At the age of 99, there’s much Millie experienced in her life. That includes memories of being moved from her home in Yugoslavia (where she was born with the name Milka) to Germany during the height of World War II.
She experienced the horrors of war first-hand, as her husband made bullets for the Germans and she worked in a kitchen
“All kinds of stuff was going on,” Millie said. “People killing people. It makes me sick to think about it. I don’t even want to hear the word. People, they were killing each other and killing the babies. It’s hard to think about it.”
Her difficult upbringing included no memory of her natural mother, who died six weeks after Millie was born. But after the war was done, Millie and her husband immigrated to the United States.
Coming to America; a reason to find happiness
You would think coming to America with no money and no clue how to speak English would be enough to make her bitter. That simply isn’t the case.
“She has a great sense of humor,” Oakmont Sterling Activity Director Jodi Cavalier said. “That’s why everyone here calls her ‘Silly Millie.’ It fits, she is just the happiest person. She’s got a good sense of humor and she keeps everybody happy.”
It’s a nickname Millie embraces, too.
“They don’t call me Millie,” she said. “They call me Silly Millie. And I love it.”
It took a lot of work to make ends meet once they arrived in the Detroit area, but the young couple (which included three daughters) rented a place in Highland Park before buying a home in Detroit near Outer Drive and Van Dyke.
“It was hard when we came over here. We didn’t speak the language here, we had no money and we were looking for a job,” she said. “My husband got a job right away because my uncle used to work at Chrysler. That helped out.
“Then I got a job in a restaurant for three months. We had some friends working at Sealtest Ice Cream. So I got a job there and worked for 20 years. ‘Get the best, get Sealtest!” I still remember that.”
Learning the language, feeling proud and free
It didn’t take long for Millie to pick up the English language, although she learned through a rather informal method.
“I picked up English from other people,” she said. “I didn’t have time to go to school, plus we had the children and all that. I worked nights and my husband worked days, so we didn’t have to pay for a babysitter. We managed.”
Millie enjoyed her free time attending St. Steven Decanski Church, an Eastern Orthodox Church, in Warren, taking part in various church activities. Along with her three children, she has four grandchildren.
Although she is a long way from her original home and definitely away from the hard life of Germany during World War II, Millie has a true appreciation for where she is today.
“There’s only one America. It’s beautiful, it’s different,” she said. “In one word, different.”