Frank Gronich’s extraordinary life – from immigrant without a home to senior crown prosecutor in Newfoundland and Labrador – is as inspiring as is it unbelievable
Perseverance is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”
Never has a person exemplified qualities that ring true in that definition more than Frank Gronich.
Gronich, in every sense, is the epitome of the Canadian success story – an immigrant’s tale of triumph over tragedy.
Franck Gronich was born a German-speaking Czech in the Sudetenland in 1932. As had happened to thousands in the period, he was subjected to the horrors of the Nazi invasion at the onslaught of the Second World War and the severe Russian occupation at war’s end.
Frank and his family, with one suitcase apiece, were expelled from their homeland by the Russians, bound for West Germany with no title or prospects. From there Frank would work for just room and board, separated from his loved ones – yet his drive and desire to better his circumstance never wavered.
“When he was first deported from Czechoslovakia and was working at this farm, he was up in the attic one day and discovered all these old university textbooks,” shared Ed Kavanagh, editor of Frank’s autobiography Walking Towards Sunrise.
“He never got past Grade 7 when he was a child, because his education was disrupted by the war and the Russian occupation and then being deported. Here he is, 14 or 15 years old up in the attic reading these books, which were not easy books. These were philosophy books by like Kierkegaard, and he was just trying to educate himself. Not many people would have done that.”
Hungry for knowledge, Gronich earned himself a slot in an agricultural school and later won a coveted scholarship that enabled him to spend a year in the United States.
“Even when he’s there, he’s not content just to go to school, he starts his own little business raising chickens,” says Kavanagh. “You can see what his character was like in terms of being willing to educate himself. He was obviously really smart and worked hard to win that scholarship to the U.S. He tried to make things happen.”
In 1952, Gronich immigrated to Canada, inevitably making his way to Newfoundland and Labrador, laying down roots in Corner Brook. He and his wife Eileen established a vibrant floral business, though a deep-down desire to chase yet another dream beckoned.
In his 40s, Frank Gronich decided to pursue a law degree, an ambitious leap for even the most skilled student. Defying even the more modest of expectations, Frank Gronich rose to the rank of Senior Crown Prosecutor in Newfoundland and Labrador, forging a career built on modesty and an unshakable work ethic.
“I keep thinking, in the age of Trump and the anti-immigrant and all this kinda stuff, hearing this story of someone who really made a contribution, worked hard and literally started with nothing,” Kavanagh expressed. “When he was deported with his family and lived in West Germany, those first few jobs he had those early years he was just making room and board. He went from having a nice house and home-life in Czechoslovakia to being separated from his family, thrown out of his country and working for nothing. To come from that to be the Senior Crown Prosecutor in Newfoundland, that’s a story.”
Frank Gronich passed away in 2015, his life’s story left in stasis on a flash drive. His devoted partner and wife Eileen enlisted the aid of Kavanagh and James Lane Publishing to release Frank’s story, with the entirety of the proceeds going to the Children’s Wish Foundation.
“Even though I never met him, I actually feel I knew him really well just because of his book,” says Kavanagh. “That’s what a good autobiography will do, it will welcome you into a stranger’s life. They end up not becoming a stranger anymore.
Balance The Negative
“He always managed to find something to balance the negative things with positive things. He was optimistic, even from the early days. He would say one day I’m going to do better than this, one of these days I’ll have a big car and a beautiful wife, and of course he made it all happen.”
Walking Towards Sunrise is available now wherever local books are sold and online at shopdownhome.com