Date of Birth
Date of Death
Danuta “Donna” Mielnik, age 66, of Burr Ridge, IL, passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday, November 15, 2017. Gone before goodbyes could be said, she leaves her family with warm memories as a balm for their broken hearts.
She was born on June 22, 1951 in Debica, Poland, the daughter of Piotr and Zofia (Bik) Lenczowski. EARLY YEARS:
Danuta grew up on a small farm near Debica and attended nearby schools where she participated in sports such as swimming and running. Her work ethic was born in those early years on the farm but was balanced with fond memories of campfires and swimming in a river that flowed nearby.
Following graduation, Danuta attended a technical college and worked in the office of a meat packing plant. She was blessed with a daughter Edith in 1976 and worked as a single mom when it wasnâ€™t socially acceptable, or popular to be so. Her strength and resolution to be her own person helped Danuta overcome many obstacles but nothing would compare to what she would encounter in the coming years.
She and Edith vacationed in Wladyslawowo, a northern beach town, and stayed at a bed and breakfast that was owned by a local family. There she met the son of the owners, Wesley Mielnik and before long, not only did their hearts become one, but their fates became intertwined as well. Unmarried and under Communist rule, Danuta and Wesley planned an escape that would eventually take them to the streets of Chicago. Before they begin their flight to freedom, Danuta was faced with the toughest decision of all; leaving Edith in the care of her mother, Zofia. Wesley, as the son of a business owner, had permission to travel across the border into Austria but Danuta could not. As it happened, Danuta went to Austria under the auspices of a sponsored work trip in October of 1980, but was overseen by “minder” that followed her wherever she went. Danuta managed to slip away with promises to meet back at the hotel after a quick stop in the shopping district. Before anyone became the wiser, both Wesley and Danuta fled to Kilb, Austria, where now as refugees, they sought sanctuary. A year later they completed the final leg of their journey, arriving in the United States in July of 1981. They immediately began to prepare the groundwork to arrange passage for Edith. By working tirelessly at their new jobs and working with organizations dedicated to reuniting families, time slipped by. During this time, Polish government knowing they had left their daughter behind, placed Edith with a foster family to use her as leverage and force both Danuta and Wesley to return to Poland. The new family even threatened to adopt Edith, forever taking away any chance for Danuta to see her daughter again. As they felt their dreams of a reunion slip away, Edithâ€™s aunt kidnapped her from preschool and whisked her to safety. Working behind the scenes, Danutaâ€™s family helped make dreams of a tearful reunion a reality. The blessed day came in 1984 when Danuta, Wesley and Edith were finally together again. They began their new life together as a family, near Oakley and Chicago Avenue for a time before attempting to move to Switzerland. Unfortunately, their “refugee” status followed them, and they were denied the chance to become citizens of Switzerland. Back to Chicago they went, but this time to put down their roots near Midway Airport. It was then that they decided to start the process to become US citizens. Through it all, Danutaâ€™s love for Wesley never wavered. They went through hell and came out the other side during their 39 years together and were married in every way that counted except for on a piece of paper. Never one to leave a loose end, Danuta and Wesley made their marriage “official” during a quiet civil ceremony at a courthouse in Chicago on December 9, 1989. They continued to work towards receiving their U.S. citizenship status and became citizens on Feb 4, 1992. After ten years of living by Midway Airport, in 1995, Danuta and Wesley moved to a home they bought in Burr Ridge, where they continued to cherish every single moment and celebrate every single memory together as a family.
Although Danuta worked several jobs over the years, nothing compared to the job of loving her family. She was always reminded of what could have been, and spent the rest of her life in constant contact with her daughter. She also tried to take back those stolen years of Edithâ€™s childhood by never missing a chance to be with her grandchildren. Danuta was never happy having her picture taken so very few pictures of her exist. If she did wind up in the frame, she could only be glimpsed in a corner of the photo, turning away. The only exception to the rule was if her grandchildren were in the picture with her. Then you could see Danutaâ€™s hands outstretched, always holding on to her family as if the link would disappear if she ever were to let go.
Danutaâ€™s story is one that defies belief, but despite the harrowing tales of her younger years, Danuta found peace and happiness in the sun, surrounded by her family. Her thumbs were green like no other and helped to nurture gardens full of both vegetables and flowers alike. That talent followed her to the kitchen where, although she said she hated to cook, no one was better at delivering the authentic tastes and smells of her homeland. If you walked in the door, you were invited to sit at the table. There you were commanded to eat until she was satisfied or it became almost impossible for you to move; whichever came first. Danuta had a helping heart and an organizers soul. She was always helping with anything and everything, picking up her grandkids, doing the dishes, vacuuming and much, much more. Danuta was so proficient that she didnâ€™t just stop at her house. Instead, she continued her “war on dirt” at other homes as a side business. Her heart was her family and that family included some furry feline friends as well. Many cats found a home in her lap and were rescued from an unknown future.. Gone in an instant, Danuta is now in the everlasting arms of her Savior and lives on in the hearts of her family.
She is survived by her loving and dedicated husband, Wesley Mielnik; one daughter, Edith Violet (Armand Dave) Prestidge and their children: Zofia Lorraine, Aniela Grace and Anderson Dane; a step- son, Jacek Mielnik; several siblings still living in Poland and a family of friends.
She is preceded in death by her parents, Jerzy and Zofia Lenczowski as well as other family buried in Poland.
Visitation will be Sunday, November 19, 2017, at Conley Funeral Home, 116 W. Pierce St., Elburn, from 2-4 p.m. with a Rosary to begin at 4 p.m. Mass will be celebrated Monday, November 20, at St. Katherine-Drexel Catholic Church, 8S005 Dugan Rd., Sugar Grove, at 11 a.m., with a time of visitation from 10-10:45 a.m. Interment will follow at Kaneville Cemetery, Kaneville, IL.
In lieu of flowers, a memorial has been established in Danutaâ€™s name to benefit her favorite charities including Ann and Robert H. Lurie Childrenâ€™s Hospital of Chicago. Checks may be made to the “Danuta Mielnik Memorial” and mailed in care of P.O. Box 66, Elburn, 60119. Tributes may also be forwarded to the same address, the Conley Funeral Home Facebook Page, or at www.conleycare.com.
Mass will be celebrated Monday, November 20, at St. Katherine-Drexel Catholic Church, 8S005 Dugan Rd., Sugar Grove, at 11 a.m., with a time of visitation from 10-10:45 a.m.
Visitation will be Sunday, November 19, 2017, at Conley Funeral Home, 116 W. Pierce St., Elburn, from 2-4 p.m. with a Rosary to begin at 4 p.m.
Interment will follow at Kaneville Cemetery, Kaneville, IL.