Every year on January 9, Dr. Katarzyna Tesmer pops a bottle of champagne to celebrate the day she first arrived from Poland to the United States, in 1987, with her husband and their two small children.
But Tesmer’s gratitude doesn’t surface only once a year. Every day, she marvels at how far she has come by holding tight to her dreams — and working hard to achieve them. Today Tesmer is an award-winning Aesthetic Medicine Specialist and Board-certified Neonatologist with three successful kids and a thriving aesthetic medicine practice in California.
Moving permanently to the U.S. is rarely easy. But Tesmer’s harrowing escape from her home in Poland was actually dangerous. If caught, she could have faced life imprisonment or worse, in a country with a long history of brutal political repression.
Tesmer was born in 1960s Warsaw, Poland, a city mercilessly bombed to ruins during World War II and still barely struggling to its knees after Josef Stalin’s “Iron Fist” rule over Eastern Bloc Europe. As the little girl grew up, she and everyone she knew lived in constant fear of political persecution. Worker uprisings became a daily reality, a symptom of the country’s volatile economic instability.
As she entered early adulthood, Tesmer became active in the growing Solidarity movement while studying at the Medical School of Gdańsk. She believed that change and freedom would come soon to her homeland, and that she could help. But in 1981, martial law was declared, sparking off two years of violent armed “shoot to kill” suppression of strikes and protests, with thousands of arrests, detention, and torture.