The Kolats lost everything when their trailer burned early this month.
By PHIL NOVAK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
LOWELLVILLE -- For 32 years, Joseph and Elizabeth Kolat lived in their trailer home on West Drive. Joseph bought it for Elizabeth as a gift, and she loved it immediately.
"At one time, that was one of the nicest trailer parks in the area," Elizabeth said.
Now, Joseph, 80, and Elizabeth, 77, live in a small, dingy motel near the Pennsylvania line after their home burned to the ground May 5.
"We were lucky we got out alive," Joseph said.
The blaze: A smoke detector alerted the couple to the fire, which started at about 4:30 a.m., giving them only enough time to escape with the clothes on their backs.
"Those two jackets right there," Elizabeth said, pointing to a black bomber jacket and a colorful windbreaker. "That's it. Everything else was destroyed."
When Elizabeth first heard the smoke detector, she thought she was dreaming.
"Then I woke up enough to realize what was going on and I smelled the smoke," she said.
Not realizing how bad it was, she ran to the bathroom and intended to put out the fire with water.
"That's when Joe noticed it was more than we could deal with," she said. "The smoke was heavy."
Lost everything: Just like that, their home and a lifetime of memories were gone. With little money and nearly all of their belongings destroyed, the Kolats try hard to stay positive.
Their insurance pays for the motel, but Elizabeth's brother, Carl Javorchik, said it will pay only for two months and will give just $14,000 for the trailer and all the belongings.
"The family's been trying to help as best they can, but there's only so much they can do," he said.
The Kolats' children dropped off items to make the motel feel more like a home, including two soft chairs and a small refrigerator.
The Red Cross gave the couple money and a box of clothes. Brownstone Ministry, a church near their motel, has helped out as well.
"The preacher came over and gave us a telephone card on the first day and invited us to the church," Elizabeth said. "I went that Sunday and he said to the people, 'They need everything, but I don't want junk.'"
That week, the preacher stopped by the motel and dropped off a box loaded with clothes, all in excellent condition.
"Everybody has been so helpful," Elizabeth said. "They have all been so nice to us."
What's next: The Kolats are looking for a new place to call home.
They smile often and joke like nothing happened. They speak highly of all of the people who have helped them.
They are looking for an assisted-living facility, but Joseph jokes it has to be a one-story building or have an elevator.
"Neither one of is good at climbing steps," he said, "but I'm good at falling."