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Meet a member: Poland native a believer in higher education

Beata Major

Name: Beata Maria Major.

Where I live: In Mequon, Wis., among my very conservative neighbors. 

Where I was born: I was born in Poland, in Zakopane, which is the Polish capital of skiing and other winter sports. Infatuated by love of mountains since my childhood, I traveled later throughout several continents, enjoying winter sports and climbing their high mountain peaks.

I grew up in Krakow, a city with the second oldest university in central Europe. Even though I was born in a very Catholic country, my parents were not religious but, instead, science oriented. I was never expected to go to church, but I did go to First Communion, only because I really wanted to march down the church aisle in a beautiful white dress, just like all my girlfriends did. My parents didn’t come to see me during the ceremony, nor did I have a fancy celebration at home.

Family: My husband, Kim Paul Petersen, is one of very few liberal physicians that I ever met. He is a loving partner and my best friend. He, like me, believes only in Santa Claus because Santa convinces him to bring me a nice present every year. I’ve never gotten anything from Jesus! 

Education: For my sister and me, attaining higher education was mandatory according to my father, who was a university professor. I always loved physics, mathematics and drawing, but hated chemistry! But my sister became a professor of chemistry!

As my parents expected my sister and me to aim for the highest education, I transferred the same expectations to my two sons, Michael and Pako. Both of them graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, eventually becoming an attorney/engineer and a dentist, respectively. Now they have the same expectations from their children.

Occupation: I studied to earn a master’s degree in engineering and architecture. I worked in Krakow and other cities while raising my two sons. Life took us to set down roots in a few countries, and eventually in Canada and the United States 30 years ago. 

Person in history I admire and why: Nicholas Copernicus, who is Polish and lived and worked in my city of Krakow, is definitely my favorite person in history. Most people don’t know that mathematics and astronomy were his hobbies, not his occupation. But what wonderful discoveries about the universe Copernicus made: The Earth goes around the sun; the Earth rotates every 24 hours; and the Earth tilts its angle to the sun as it revolves. His discoveries provided the foundation for all other physicists and astronomers and broke the Church’s dogma about the universe.

A quotation I like: In my job as an architect, I kept in mind a quote from Picasso: “Everything you can imagine is real.” To me, it meant that if you imagine a beautiful construction, you can design it. But, also in life, if you can imagine living in reality without the Church’s fantasy and abuse, we can turn it into reality. The quote is short, but it can be applied to many aspects of life.

Things I like: Chopin and Puccini. Music has always been a big part of my life, especially Italian opera. 

Things I smite: The smell of cigarettes.  

Before I die: I have five beautiful grandchildren that I love beyond words. My goal for the rest of my life is to help them to become smart, environmentally conscious and real contributors of positive values to the world. Along with their parents, I am exposing them to science and freedom from mythical beliefs.

Ways I promote freethought: Voicing my very strong opinion in every social setting, especially when someone offers prayers for me or my family. I quickly correct them so they don’t waste their time praying to fictional creatures because they are meaningless to me.