ShareThis Page

Wilkins woman honored with Quilt of Valor

| Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, 10:27 a.m.
Irena Kierski of Wilkins with her Quilt of Valor.
Christine Manganas | For the Tribune-Review
Irena Kierski of Wilkins with her Quilt of Valor.

Irena Kierski's daughter, Barbara Grossman, can recall the many quilts her mother made for her and her four siblings using old blankets, shirts, sheets and even worn pants.

“When we were growing up, she was always remaking things, and the quilts were always on our beds,” Grossman said. “You cut things up and made them into useful items back then because it's all you had.”

So it is fitting that Kierski, who was a prisoner of war in German-occupied Poland during World War II, was honored recently with a quilt from North Pittsburgh Quilts of Valor.

“I believe that I lived a little bit longer so that I could receive such a beautiful quilt,” said Kierski, 91, of Wilkins.

Kierski, from Płock, Poland, was 14 when Germany invaded her home country at the start of World War II. In 1941, she was taken from her family and deported to work in Germany. She eventually found her way back to Warsaw, Poland, but in 1944, she was forced into Germany once more, this time to a prison camp in Lamsdorf.

“Traces of My History,” a 237-page memoir she wrote, tells Kierski's story as a POW in two separate camps and life afterwards — joining Great Britain's armed forces and working at a YMCA canteen, settling in England, starting a family and eventually coming to Pittsburgh in 1968.

Today, she is the oldest living female POW from World War II in the Pittsburgh area.

It was at a quilt show in 2016 hosted by the North Hills Quilt Guild that Grossman and her sister, Ann Szilagyi, told members of the North Pittsburgh Quilts of Valor — a chapter of a nationwide nonprofit that honors veterans with handmade quilts — their mother's narrative.

Georgette Temme, leader of the local Quilts of Valor, said that the organization appreciates making quilts specifically for World War II veterans, and when they heard Kierski's story, members were interested in honoring it.

“Unfortunately, there's so few World War II veterans left,” Temme said. “What I like to do is surprise them. Irena was very taken aback.”

The quilt now sits folded on Kierski's bed as the ones she made decades ago for her children once did. But it will not be limited to being displayed in her home. The quilt and the organization that made it will be featured at the Pittsburgh Creative Arts Festival in April, an event that both of Kierski's daughters help organize.

“I think it's the idea of being recognized is what meant so much to my mom,” Grossman said. “To be recognized with a gift that is a representation of her time as a POW and her work as a veteran, I think it's a very beautiful gesture.”

Christine Manganas is a freelance writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.