Obituary of Stefania Kelley
Stefania Nykiel Kelley peacefully passed away at home, with her children at her side, on January 6, 2024 on her 97th birthday after a long, long illness. She was the daughter of Jan and Karolina Nykiel. She was taken care of throughout these last years by her son Stefan, who provided her with extraordinary care, attention, and most of all love. She is also survived by her daughter, Alice, her son-in-law Ralph, granddaughters Kelley (who was given Stefania's last name) and Stefanie (who was given Stefania's first name), Kelley's husband Michael Fazzini, and 4 great grandchildren - Maddie, AJ, Ralph and Vinny.
Stefania was born on a farm near Zolynia, Lancut, Poland on January 6, 1927. She was forced out of her home on February 10, 1940 at 2 a.m. at the age of 13 and deported by freight train to Siberia. She remained in Siberia until August, 1942. She was among the 50 percent of the deportees who survived this 2-year ordeal. Upon release, she was initially scheduled to be sent to Kenya, but instead was evacuated to a newly-established orphanage in Persia (now Iran) in the town of Isfahan, which became known as the "City of Polish Children." Royal princes, affluent families, and the city’s religious institutions donated their palaces, mansions, monasteries and convents for use as orphanages, hospitals and schools. In 1944, she was sent to a "transit camp" in India called Valivada. The Maharaja of India accepted about 5,000 children, stating: "I am trying to do whatever I can to save the children; as they must regain their health and strength after these dreadful trials..." She remained in India almost 3 years until 1947 when she was very fortunate to be approved for one of only fifty available VISAs to secure her entry into the United States. She arrived in San Francisco in February 1947 after 32 days at sea and then took trains from San Francisco to Scranton, PA where she started Marywood College in the Fall of 1947, speaking almost no English. She was sponsored by a local Catholic Church. She graduated in May 1951, got a job at Methodist Hospital as a dietitian, and lived in the Nurse's Residence. She met her future husband, John Kelley, at a military dance in August 1952 and they married in April, 1953. She worked managing food service for patients and staff at hospitals throughout the Philadelphia area. Exclusive of family events, two of Babci's happiest days were when she received recognition from the Governor as Pennsylvania State Employee of the Year; and her reunion, in 1997, with her childhood best friend from the camp in India, fifty years after they had last seen each other.
Very few people knew Stefania Kelley.... they knew "Babci". Most thought that Babci was her given name. Friends and neighbors all referred to her as Babci, but only a lucky few - Kelley, Stefanie, Maddie, AJ, Ralphie and Vinny had the privilege of having her as their own Polish grandmother .... Babci.To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Stefania Kelley, please visit Tribute Store