion.
Now let’s move on to the other side of the family. In the 1990’s, my dad immigrated from India to the U.S. He came here to complete his Master’s in Engineering, and it was while at Western Michigan that he meet my mom. Our large family of immigrants readily welcomed him, and my brother and I were born. He and my mom, regularly assists various charities and volunteer in the community. Our family showed us the importance of helping others and helping to make our nation, a better place for all of us. My parents then encouraged me to be involved in community service and attain good grades so that I can get a college education and follow my dreams of being a Doctor or Psychologist. I feel that by helping others, I can continue the legacy that my ancestors had of putting others before themselves. The American Creed for my family has been to be able to make a livelihood and give all your blessings to those who struggle in hunger, unemployment or medical issues. By putting others before oneself and serving others, this nation can be great and we can allow others to thrive.