Gabriela Bratkovics of White Plains knows all about beekeeping. She says in her second year of keeping bees, she was able to harvest 220 pounds of raw honey from her hives. “That’s a lot of jars,” she adds quickly. But for Gabriela and her family, food wasn’t always that plentiful. Here, she takes us through her humble beginnings as a young Romanian citizen to where she is today as a semi-professional beekeeper.
“When I was young,” Gabriela Bratkovics begins, “my family lived in communist Romania under the rule of Nicolae Ceausescu.” It was during the 1980s when food rationing was prevalent, and shortages were severe. “We learned how to persevere,” she says. “We learned how to stretch everything we had.” She said her family got very creative when it came to making sure they had enough to eat.
But Gabriela Bratkovics of White Plains didn’t have to endure that way of living forever. She and her family immigrated to the United States just before her 18th birthday. “Everything was so different,” she explains. “Opportunity was everywhere.” However, she and her family continued to be thrifty and stretch what they had. “I think this is why I love beekeeping so much,” she adds. “It makes me feel like I’m doing my part to continue to be frugal.”
By working hard in school and staying focused, Gabriela Bratkovics of White Plains obtained her bachelor’s and finally her master’s degree in finance. With even more study, she went on to pass her Certified Public Accountant exam. However, she never forgot her humble beginnings and the need to be smart with her finances. “After my kids were older, I went back to work,” she says. “That’s when I found beekeeping.”
Gabriela Bratkovics said she learned through reading and research that bees were decreasing in population. She knew bees were needed to continue to allow farmers to grow food that would feed millions. “I think that’s another part of why I’m so passionate about it,” she says.
She started with one small hive and eventually worked her way up with the proper setup and equipment to make the colony more productive. “It’s really an art,” she says.
Gabriela Bratkovics says she makes sure not to destroy the hive each year as she harvests the honey. “There are different ways that beekeepers can harvest,” she explains. Some easier methods destroy the hives. “Even if it’s not destroyed, it makes the bees have to work twice as hard,” she adds, “since it gives them next to nothing to eat during the winter months.” Gabriela Bratkovics says she preserves the bees as she harvests each year. “I make sure to take care of them and leave the nest as intact as possible,” she adds. My neighbors now call me the Honey Lady, she says. “This is definitely a case of ‘from humble beginnings to sweet endings,’” she adds with a smile.