A Valpo Life in the Spotlight: Katie Gollbach
The Region’s full of amazing people and because of the way life goes, sometimes those people move on to brighter endeavors, ones that prompt them to leave the area. For Katie Gollbach — who grew up in Valparaiso and also attended high school there — her move to Germany in 2005 has since been permanent, but the spirit of her old stomping grounds remains.
Moving on to something in the faraway lands of distant countries seems to have always been an enticing prospect for Gollbach. After she finished studying at Butler University, she knew exactly what would come next.
“First, after I finished university, I wanted to do a year of volunteer work. I ended up going to Ireland. There, I met someone from Germany and the rest is happily ever after! Now I live here, and I'm married and have two kids,” Gollbach said.
Fully residing in a different country can be a bit tricky, because it’s so new and foreign; but through Gollbach’s fantastic disposition, she’s been able to thrive in an environment that she hasn’t always been a part of.
“I think I'm a free spirit, and I think I'm happy to be out and about and to live in different places and experience different cultures and different things. It suits me a bit better — let's put it that way,” Gollbach said. “Germany is a great place. I've lived in many spots here, and it's really nice. I'm happy to visit Indiana and see my family and friends, but I definitely now say that I come back home to Germany. It’s definitely my home.”
Keeping herself busy hasn’t been an issue, either. She balances both a relaxed job and other hobbies that let her work with her hands, which is something she ardently enjoys.
“I actually cater cocktails, and I’m part of a mobile cocktail catering service. We go to different people's birthday parties, weddings, and private events, and we make cocktails,” Gollbach said. “And strangely enough, my very favorite thing to do in my free time is construction. I basically did my whole entire driveway, paved it with pavers; I dry-wall, restore furniture. Anything that has to do with creativity are some of my favorite things.”
2022 hasn’t been full of the most positive of happenings, especially considering all the rising issues occurring in Ukraine. Yet Gollbach, by the hand of her tremendous generosity, has been able to shine a light on all that is still seen as dark.
Together with her husband, Thomas, Gollbach welcomed two Ukrainian refugees into their home, where they were both taken care of as if they were family.
“Basically, I went to the Germany–Poland border where they have a place that people can go to as refugees. Germany takes them and puts them in old gymnasiums where they can have a place to sleep and other necessities. This particular place is not ideal, and I picked up a mother and her daughter because my husband and I decided we wanted to take in refugees, and we knew that there were a lot of people who were looking to stay longer than just a couple of days,” Gollbach said.
“You can't really stay at these places forever, so you need someone to take you in. So we brought these two lovely ladies to our home,” Gollbach continued. “We have a little brick building on our property, and it used to be a little workshop where people would make wood furniture. It's 100 years old. And I've been working on this for the past few years, rebuilding it and trying to make it a small apartment. I just finished it, and I thought it was the perfect time to let someone use it. And that was where we were housing them for the almost nine weeks that they were living with us.”
Though the greatness in her heart is evident, housing these refugees wasn’t the easiest. There were a fair amount of tribulations that arose for Gollbach and her family, but it’s nothing she couldn’t handle.
“There were a lot of mixed feelings. On the one hand, we were so grateful, of course, and they got such a wonderful place and were together with people who were really helpful. But at the same time for us, it was an immense amount of work,” Gollbach said. “Germany is very bureaucratic, and you have to go to millions of different appointments to sign all sorts of papers and register for stuff. It was like a full-time job; It was still really wonderful, but it was also very challenging at the same time.”
In the aftermath of assisting the refugees, things for Gollbach and her family have relatively gone back to normal. And she has returned to indulging in one of her all-time loves: music.
“I am actually a professional French horn player, and I definitely love music. I also play the ukulele and piano, so we're easily a musical family,” she said.
Everything said, it’s clear that Gollbach has given Germany her best, proving that even the most can come out of a small town in Indiana.