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All Things Considered

Chicagoan shaped and scarred by her childhood as an orphan

When Rosa Salinaz was just three years old, her mother died in childbirth. Rosa’s father, an immigrant stockyard worker, tried hiring babysitters, but taking care of the children proved too difficult.

All four siblings went to live in an orphanage where they had little interaction with each other. Rosa visited the Chicago StoryCorps booth where she was interviewed by her daughter, Gina Salinaz-Yacoub, about her experience as an orphan. 

Gina: So what was life like in the orphanage?

Rosa: … The first thing you noticed was the smell. It smelled like disinfectant. You got up around 6:30, and then we had mass around 7:00 … had  breakfast, then you had your chores, then you went to school, had supper at 6:00, had study hour at 7:00, and then we were in bed by 9:00.

Gina: So it was pretty regimented?

Rosa: Yeah.

Rosa explained that they were taken care of in the orphanage by Benedictine nuns, some of whom were nice, and some of whom were not.

Rosa: ... (crying) There’s always one or two that could make it like hell.

To hear more about Rosa’s experience in the orphanage, including her treasured visits with her father, and her thoughts on how the experience shaped her, click on the audio above.

Katie Mingle is a producer for WBEZ and the Third Coast Festival.


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