Alena Sesinova

Family Tribute:Family Tribute: Alena Sesinova

In Loving Memory of Alena Sesinova

Do not stand at my grave and weep:I am not there, I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow.I am the diamond glints on the snow.I am the sunlight on ripened grain.I am the gentle autumn rain.When you awaken in the morning’s hush, I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight.I am the soft stars that shine at night.Do not stand at my grave and cry:I am not there, I did not die.

- author unknown

At a memorial service for Alena Sesinova, bags were passed out to guests.

Momentos of Alena

In this bag are a few items that symbolize the things that Alena loved:

The flag:because she loved America and all it’s values.

The shell:because she loved P-town, Puerto Rico and the ocean.

Red Hots:because she loved hot and spicy foods.

The computer:because that is what enabled her to pay for everything she loved.

and last but not least.

The Vodka:Well…just because.She Worked Hard to Live Freely in America

Though she had only been an American citizen for 25 of her 57 years, Alena Sesinova had a fierce and passionate devotion to her adopted homeland.

'You couldn’t say anything about America,' said her close friend, Barbara Cattano of Brooklyn. 'For her, this was the country of freedom.'

It was a freedom that Sesinova worked long and hard to partake of. At age 25, she left her native Czechoslovakia -- and her family -- because, Cattano said, 'she hated communism.'

Young and intellectual, Sesinova had completed a degree in communications, Cattano said. Under the communists, however, 'she couldn’t get the books she wanted. She couldn’t get the papers she wanted.

'She vowed at the time that she would come to live in freedom, and she did,' Cattano said. 'It was the freedom to be who she was, and to become what she wanted to become.'

But Sesinova’s path was a difficult one, to say the least. She left home without telling her family where she was going, for fear they would be subjected to harsh questioning. Pretending she was going on a youth group trip, she boarded a train to Paris.

She supported herself at first as a hotel chambermaid, and then as a housekeeper with a family. 'Which is kind of funny,' Cattano said, 'because cooking and cleaning was not her strong point.' After a year, Sesinova had learned French and saved enough money to fulfill her dream of going to America.

But life was no easier when Sesinova arrived here, in 1971, with no English and very little money. She shared a room in the Bronx with three other people, and worked at a factory, attaching handles to ladies handbags.

Still, Cattano said, Sesinova fell in love with the freedoms of her new country. 'When she came here, she could hardly read English, but she would buy every newspaper anyway, just to have them,' she said.

Sesinova took English classes offered by a Junior Women’s League and eventually took a job at Macy’s luncheonette counter. Then she scraped together enough money to enroll at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, where she earned an associate’s degree in computer science.

And it was up and up from there. At 57, when she was lost in the terrorist attacks, Sesinova had a beautiful seven-room apartment in Brooklyn Heights. She loved her job in information technology at Marsh USA on the 96th floor of Tower One. And she was looking forward to retirement and buying a house with Cattano near the ocean.

Cattano attributes Sesinova’s success to her mother, Johana.

'Her mother always said she could do or be whatever she wanted to,' Cattano said. 'She really instilled that in Alena. And she was completely fearless, because she never saw any obstacle that she couldn’t surmount. She didn’t see anything she couldn’t do.'

It was five years after she left her homeland before Sesinova was allowed to return, but since then she had gone two or three times a year to what is now the Czech Republic, to visit her mother and brother, Petr. With Cattano, she also traveled widely for pleasure, across Europe, Latin America and Asia.

But, Cattano said, 'Everywhere we went, she would say, ’There’s no country like America.’'

(c) 2001 Newsday, Inc. Reprinted with permission. www.newsday.com

Alena Sesinova: When in Doubt, Serve Tuna

Alena Sesinova never fully mastered English, a trait that her friends found endlessly endearing. She dispensed entirely with certain articles of speech, like the word 'the,' and when she had had a glass of red wine or two her Czechoslovakian accent would grow thicker still.

When she arrived alone in New York in the early 1970’s from Prague and landed a job at the Macy’s cafeteria, she would serve a tuna sandwich to any customer she couldn’t understand.

'She was a survivor — she’d made it in America, and she loved this country,' said her friend of 25 years, Nanette Shaw.

Ms. Shaw said she sometimes kidded Ms. Sesinova for always having an American flag in her car, and always the response was the same: America, Ms. Sesinova would say, was the land that had given her her life, and that was not to be forgotten.

Ms. Sesinova, 57, had been trained as an engineer under the Communist regime, and made the transition to computer work in the 1970’s, and later information technology at Marsh Inc.

She lived in Brooklyn Heights and after many years had attained what she considered the highest symbol of making it in New York: a seven-room apartment.

Copyright (c) 2001 by The New York Times Co. Reprinted by permission.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010 On December 22, 2007 Curt and I were in New York City disembarking the Holland America vessel the Noordam after a cruise down the coast to the Caribbean. We made arrangement to take a tour of the city while we were waiting for our flight back to Grand Rapids. We visited many noteworthy sites in the city, none as thought provoking as Ground Zero. We arrived at the World Financial Center’s Winter Garden which overlooks Ground Zero and as our bus coasted to a stop I could see people coming out of the building in various stages of sadness from sedate quietness to sobbing. We walked up the marble steps to the top where we could look out onto the site and my mind became very relaxed. I remember feeling an overwhelming calmness, almost emptiness. I recall that as I stood there the sounds around me were muffled as though my ears were all stuffed up. There were people at the far ends of the window, but there was no one near me and we all were separated from the window by a gold covered bar. I placed my hands of the bar in front of me and I looked out at what was in front of me. It surprised me that when I looked to my left the art deco building had no damage but when I looked to the right, the building was shattered and in tatters. No one was standing near me, not even slightly, when I felt that a woman was right next to me speaking in my ear. She loudly said, “How Dare They!!” I felt a surge of defiant anger wiz from the right side of my body to the left and immediately I felt furious, like I wanted to lash out and slap someone. I just knew without a doubt that this woman was outraged at the instigators of the events of September 11th. I knew that she was a round woman who wore a 2 piece blue dress with short heeled pumps and that she was a high ranking professional who was not an American born citizen but was very patriotic and I could smell tuna. I also knew that she had died at the Trade Center. As quickly as this all came over me, it was gone with the exception of the terrible anger that remained with me for over an hour. I did not speak to many people about my experience, nor had we known that we were going to the site before we left on the cruise. You can imagine my surprise when my neighbor came over the day after I returned and told me that she found a book in the recycling pile at her job that she thought I might enjoy. It was a book called “Portraits 9/11/01”; “The collected “Portraits of Grief” for the New York Times. It was a book documenting all of the people who died in the Trade Center on September 11th. I could not look at the book for a few days and then I decided to take it along with me to thumb through while I waited for Curt at a doctor’s appointment. I knew in my mind what the lady who spoke in my ear looked like and I decided that if I looked at every picture in the book and did not see her that, yes, as I had suspected, I inherited my grandmother’s nuttiness and I really needed help. It took me several hours and I thought by the time I got to page 456 that I was in the clear. Then, I scanned down page 457 and there she was, Alena Sesinova. This is what was written about her. Alena Sesinova - When in Doubt, Serve Tuna Alena Sesinova never fully mastered English, a trait that her friends found endlessly endearing. She dispensed entirely with certain articles of speech, like the word 'the,' and when she had had a glass of red wine or two her Czechoslovakian accent would grow thicker still. When she arrived alone in New York in the early 1970's from Prague and landed a job at the Macy's cafeteria, she would serve a tuna sandwich to any customer she couldn't understand. 'She was a survivor, she'd made it in America, and she loved this country,' said her friend of 25 years, Nanette Shaw. Ms. Shaw said she sometimes kidded Ms. Sesinova for always having an American flag in her car, and always the response was the same: America, Ms. Sesinova would say, was the land that had given her her life, and that was not to be forgotten. Ms. Sesinova, 57, had been trained as an engineer under the Communist regime, and made the transition to computer work in the 1970's, and later information technology at Marsh Inc. She lived in Brooklyn Heights and after many years had attained what she considered the highest symbol of making it in New York: a seven-room apartment. Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on October 16, 2001. This was her obituary: SESINOVA-Alena. On Sept. 11th, 2001 in the WTC. Taken from us physically but not spiritually. She will live on forever in our hearts and in our minds. Alena was an avid reader with a sharp intellect. She knew more and cared more about America than most natural born citizens. Alena's love for freedom prompted her courageous flight from communist Czechoslovakia & for 30 years she lived the American dream. She lived her life as a hero and died a hero. I will always cherish our friendship, love & life we shared. Alena is survived by her 2 cats, loving companion, many friends and a mother and brother still residing in the Czech Republic. Donations can be made in her name to The Humane Society. Memorial Service will take place on Oct. 27th at 6PM at Hampton Cares, 109 W. 27th St, NYC, 3rd floor. Barbara Cattano. I closed the book on December 27, 2007 and have not opened it again until today. It is still her.
Linda K. Clossen, Friend
Sep 10 2010 8:15PM
i lovee u tetii alena n i miss u i hope u rest in peace and when we join in heaven ill teach i more english i lovee u
kayla, Family
Sep 11 2007 4:28PM
You are missed. Wishing you peace and comfort. Love, Jackie
Jackie Eannel Kolb, Colleague
Sep 11 2002 9:47AM
Elana and I collaborated on various projects while in the M.I.S. dept at Johnson & Higgins(later merged with M&M;) from 1982 until I retired in 1994. I remember consulting with her on various technical issues and found her to be extremely proficient and helpful. I grieve over her loss as well as other colleagues lost in the horror 0f 9/11/01. May Elana and all others rest in peace.
dean gadinis, Colleague
May 11 2002 2:15AM