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Tamaroa, IL

History of Family and War Told Through Letters

History of Family and War Told Through Letters
By: Carly O'Keefe

Tamaroa, IL - In war before e-mail, soldiers and families waited weeks for news from loved ones. One family with seven veterans of World War Two, has kept some of the correspondence that are now a record of history - the history of one family and the war that kept them apart.

"The island of Okinawa, that was sure a hot spot, the battles on that island were pretty tough," wrote one Wyciskalla brother.

Through letters, the seven Wyciskalla brothers wrote to their mother and to their sisters, telling the folks back home all about their days during the war. Mother Helen Wyciskalla would write back to her son-soldiers, as would their sisters. The seven brothers would also keep up-to-date with each others through requests like this to mom: "When you write to Vic, August, Paul, Ed and Mike, tell them hello for me."

It was a network of news and sentiment built by a family kept at a distance because of the war. But they all stayed close through the written word.

All seven brothers returned safely from World War Two. Only Ralph Wyciskalla is alive today and living in Tamaroa. For the remaining six veteran brothers, they live on through their letters home. Although for almost 60 years, the pages were forgotten.

"Three years ago, we cleaned out the old house and found them," said Ralph.

"It was fascinating, you just couldn't put them down. When you started opening the envelopes--you'd see the dates on there 1944, 1945," said Ralph's wife Virginia Wyciskalla.

The stationary and sheets of notebook paper, yellowed and worn by time, detail the brothers' day-to-day lives. Responses from Helen Wyciskalla and the sisters tell of difficulties on the home front. Above all, one message rings clear: a mother in the heartland missed her seven of her eight sons.

"I don't know how she lived through it. It's amazing that she did, I guess those old letters were what kept her going," said Ralph.

Virginia says the collection of letters and war-time mementos also gives the next generation of Wyciskallas a look at their ancestry from the Greatest Generation.

'They were preserved for a reason, I think it was for us to pass on to our kids and their kids, just something that their family had been through and they came back and were safe," said Virginia.

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