A surprise happy ending for Schiller Park family in ‘Tony and Janina’s American Wedding’

August 31, 2011

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(AP/Kamil Krzaczynski)
Tony and Janina reunite at O'Hare Airport. They were separated for four years after the U.S. denied Janina a green card.
(WBEZ)
Reunited as of three weeks ago, Tony and Janina talk to Jerome in the WBEZ studios.

After fleeing communist Poland in the late 1980s, Tony and Janina Wasilewski met and married in Chicago. For them, the United States was home. Residents of suburban Schiller Park, the couple operated a small cleaning business and were parents to an American-born son.

But Tony and Janina’s plans for the future turned upside down in 2007, when the government denied Janina a green card even though she had come to the United States legally. She was subsequently deported and, under U.S. law, she was forbidden from returning for another ten years. 

Their tale was chronicled in the 2010 documentary Tony & Janina’s American Wedding and became emblematic of the broken U.S. immigration system.

However, the U.S. government provided an addendum to Tony and Janina’s story earlier this month when immigration officials granted a rare waiver.  The move followed several previous rejections for such, and allowed her to return home to Illinois and reunite with her husband.

"It's a miracle," Tony told Worldview host Jerome McDonnell.

"Yeah, like, a miracle happened," Janina agreed.

It's been almost a month since the family has resumed its life together in west suburban Schiller Park, but Janina says she's still savoring every moment. "I enjoy it every day because I'm with my husband now and I love the U.S.," she said. "I'm a really happy person right now."

Worldview talked with Tony about his splintered family last year, but invited the newly reunited couple and their immigration lawyer, Chicago attorney Royal Berg, back to WBEZ's studios for an extended conversation about the new developments and their implications.

Tony & Janina’s American Wedding is screening next Monday, September 5, at 6PM at the Copernicus Center, as part of the Taste of Polonia festival. Tony, Janina and director Ruth Leitman will be at the screening.

Watch the trailer for Tony & Janina's Wedding: