A fixture in the community
Since 1968, Christa Kaminisky has served the comumunity
It's hard for most Americans to imagine what it must have been like to gain freedom from oppression when most have had freedom their entire lives.
But Christa Kaminski can tell you.
Kaminski who is a contract sales representative for the Sun Advocate has lived through the largest war man has ever known, escaped communism and then thrived with her family in the United States.
It is and should be a story of interest to everyone.
Kaminski was born in Ludwigslust, the state of Mecklenburg, Germany in the 1930s. Her father was an architect and a contractor. Her mother was a professional seamstress. Along with her three sisters she thrived in the town, where they lived on the outskirts of the city.
Then came the Nazis and World War II. While many from that country might spell out horrors of war for five or six years of their life, to a young girl growing up in northern Germany Kaminski said that for the most part "things were fine during the war."
Kaminski says that there were shortages of things and the people had to use ration stamps or coupons, but that her childhood during most of those years were pretty happy. The war however did come home to roost toward the end, when Germany was losing the war.
"My father went in the Army and acted as a courier," she said.
As the shortages got worse her family was able to grow food for themselves because they had a single home on the outskirts of town with some property.
Then in 1944, one day, she saw paratroopers coming out of the sky. They were Americans. The forward thrust by the allies apparently ended badly however because many of the American soldiers who ran off to hide in the forest outside of town were killed and many more marched away.
"That day an airplane crashed across the street," said Kaminski referring to an allied plane that had been shot down. "For a long time after we played in and around that plane."
But that wasn't all she saw. Her town was bombed four or five times during the war, with the allies largely after the rail yards there.
"You could look down the street into town and see the town tower, but in front of it were buildings all falling out in the street," she said. "It was kind of funny because the bombers it seemed would hit everything but the rail yard when they bombed the town."
She said at one point they closed the schools for about two weeks after one bombing. When they went back to school about two thirds of the children she went to school with were missing.
Later Christa went to live with her grandparents in their home about 10 kilometers away from her parents house.
"That is where I was living when the Americans came and occupied the area," said Kaminski. "The very first American I saw was a Negro soldier driving into town on the hood of a jeep with a big knife in his mouth."
She later found out that the fierceness of the scene was actually a joke because the Americans knew that the German military had withdrawn from the area. But there was another military force that she would come to fear much more than anything she had seen before. It was the Russian Army, and in particular the Mongols who made up much of that invading force.
"We got lucky," she said. "We were on the American side of the dividing line."
The Mongols used rape as one of the weapons of war that they had at their disposal. Many German women were raped by the Soviets.
But that line of demarcation between east and west was not to hold the way it was situated in those early days. As negotiations went on it was apparent that the line was going to move farther west, and the Russians would be occupying more of Germany. The Americans had actually overrun where they were supposed to be.
Christa's aunt, who had been on the wrong side of the line got raped by the Soviet troops. But she snuck out of that area and headed west taking her daughter and Kaminski with her back toward Ludwigslust. When they got there they found a surprise.
"We approached our house and found that the American's had occupied our house," she said. "The men there told us that the family had moved over to a restaurant across the street from our home. The American boys were very nice."
About six weeks later, when the negotiations concerning the dividing line between East and West Germany was decided Ludwigslust fell within the east. That is when the Americans pulled back.
"We were on quarantine for 48 hours," she said. "We couldn't leave our homes and then the Russians came."
It was a complete switch from before the war. The newly established East German government took all the private businesses away from the business owners and everything closed.
"Everything just shut down," said Kaminski. "We couldn't buy anything and that is when the hunger started. After that we never had the luxuries that we have in the west in food, clothes or anything."
Kaminski said that her dad returned home, but that the Russians wouldn't let him work because he had been in the German military.
"He was being punished," she said.
But here dad still knew people. Kaminski always had an artist's ability and her father knew some people and was able to get her a job at 14 years of age as an apprentice sign painter and decorator.
Her dad was eventually able to get out of East Germany and get a job with the city of Cologne, where he helped to repair the war damage.
"There weren't any walls at that time so it was easier to get out than it was later," said Kaminski.
Her younger sister also was able to go to the west, but she did it legally by going through Berlin and through a checkpoint. Her sister however, came back for a visit.
"After that she told me what to do and I was able to get a passport to visit my dad," said Kaminski. "However, once over I did not intend to come back."
And once over the border, she didn't.
"My mother was punished by the authorities in a number of ways when I did not return.
She ended up in Cologne looking for work. Her father lived in an underground city that was really kind of a boarding house for men so he didn't have a place for her to stay. So she found a temporary home in a girls home run by the Lutheran Church. Then she got a job in a department store hand painting advertising.
"In those days there were no computers," she said. "It was all done by hand."
During that time she met Egan Kaminski, who had also escaped from East Germany. They became close and decided to marry each other, but he already had plans to come to the United States. He came to the U.S. a year before Christa and then she showed up in Salt Lake City. Egan was a baker and he finally ended up with a job in Price at the Balota's Bakery. That was in 1958.
Over the next few years Christa raised her son Freddy and then she got a job at Rex Hanson's drug store in downtown Price as a soda jerk.
"When I got the job I didn't even know what a soda jerk was," she said. "And Rex told me that to be a true American you had to have seven nationalities in you."
When she asked him why he hired her he told her "because you have an accent."
In 1965 she became a citizen of the United States of America.
As she worked there she began to know a lot of people around town. Two of the people she met were Robert Finney, the former publisher of the Sun Advocate and Mac Johnson who owned the Price Trading Company. When they found out about her art background they both wanted to hire her. In the end she took a part time job with each, doing signs for Johnson and ads and ad layout for Finney.
Not too long after she went full time for the Sun Advocate. Over the years she was art director and eventually became the composition manager. That was in the days of paste up. When computers came around she decided it was time to try something different, so Finney gave her a job in sales.
He set up her first sales call, and little did she know that he had rigged it so that first customer would be easy to work with and would say yes to what she proposed.
"I went out on that sales call and drove around the block three times before I got the courage to stop and go in," she said laughing. "It went well and the customer was very nice."
In 2000, Kaminski won the Jim Cornwell Distinguished Service Award from the Utah Press Association. It is an award to honor distinguished and outstanding newspaper professionals whose service to the industry exemplifies the dedication and expertise required to make a newspaper successful. This award is only give to one person a year, out of thousands who labor in the business in the state each year.
Kaminski retired in 2005 as a full-time employee, but came back as a contract sales person within a few months, a job she still does today. She has literally been working at the Sun Advocate since 1968.
Kaminski is known for a healthy lifestyle. She still walks (although running is not far behind) and can do at least 40 military pushups when asked. She says however, she has to rest by holding herself up in between them at the count of 20.
"None of the rest of us could do that," says Jenni Fasselin, her sales manager.
Speaking of health, Kaminski presently does a healthy business with her customers who appear weekly in the pages of the paper. She said she never wants to retire again.
"I like to see all my customers," she said. "They are my friends."