Joe Greenstein: Love At First Sight
When Minneapolis native Joe Greenstein went overseas to fight the war in Europe he little expected to find a bride. Joe and Maria Greenstein's son, Larry, submitted the following story about how his parents met to the Minnesota's Greatest Generation Share Your Story project.
Our father told us this story of how he met our mother during the last days of World War II. Our mother, Maria Kruk, was actually washing her feet in the Danube River in Bavaria at the time of their first encounter. Our father, Tech 5 Joe Greenstein, was serving as an interpreter with General Patton's Army near the front. We're told it was love at first sight.
Our mother, Maria, was with a group of Polish refugees fleeing to the west and living in a barn. At that first encounter, Maria imposed on our father and fellow soldiers if they could liberate some milk from the farmer for the children in their group. Dad said Mom was never shy. She was actually an actress in Poland before the war.
Apparently, the farmer was charging the refugees exorbitant fees for the barn accommodations and food was scarce. Our dad never said what transpired between the American soldiers and the Bavarian farmer, but life radically improved for Mother's refugee group thereafter.
For three weeks our parents, Maria and Joe, saw a lot of each other, fell in love and made some commitments. Our dad was then redeployed 42 miles away. We were told our mother followed the entire distance by foot.
Unfortunately, Dad contracted a life-threatening fever and was shipped to an Army hospital in France. He was gone. Mother was devastated. Apparently, Dad was to be flown back to the United States as a casualty. By then the war in Europe was over.
There must have been something to their relationship because by whatever means a lowly tech corporal had in Patton's 3rd Army, he got a message to our mother.
Maria was to refugee to Army headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. Dad would send for her as a war bride. We're told mother hitch-hiked the entire way.
The wait in Frankfurt was long. Mother was hired as clerical support for the US Army. That particular job she was proud of her entire life. Our father reopened his grocery store on Plymouth Avenue in North Minneapolis and waited through months of red tape for his war bride.
Finally Maria and Joe were united in 1947. Maria was one of Minnesota's first war brides. They lived in North Minneapolis and operated the grocery store. They had us two children and several grandchildren.
Joe Greenstein passed away in 1980. The former grocer and city councilman had an annual pumpkin giveaway that earned him fame in the Twin Cities.
Maria passed away in 1997. Through the 1950s and 1960s she worked quite hard at bringing her entire family to America from communist Poland. She was a loving wife and mother.
We children often joke about what if Maria hadn't washed her feet in the Danube River that day? Of course, we wouldn't be here and this romantic story would never be told.
Greenstein, Larry, War Bride. Minnesota Historical Society: Share Your Story, 2006.
Greenstein, Larry, The Pumpkin Man. Minnesota Historical Society: Share Your Story, 2006.