An immigrant’s tale

Nadia Horb learned early how to think on her feet. She was born in 1946 in a displaced persons camp in Germany, where her parents were sent after being uprooted from their home in Ukraine and forced to work on German farms during World War II. As a toddler, she moved with the family to Paris. When she was 11, they decamped for Chicago where, contrary to popular European notions, the streets were not paved with gold.

In America, Horb, the oldest of six children, became a survivalist in an immigrant’s sense of the word. She was the first to learn the new language, the new customs, the mysterious habits and expectations that come with a new country.

Her father–Berezecky was the family name–opened a small grocery store in a Ukrainian neighborhood and depended on his young daughter for her rapidly acquired English language and management skills. The early years were lean. Spaghetti with milk was a typical supper. (more…)

There was no doubt that Marcus Woods would go to college. And thrive there. His mother, Sheila, pretty much required it. But for an only child growing up in a single-parent family near 77th and Bishop streets, having a will didn’t necessarily guarantee having a way.

When he was 14, Woods and his mother moved to the south suburbs so he could attend Thornwood High School in South Holland.

“The way I looked at it,” he said, “and the way my mom sold it to me, it was an opportunity to re-invent myself. We wanted a fresh start.”

The “re-invention” hardly broke a sweat academically, excelling in math and science and deciding, early, on a career as a structural engineer. Which, today, 14 years later, he is.

“My mom made the decision I’d go to college,” he said. “But the institutions I wanted to go to were very expensive. Coming from a single-parent family, I knew scholarships would be the only way I could attend the college of my choice.” (more…)