Long Distance Babcia
Grandmother stays connected 4,000 miles away
Bozena Obst holds granddaughter Magda Cerrone.
Photo courtesy of the Cerrone family
It may not be common practice to associate a grandma with gadgets and gizmos, but, for one woman in Poland, today’s advanced technology allows her to communicate on a daily basis with her beloved granddaughter living thousands of miles away in Western New York.
Maintaining a relationship with someone from afar can be difficult, but the challenge of staying in touch can be conquered if there is a strong enough desire to learn how to navigate computer programs and comprehend how to properly use a smartphone.
Michael and Joanna Cerrone of Hamburg are determined to have their daughter Magda and Joanna’s mother in Poland know each other and form a unique relationship. That focus has helped formulate a shared goal to adapt with the times and take advantage of technological advancements that allow for frequent communication despite obvious physical barriers.
“The most important thing for me is that my daughter and my mother talk and see each other on a regular basis,” says Joanna Cerrone. “We make sure we do that almost every single day, sometimes maybe four or five times a day. I value and treasure that. I know my mother does, and I know as Magda gets older she will grow to appreciate it as well.”
By using cell phones to access video chat programs such as FaceTime and Skype, the Cerrones can easily contact Joanna’s mother, Bozena Obst, who lives over 4,200 miles away in Ostrow Wielkopolski, a city located in central Poland. Their frequent conversations often include long stretches of interaction between grandmother and granddaughter, lively talks that include back-and-forth banter exclusively in Polish.
“My mother is sixty-eight years old and knows very little English,” explains Joanna. “Our desire is for Magda to learn how to speak and fully understand Polish. I’m very proud of where I’m from and I want Magda to experience that, which is why, from my perspective, it’s important to help establish their relationship and maintain it by staying in touch throughout the day.”
Magda, who turns three years old this month, enjoys speaking to her babcia in Poland. She has quickly grasped the basic fundamentals of the Polish language, which thrills her parents.
“We have committed as a family to embrace the language to maintain their relationship,” says Michael Cerrone. “Magda being bilingual is how she will maintain her connection to her grandmother. As the father and the son-in-law, I am so pleased that they are able to bond and maintain regular communication. The familiarity of speaking sometimes several times each day allows them to bond even though they are several thousand miles apart. It’s really amazing to witness.”
Bozena Obst usually travels from Poland to the United States once a year for an extended visit, staying with the Cerrones for several weeks. Because of the familiarity she has with Magda, they avoid the awkward or clumsy interactions that can hamper many long-distance relationships.
“Because they know each other’s voices and faces, there is no hesitation whatsoever by Magda to embrace and openly engage with her grandma,” explains Joanna. “They just pick up where they left off the last time they saw each other. It’s incredible to see, and it wouldn’t be possible without my iPhone and using FaceTime every single day.”
“Without the technology, it would be extremely difficult to maintain the incredible relationship that Magda and her grandmother have,” says Michael. “We are blessed and fortunate. It’s also allowed Magda to stay in touch and become familiar with her aunt, uncle, and cousins who also live in Poland.”
The advanced technology and the family’s commitment to take the time to stay connected means that the 4,236 mile distance between grandmother and granddaughter has become less of a burden.
“Magda and her grandma have a very close relationship. She is bilingual, and we have so many wonderful memories that we can instantly share even though my mother is so far away,” says Joanna. “I believe we are truly fortunate and very blessed. Is it different? Of course it is. But I wouldn’t change it, because all of the different factors have allowed for the two of them to find love and great admiration for one another, which is what I think being a grandmother is all about.”
Daniel Meyer is a freelance writer and contributor to Forever Young and Buffalo Spree.