By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN When 16-year-old Andrew Pogreba immigrated to America from Poland in the 1800s, it’s doubtful he knew that his descendents would gather together every year for a “Pogreba potluck” in Delano.
“We are very lucky to have a good crowd,” Andrew’s granddaughter Leona Fake of Delano said.
The first Sunday in August, between 100 to 200 relatives come from California, Germany, Poland, and several Minnesota cities, to attend the reunion.
“It’s potluck,” Fake said. “You never saw so much food in your life.”
The tradition began in 1981, and it’s a celebration Fake and her sister, Jean Farniok, look forward to every year.
“It’s a good chance for everyone to get together and visit,” Farniok said.
“We’re all relatively close around here,” Fake added. “That’s what makes it a precious gathering.”
The Pogreba family tree in Minnesota started with Andrew Pogreba, who worked in New York before settling in the Delano area. In Poland, Pogreba was a baker, but he joined the railroad in Minnesota.
Pogreba was the oldest of seven boys in his family, and the first to come to the United States.
“He always wrote and told his family how great America was,” Fake said. “The freedom was so precious at that time.”
Eventually, four of Pogreba’s brothers made their homes in the US as well.
Pogreba married a woman named Emma, who emigrated from Norway when she was 8 years old.
Fake and Farniok still have the letters Emma wrote about coming to America.
“It was either all trees or no trees,” Fake recalled Emma writing. “You’d never see a house.”
Emma and Andrew had eight children, including Fake and Farniok’s mother, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth and her husband, Anthony Schaust, had 10 children.
Now, Fake is a mother to six, and a grandmother to 13. Farniok has 14 children, 34 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
Having so much family around is a “comfortable feeling,” Farniok said.
Through the Pogreba potluck, Fake and Farniok have become friends with family members they had never met before.
Their mother’s cousin, Ed Pogreba, and his wife, Jane, live in California, but come to the picnic every year.
Ed and Jane found out about the picnic from a friend who lives in the Delano area.
“They called me up and asked if they could come,” Fake said.
“We didn’t know them at all and they didn’t know us,” she added. “We ended up sending pictures to them so we could see what each other looked like.”