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Cancer Survivor Anchors Norwalk's Harbor Cafe

Magdalena Gawel came to America from her hometown of Poznan, Poland, nine years ago to undergo surgery for cancer. Today she works at the Harbor Pastry Café on Water St. The business is owned by her fiancé, but Gawel is integral to the day-to-day operation.

Throughout her time at the café, which opened earlier this year, Gawel has familiarized herself with its customers. Friday afternoon, a patron entered and Gawel immediately called to her by name and greeted her.

"I'm such a people person. I know all the crew from your place," Gawel said of the staff at the Main Street Connect office, which sits opposite the café.

After her operation, Gawel needed to be observed by doctors every three weeks. That interval changed to every three months, then three times a year and now twice a year. She is now fully recovered from the disease.

The only family Gawel has in the United States is her sister, who has been married for two years and lives with her children in Stamford. Gawel tries to Skype or call her family in Poland at least once a week, but demands at work sometimes prevent her from doing so.

Though she did not speak English when she arrived in America, Gawel has been able to teach herself through observation and practice.

Before she worked in the café, she had jobs as a nanny and as a bartender. Now, she interacts with the people in a different way, and always with a positive outlook.

"I love what I'm doing," Gawel said. "This is not work. It's relaxing."

Do you know Magdalena Gawel? Have you eaten at the Harbor Pastry Cafe? Comment below or on Facebook or Twitter @DailyNorwalk .

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