Trudy Beckers, adopter of the grave of Pfc. Stephen Brycsak

I also grew up with ‘Margraten’. For as the traditional annual Margratenhike, which was always organised by father Modestus from the House St. Joseph (now the juvenile institution Keerpunt), was a kind of have-to experience for everyone. A big happening, as well the hike as the activities on the grounds of ‘Joep’. But then, as kids, we didn’t realise what Margraten stood for… as long as we got the medall.

Throughout the years I started to value the cemetery, for what has happened, for who is buried there, for the peace and quietness, for a moment of retraite when you’re in a dip yourself.
Often thought of adopting a grave, but it just never happened. Thus inspite of the interest for the cemetery and all the events that happened in our region. With Canadian relatives and friends one always visits the cemetery in Margraten, a standardised visit. However, this is so unknown abroad, one mostly get stucked in Normandy. And when telling about the adoptionprogramme, one experiences disbelief and appreciation at the same time.

A special experience for me was always the visit I paid to the cemetery with English scouts/friends from the UK. With ‘full uniform’ and the required respect, those kids put down a wreath and a lot of attention was paid to inform them of what has happened here. Than I’m often jealous, that attention here sometimes diminishes and that matters are taken for granted.

In that same way Memorial day is always impressive too: the atmosphere on both days, the respect, the military presence and definitely the fly-over. It gives you the goosebumbs over and over again. And than well, the bigshots.. they belong to it and will have their own feelings. But seeing veterans or family members, walking slowly because of their age over the grounds, looking for the grave of their loved-one or comrade…. that makes you really quiet.

Due to a family occasion the decision was made and I’ve adopted the grave of Stephen Brycsak, born 29-7-1910. I also started to search for family members based on the IDPF file I got. Just being very bold and writing to all and everyone who’s name and address was mentioned. Amazing how much cooperation one gets from the States.
From the papers we discovered that he died in Ittenbach close to Koningswinter. Also here I’ve done research and got a lot of documentation on how the civilians there experienced the (friendly and respectfull) Allied fighting their way into the village.

It turns out that Stephen voluntarily took the place of married soldiers which were send to the frontlines. He wasn’t married, didn’t have children. Therefore he figured he’d better take the place of married soldiers (with children), see article ‘the decoy doughboy’. Probably stationed in an already liberated area in the Ardennes, maybe southern Limburg they pulled out to Koningswinter ->Remagen, where he died on 24-3-1945. His tank exploded. Obviously nothing can be found about this anymore.

After a lot of research and less succes, I figured I couldn’t find any info anymore on Stephen. One brother seems to be off-earth, the other brother died too. Untill suddenly there came news out of American. Via via numerous complicated ways, they were able to trace a nephew of Stephen. Due to circumstances the family fell apart and this nephew didn’t even know he had an uncle. That must have been a tough message to deal with and to understand. How to feel when a strange person, after more than 60 years, from Europe is doing a search for you?

Due to a tragic accident in the family, the contact came to a hold, but we agreed to get in touch again as soon as they feel up to it. At least they know that there uncle is being looked after in Margraten.