After being baffled by her quirky habits, a woman decided to dig into her mother's mysterious past. But she didn't know that the shocking discovery would turn her whole life topsy-turvy.
Learning about one's family history is an exciting experience, especially for youngsters. But sometimes, exploring family secrets buried in time might inspire many emotions, influencing one's sense of self.
Gail Lukasik from Ohio experienced something similar when a moment of revelation changed everything she knew about herself, her mom, and her entire family.
[Left] Harold Kalina and Alvera Frederic pictured on their wedding day; [Right] Gail Lukasik and Alvera Frederic. | Source: YouTube.com/TODAY
THE WAR-TIME LOVERS
Lukasik grew up in suburban Ohio in a white neighborhood. Her parents, Harold Kalina and Alvera Frederic met during World War II. Her father, Kalina, had a great sense of humor and was proud of serving in the Pacific, while her mom, Alvera, was breathtakingly beautiful.
In 1944 after the war, Kalina and Alvera married and settled in a working-class neighborhood in Parma, Ohio. In 1946, their daughter, Lukasik, was born. Alvera raised her daughter to respect all people, regardless of their ethnicity. However, Lukasik's father was casually racist.
Gail Lukasik holds an old photograph of her parents, Harold Kalina and Alvera Frederic. | Source: YouTube.com/TODAY
HER MOTHER'S QUIRKY HABITS
Throughout her childhood, Lukasik was mystified by her mom in some ways. While she never questioned her mother's quirky attitude as a kid, her curiosity was piqued as she grew up.
The Ohio woman recalled that her mother never visited her family in New Orleans after getting married. Moreover, Alvera always wore makeup to bed and never forgot to put on a light foundation before she slept.
Lukasik shared that her mother refrained from sun exposure unless she had a wide-brim hat. Alvera also covered her hands with gloves. But the biggest mystery for Lukasik was her mom's selective memory when talking about her own father, Azemar Frederic.
Harold Kalina and Alvera Frederic. | Source: YouTube.com/TODAY
A LIFE-ALTERING REVELATION
"I said, 'Mom, when was he born? When did he die?' And, she said, 'Oh, I don't know. I can't remember,'" shared Lukasik. Even more shocking was that Lukasik never saw one photo of her grandfather and knew nothing about him growing up.
Nagged by the mystery, Lukasik searched through the 1900 Louisiana census in 1995 and made a shocking discovery. In the records, Azemar and his entire family were listed as black.
Soon afterward, the then-48-year-old woman reached out to the state of Louisiana, requesting her mom's birth certificate. Lukasik said she pretended to be her mother to get the birth documents, and what she then saw left her shocked and speechless.
Alvera Frederic. | Source: YouTube.com/TODAY
MORE SHOCKING DETAILS
According to Alvera's birth certificate, she was listed as "col," or colored. Finally, in 1997, Lukasik plucked up the courage to confront her mom, who initially became indignant and kept saying she was white. In an interview with Megyn Kelly on TODAY, Lukasik recounted:
"My mom became very quiet, and then said, 'You have to promise me you will never tell anyone until after I die, because how will I hold my head up with my friends if they know?'"
Alvera had spent her whole life "passing as white," which meant that she visually appeared white, although her birth and census records listed her as "colored." When she married Lukasik's father, she moved north to Ohio, and from that moment on, she took on the white race.
Gail Lukasik pictured as a baby with her parents, Harold Kalina and Alvera Frederic. | Source: YouTube.com/TODAY
PAYING A HUGE PRICE
Lukasik said she walked into the family history center to dig the census records as a white woman. Still, after discovering everything, she was shocked and didn't know who she was anymore.
Alvera, who had an African-American father and a mixed-race mother, sacrificed passing as white to fit in the society, avail better opportunities, and survive in those times. But in doing so, she turned her back on her mixed-race heritage.
Gail Lukasik pictured as a little girl with her mom, Alvera Frederick. | Source: YouTube.com/TODAY
"WHITE LIKE HER"
After her mother's demise in 2014, Lukasik wrote a book about her experience and journey, "White Like Her." She also told her children, Christopher and Lauren, about their grandmother. Lukasik revealed that her son was "fascinated and intrigued." She also added:
"Of all my mother’s grandchildren, my son resembles her the most. Also, he doesn’t favor either my husband or me."
Lukasik explained that her daughter was also intrigued by the news and said, "Her grandmother was her grandmother, and it changed nothing about her feelings for her."
LEARNING FROM THE BEST
The proud mom said she had learned to be tolerant of all people irrespective of their ethnicity or race from her mother and wished to raise her children the same way.
We're glad Lukasik and her children handled their family history so maturely, and we hope they continue to practice love and kindness toward everyone. Please share this story with your loved ones if it touched your heart.
Here's another story that you might like, and it's about a black girl born to white parents who was cut off from her family and hugged her mom again after 30 years. Click here to read the complete story.