To whom it may concern,
A man that served his country, going to war, even receiving an award for his work with ammunition from the Army is typically treated as a hero – allowed to live the American dream as he sees fit, especially during his golden years. They are usually not locked away from all of their family and friends like a criminal, with nothing to look forward to but the sweet release of death. For almost 3 years, though, this has not been the case for Stanley Popek.
So, who is Stanley Popek? He was born in 1929 in Poland. During World War II, he was taken to a Nazi concentration camp until he was freed by Allied soldiers. He then chose to fight alongside those soldiers, joining the American Army in France. It was there that he created a technique for more efficiently handling ammunition that earned him an award from the Army.
After the war, he emigrated to the United States, settling right here on the East Side of Buffalo. Soon after, he fell in love with a divorced mother named Aleksandra, also a Polish immigrant, and they got married. They lived in a small 2-family home on Curtiss Street off of Broadway. During their time there, they took in Aleksandra’s grandchildren that had been in foster care. They raised David, Annette and Eric as their own until the children were old enough to be on their own. Also during this time, Stanley and Aleksandra worked hard all their lives, saving what they could planning for the future. They paid off their home, as well. Their hope was not only to be able to live comfortably in their home during their old age on their savings, but also to be able to leave their family home along with all its precious momentos as well as something in the way of money to their grandchild, David North – the one that had always done his best to be there to care for and help them.
Sadly, Aleksandra Popek passed due to complications from surgery in December of 2006. Stanley then lived mostly on his own in the back part of the house until his step-grandson David’s ex-wife, Cindy, came to live with him in the front apartment a few months after Aleksandra’s passing.
As with us all, as Stanley got older, he did have some minor health issues and he did suffer from some gastro-intestinal issues every now and then, even needing to go to the hospital on a couple occasions. During her time living with Stanley, Cindy not only provided meals and companionship for Stanley, but also aided him with his health issues, including giving him his daily shot of insulin for his diabetes.
Stanley had worked his entire life, saving what he could along with his wife, Aleksandra, and they were both given to generosity for those in their life that they felt were deserving of it. But, this type of generosity can cause jealousy to spring up in others that want what other people have. Even though it is our right to spend or give what we have as we please, those that are jealous that they cannot have what we have can always find a way to put a negative spin on anything. Unfortunately, it was this type of jealousy that began putting Stanley into a rapidly deteriorating situation.
Being an old-fashioned European-born man, Stanley kept his money in a bank that was within walking distance. This way, whenever he might find the need, he could walk down to the bank itself and withdraw or deposit money with an actual teller – no debit cards or ATMs for Stanley! The bank where Stanley kept his money was also in an area where a lot of older Polish immigrants had settled and in which many were still living, so being able to speak Polish was a major plus for anyone that worked there. It would seem lucky, then, that Stanley’s bank had such a person. Not only that, but she was also a “distant cousin” of the family. What other way could one see this situation except to think that it was very fortunate? But it would actually prove to be the cause of Stanley losing not only everything he’d worked so hard for his entire life, but his freedom and family as well!
After seeing Stanley’s generosity in using his extra money to help Cindy, David & me (David’s new fiancé) – the people that were caring for and helping him, this “cousin” jealously began trying to get “her share”; she even told Stanley once that she wanted his money, too. But, Stanley hadn’t worked and saved his entire life by being easily fooled by greedy people! So, after her being brushed off and refused by Stanley on more than one occasion, the “cousin” decided that if she couldn’t have his money, no one would (not even Stanley!).
This was when she decided to get into contact with Adult Protective Services of Erie County. She told them exaggerated stories, making it seem as though not only was Stanley being taken advantage of financially, but that his physical and mental well-being were in jeopardy as well. This, of course, could not have been further from the truth.
Taking their lead from the “cousin’s” stories, Adult Protective Services began putting their wheels into motion. They took their opportunity to seize control of the situation when Stanley had gone to the hospital for some gastro-intestinal issues. Upon finding out that he was there, they forced him to be admitted to the hospital. When we heard that Stanley had been admitted, thinking that the issue was a more serious health concern (why else would he be admitted, right?), David and I went to visit him in the hospital. After his being in the hospital for a couple of days and his showing no signs of a truly serious health issue (which had also been confirmed for us by a doctor there), David and I began getting Stanley ready to be taken home. As the three of us were readying to leave, I went to the nurse’s station to inquire about just how we should proceed in order to take Stanley home that day. Suddenly, we were met with great animosity and we were told that we could absolutely NOT take Stanley home… the County had stepped in and Stanley had basically become a prisoner, human property of the government. When we told Stanley (whom we called “Gagee” – which is Polish for “grandpa”), he began to get very upset and said that they could not keep him there against his will, that he was no criminal! When we complained, we were met by one of the heads of the hospital that told us that, if we were to attempt to take Gagee back to his own home, we would all be arrested, including Gagee himself!
Over the course of the next several months, through my making of countless phone calls to many different County and other offices and attorneys, the stories and situation unraveled for us… All the while, Gagee’s home, all of the things he’d worked his entire life for, family photos, etc – all things that were to be left for the family were all seized by the County, taken from Gagee in the blink of an eye… He no longer had a possession to his name…
So, after these almost 3 years, things have gone from bad to worse… All of Gagee’s life savings (almost $80,000), the home that he shared with his wife and had owned for over 30 years and his freedom have all been taken from him. He was placed into a nursing home against his will where he is not even allowed to open a window or go outside… Even death row inmates are allowed to breathe fresh air! Not only that, but he is not even allowed to have visitors or phone calls! Criminals that rape and murder are afforded more freedoms and leniency than this veteran!
What crime did Gagee commit? What terrible thing did he do that should allow the government to treat him this way, shoving him away into a little room all alone with no family or home? … I guess that crime would be that he had just been a little too generous to the wrong “family” member??
I stay awake at night, crying my eyes out, just thinking of the only time I was allowed to visit Gagee since his imprisonment (after his becoming “property of the County” – to quote the Adult Protective Services representative)… It was about a week or so before Christmas and, like every year before, Gagee was thinking that he would be able to go home to decorate. He, sadly looking at me, asked: “You’ll be here to take me home so that I can decorate and be home for Christmas, right?” I started weeping so uncontrollably that my knees gave out and I slipped to the floor, then one of the nurses there at the nursing home had to pick me up off of the floor and try to comfort me for almost 30 minutes. I begged and pleaded to take him home, to let us simply take him back to our own house (since he’d lost his own home) for Christmas… But the nurse assured me that would not be possible.
…just thinking about it now, my heart breaks and I am crying for him.
What is being done to Gagee is truly cruel and unusual punishment! We have never cared about Gagee’s money (unlike the County and that “cousin”), we didn’t even really care about the fact that they had not only taken his home but destroyed all of the family photos and other precious momentos (despite the fact that his home should have been where he lived out his life until the day he died like he’d wanted) – we just wanted to have HIM back! Now, we aren’t even allowed to visit him in his PRISON!
…the reason, by the way, that we can’t visit him? Because Gagee gets upset and “wound up” afterwards – COMPLAINING THAT HE WANTS TO BE HOME WITH US! How is that anything but what should be expected when he’s been imprisoned – though he has committed NO CRIME! Even the Adult Protective Services representative, when asked if he himself would want to be where Gagee is, to have Gagee’s life, he said: “OF COURSE NOT!”.
SOMETHING MUST BE DONE, PLEASE!
STOP THIS UNJUST TREATMENT NOW!
There should be no need for us to go through court hearings and hire lawyers simply to give this aging veteran what every person deserves – the ability to be happy and loved by his family, to have what he worked his entire life for given back to him: his life savings and his family home! To quote Gagee himself: “THIS is a FREE country?! Where a man’s things are taken from him, where his home is stolen from him, where his life savings are stolen by the government? That he can be imprisoned for doing nothing wrong?!”
All we want is to be able to have Gagee be able to return to the life he once knew – to be able to freely walk to the Broadway Market every day (something that he loved to do), to be able to see and interact with his family, to be able to cut the grass of his own home again… Is this asking for too much? The County government seems to think so… But we think it’s simply an inalienable right: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The County has found every excuse they can to thwart our efforts at every stage, even claiming that, despite his having been raised by Gagee, David North is NOT “blood-related”, so he is not considered family and therefore has no right or ability in this matter.
Please find it in your hearts to help us in some way, if possible! Help us to regain our loved one before it is too late! Let Stanley Popek come home to his family!
Sincerest appreciation and thanks,