Strangers to neighbors in Union City


My wife Gosia earned her Green Card in October 2019. She gave eight-weeks’ notice at her chief accountant job in Poland and shipped what she could to Indiana.

“Wait, how did a fellow from Indiana meet a Polish lass,” you may ask?

I persuaded Gosia in June of 2015 via an online request to take me on a tour of Warsaw, Poland. My grandfather, an orphan, had deserted the Russian army and sailed to America from occupied Poland with a Bible and a dream of farming his own 80 acres.

I wanted to see the city of my roots. I hadn’t expected the guide to have big, expressive eyes, a smashing smile, and wit coupled with intelligence.

That’s how a one-time visit turned into a shared lifetime.

Gosia and I commuted for three years, communicated daily by Skype. She made 24 trips to America in three years.

Three times we visited my 20 acres in the Alaska bush. She put up with outhouses and showers at truck stops.

I spent a long sabbatical in Poland finishing a book called “Hazing: Destroying Young Lives,” and stayed at Gosia’s tiny family cabin.

We tied the knot in May of 2017. My friend Kevin, a Franklin judge, wed us.

My great Grizzly colleagues and some of my students came to the ceremony. My karaoke partner/fishing buddy Jim serenaded guests at the reception. My grown son Adam and his son attended.

Gosia accompanied me to Indiana from Poland after Christmas 2019. Her daughter Natalia, a WHO researcher in Micronesia, flew to Warsaw and helped me pick out a tree on Christmas Eve.

There was a family sendoff over pierogis, cabbage dishes and good ol’ American meatloaf, my contribution.

Friends of Gosia’s daughter rented our flat.

I announced in February that I planned to retire from Franklin College after spring semester. So, my wife and I decided to sell our circa 1920 house near Franklin. The house had grown too small for a couple with thousands of books and a home gym.

We planned to search for a house in New England over Spring Break ‘20.

The pandemic made distant travel impossible.

Our house buyers would not grant an extension.

I figured Muncie might do. So we bought an old house there.

But when the inspector checked the basement, he discovered the brace beam below the kitchen had rotted through.

That detail must have slipped the seller’s mind when writing disclosures. With the deal off, we had nowhere to go, and we had to go Nowhere fast.

Enter an amazing realtor named Patty Constable. She found us the house of our dreams in Union City, Ind. And became a good friend.

The seller’s realtor was a great guy whose grandfather was from Vilnius, Lithuania, also the birthplace of Gosia’s late father. He permitted us to take possession one month before the final sale.

We moved by van and rental truck for many days. A college student named Kyler and five other great local young men did the heavy lifting.

Each evening, we had to return to our old house. We worried the house in Union City might be robbed in our absence.

I stopped a young Union City police officer. I asked if he’d have the night shift check on our house now and then. No problem, he said.

To this day, my wife and I wave to all the Waldron peace officers as they pass.

In other parts of America, police and citizens sometimes clash. In Union City, there is mutual respect.

Things were going too well. That’s when Trouble came for a visit.

It looked like we might lose the Union City house.

The former owner of our house had died, and his seriously ailing wife was in an institution. A relative acting as executor learned too late that the owners had obligated themselves with two mortgages.

By then our new house near the Ohio border had new carpeting, and a talented handyman named Josh replaced plumbing, electrical outlets and more. Gosia painted the upstairs.

We didn’t want to move and start looking again. A delay would make me miss deadlines on two contracted books.

The seller lacked means. We paid the seller’s lien on top of the purchase price.

Then in September, the Greenville Daily Advocate assigned me this “Near Darke” column, accompanied by Gosia’s photos. Our first story was on the Stateline semipro football Seminoles. Our friends Josh and Kyler played. They introduced us to player-coach Lance Mock, another super guy on the Union City police force.

The column surprised me. Even with my protective mask on, people recognized me and said nice things about past stories.

Fast forward to today. We love Union City and adjoining Darke County. We roam the trails and the great parks. We use the comfortable Carnegie Library. We gab with the great staff at the post office.

Oh, and we bought a cow. Here’s the story.

All summer we bought vegetables at the Union City farmers market from a local Amish couple named Reuben and Anna. Gosia asked if we could buy fresh milk.

They sold us a share in a cow for $50 a year, plus a small weekly fee for two gallons of milk.

Our cow is named Twinkle. Reuben and Anna are delightful folks to visit each week at their sprawling farm.

Now Gosia makes cheese, butter and sour cream at home. She also brews home-made beer and makes jam from fresh pumpkin.

We also buy two dozen fresh eggs weekly from a farmer named John. He loves to cook and gave us a batch of different bread starters.

We never thought a dot on a map named Union City would feel like home, but it has become home.

We love the people of this city of trains.

The drivers of every passing electric cart nod a greeting as they pass.

The city manager shouts “Hey, Neighbor” when his city pickup goes by the city’s tennis courts where we played right up until Thanksgiving.

There’s the nearby Buckeye beer and wine store where Renata, the clerk, has our special-ordered Alaskan Amber at the window when she sees us pull up on Thursdays. Renata’s grandmother is from Poland, and that tickles Gosia to death.

The friendly post office clerks wave our packages at us even before we give them a yellow slip.

Being good neighbors goes both ways.

Recently, we left off a delivery of eggs, milk and groceries on the porch of a local family forced into quarantine.

Gosia and I aim to do our part as good citizens.

The author’s wife Gosia, reared in Poland, feeling at home in Union City. author’s wife Gosia, reared in Poland, feeling at home in Union City. Provided photo

By Hank Nuwer

Near Darke

Hank Nuwer is a local author who shares his reflections on the people and places he finds in Darke County and neighboring Indiana. His wife, Gosia, a native of Warsaw, Poland, is a freelance photographer.

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