She lost her childhood home to taxes. Then it burst into flames.

The details of Ms. Morawski’s fight to save the home are based on more than two dozen interviews with neighbors, friends, community leaders and attorneys, as well as tax documents, federal court records, state and county and its own social media posts.

After divorcing her first husband, who was in the Navy and stationed in Hawaii, she returned to Maplewood in 2000 to care for her ailing parents. She worked briefly for a management consulting firm and occasionally organized historical walking tours, but struggled to find full-time work. An assortment of part-time jobs as a swimming instructor ended with the onset of the pandemic.

But she had been struggling to make ends meet since at least 2010. Desperate for cash, she sold her burial plot, fixed her leaky roof with tarps and, unable to buy a new heater water, took a shower at a YMCA.

“I never said I didn’t owe obscene back taxes + interest,” she wrote to township leaders, “but the global pandemic has impacted the planned action plan.

He had been advised to sell the home rather than lose the accumulated equity in a property that real estate websites valued at around $700,000 before the fire, friends, relatives and city officials said. The conversations never went very far.

“She just wanted to stay in the house she grew up in,” said Polish American radio show host Andy Golebiowski, who met Ms Morawski on Facebook. “Those were his roots.”

Ms. Morawski spoke proudly of these roots when she accepted the Holocaust Education Award.

His father, Michael (Szeliga) Morawski, won Poland’s highest military honor, the Virtuti Militari. He had been imprisoned, she said, in concentration camps after trying to drive the Germans out of the capital during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, a rebellion that lasted 63 days and resulted in the deaths of over of 180,000 inhabitants.


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