The story of a well-loved lilac bush By Carol Nelson VCE Southside Master Gardener “I just want my plants to go to a loving home.” the 97-year-old lady told Paulina Hartsoe Carroll as she carefully handed her a slip from a lilac bush. The small cutting, wrapped in damp towels, was taken from the base of a lilac bush that came to America just prior to WWI, around 1913. Paulina, a Master Gardener, definitely loves plants. Her yard in Crewe is a showplace of color and fragrance, especially in the spring. She was thrilled to be entrusted with the lilac – and even more intrigued to hear its story. The elderly lady went on, “My family was very close and all lived together until things got so tense in my homeland of Russia. We could feel the war coming on. My parents and grandmother packed our few belongings along with precious plant pieces from grandparents and great-grandparents, plus a couple of brooches to barter with and got on a ship bound for America. “The ship ride was very hard. We hit bad storms. We were cold and hungry all the time in the dark that stunk like rotten potatoes. Several children got sea sick and many people died from no fresh air and being packed in so tight. I was scared that the ghosts of the dead people who were wrapped up and pushed over the side would come back to curse the ship. “Then we saw Lady Freedom (the Statue of Liberty) and everyone started crying and hugging. I had just had my fifth birthday. We stayed in New York for a while with the men trying to get work. We finally settled in Virginia when I was teenager. I got to marrying age at 14 (she went on to have 11 children and lost three in childbirth; only six made it to adulthood).