Turning a Page in History
When asked to choose a topic for my English class, I thought learning about my family history would be interesting but I have always thought of my family as being boring. Clicking through ancestry.com only further confirmed my thought about my family: we are very unexciting. When trying to find information on my father’s family, I discovered next to nothing about them so I decided to research my mother’s family. I knew I was Polish on my mom’s side, however I did not find anything of great value on Ancestry. Because of the lack of information, I turned to my grandmother who was able to provide me with a family tree of my grandfather’s family; however, I wanted to focus on my grandmother’s Polish roots. I have heard stories about my grandfather’s family living in Arkansas and with the family tree provided, I found out they originally came from England. However, I knew very little about my grandmother’s family and our Polish roots. Not only has this project intrigued me with our Polish ancestry, it has sparked a curiosity within my grandmother that has lead to her reaching out to her aunt. My grandmother has been able to provide me with most of the details about where in Poland our family is from and their journey to America.
To ensure I have enough background knowledge when interviewing my grandmother I have done excessive research. I started my journey learning about Poland and its history. Moving from Poland as my family did, I learned the details of the Homestead Act and about the Polish community in Chicago. Not only did I want to learn about the history of Poland, I wanted to focus on the traditions of the Poles to see if I would recognize any Polish traditions that reside in my family today. Therefore I chose to organize my bibliography in an order that follows my family’s route and connecting our current traditions with past traditions.
A Concise History of Poland
Lukowski, Jerzy and Hubert Zawadzki.Cambridge:Cambridge UP, 2001.
In 1772, Russia, Austria, and Prussia invaded Poland. Without much resistance, due to fighting with Russia previously, Poland was partitioned between the three nations. Russia claimed the land in the east, Austria claimed the land in the south, and Prussia laid claim to the western land. With this partition Poland lost approximately half of its population and a large portion of its land.
Due to its weakness from the partition, Poland succeeded the last portions of the land to Prussia. In 1791, a constitution was created which struggling Austria accepted but it sent alarms up in Russia and Prussia. Prussia refused to acknowledge the previous alliance with Poland because they were not consulted with the constitution and Russia sent 90,000 troops across the land overwhelming the Polish army. Prussia and Russia created another partition behind the back of Austria each taking another large segment of Poland.
After the Second Partition, there was a small buffer between Prussia and Russia. The Third Partition took place in 1795. In January, Russia and Austria met and signed a treaty divvying up the remains of Poland and sharing with Prussia. In the newest partition Russia claimed the largest section of land, Austria took the smallest but most economically advantageous section, and Prussia would receive the second largest section that would include Warsaw but the had to give up Kraków. However, Prussia did not accept the offer until October due to their strained relationship with Austria.
This source was imperative to my research because it provided me with the background of the partitioning of Poland. Poland had been dismembered between Prussia, Russia, and Austria when my great-great-grandparents lived in “Poland.” I chose to research the partitionings because although I have been told my family is Polish technically at the time of my great-great-grandfather’s birth he was Austrian but living in the land that was once Poland. Learning about the Polish partitioning lead me to believe that with the lack of a nation and the continuing hostility between Russia, Prussia, and Austria, my ancestors decided to leave their home for a unified place to live.
God’s Playground : A History of Poland : In Two Volumes.
Davies, Norman. New York : Columbia University Press, 2005.
In 966, Poland become Christianized with the majority of their people being Catholic. During the partitions, Poles faced many religious hardships. Austria created a policy of combining church and state so the Christian schools were turned into state run colleges and appeals to Rome were prohibited. The Austrian controlled section of Poland had the fewest restriction on the Catholic church. The Prussians were Protestant and the Catholic clergy in their land were overseen by the Protestant Consistory. The Polish archbishop was jailed and strict rules were placed on the Catholics. In Russian Poland, the Roman Catholics were persecuted and had no access to Rome. Many of the convents in the Russian section of Poland were closed and unauthorized communication with Rome resulted in deportation. All sermons and religious publications had to be approved by the Tsarist authority. Marriages between Catholics and Orthodox followers in Russia were not allowed and Russia claimed the right to take a child of a mixed marriage into state care.
The Vatican decided to not risk the deterioration of the Church-State relations in Poland and therefore, did not support the Polish Risings. Due to this, Poland took offense to the lack of help from the Vatican. The Catholic church was drawn into politics even though the Catholic church claims to stay out of politics.
This source provided a glimpse into the Catholic religion and the struggles they faced throughout the partitioning and even after the partitionings. I chose this book because it provided a detailed recounting of the struggles of Catholicism in each section of the partitioned Poland. I found this source intriguing because my family, though they were from Galicia in the Austrian portion of Poland, they held onto their Catholic faith until my grandmother and grandfather. I was amazed by the fact that Catholicism had managed to persevere in Poland through the religious persecution by the Prussians and Russians. This source will be very beneficial in my interview because my grandmother was Catholic until she married my grandfather, a non-Catholic. With Poland being able to survive years of persecution and still remaining Catholic I am curious as to how much my grandmother hated Catholicism to drop it after the struggles, which have been resolved, with her family.
Polish Customs, Traditions, and Folklore
Knab, Sophie Hodorowicz. New York : Hippocrene Books, 1993.
Month by month the holidays and traditions in Poland are cataloged starting with December. The Polish word for 40 days is what the Poles call Advent. During this time, fasting is observed, almost to the severity of the fasting of Lent. Meats, fats, and milk were not consumed on Wednesdays, Fridays, or Saturdays. Orally passed down carols are taught to children while they prepare masks and costumes for caroling. In some areas of Poland, a ligawka, a wooden horn, is played every morning and evening. The ligawka is played in the mornings to call people to early morning Mass. Seven candles are lit with the candle in the middle resting above the rest. The top of a spruce or fir tree is cut and hung from the ceiling. It is decorated similarly to that of a Christmas tree with red apples, nut, and from the tip hung a world made from wafers. Straw was scattered on the floor to remember that Jesus was born in a stable. Christmas is the second most important day of the religious year after Easter. All would attend Mass on Christmas morning and continued to celebrate Christmas into January ending with the Feast of the Three Kings which concludes the 12 Holy nights.
In February, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Mother occurs. Many Poles believe that after the birth of a child a woman is considered unclean and is not allowed to mingle with the public. After 40 days, she can reenter society. This day was 40 days after Mary gave birth to Jesus. On this day, candles are decorated and blessed by the priest. Candles are then lit and burn until morning to pay homage to Mary.
Before Lent begins, Poland has a period of carnival in March. Carnival begins a week before Ash Wednesday and continues until midnight of Ash Wednesday. It begins with sleigh rides picking up the guest in a train like fashion. On the last tuesday, someone would dress up as a priest and give a humorous sermon saying goodbye to carnival. With the beginning of Lent, Poles would give up unworldly things for 40 days including food. On Holy Thursday, many Poles would continue fasting but in a more severe manner, not eating until Easter. On Good Friday around 3 pm, Poles would make their way to church to begin praying. Pisanka is a form of decorating Easter eggs and involves painting intricate designs on eggs. In May, the beginning of spring is celebrated on May Day with a maypole.
This source provides the holiday traditions in Poland. I wanted to focus on holidays that my family celebrates now. Many of the holidays included in this book were traditional Polish holidays, however both Christmas and Easter had very detailed descriptions of their corresponding traditions. Looking into the traditions of these holidays, I was able to make note of similar traditions within my own family. For example in Poland they hung the top of trees and decorated them similarly to the decorating of common Christmas trees. My family and I attend a nondenominational church therefore we do not attend Mass; however, we do attend a Christmas service. I have attended Mass before and it is much more traditional and structured than my current church service. This source is beneficial to my project because it helped me to understand some of the Catholic traditions surrounding the holidays which will benefit me in my interview with my grandmother when discussing how her family celebrated the holidays.
Polish Folktales and Folklore
Malinowski, Michał and Anne Pellowski.Westport, Conn. : Libraries Unlimited, 2009., 2009. World folklore series.
Three horses have one tail. What is it?
With riddles like the one above, I see why the Polish people are always the butt of the joke. When I was in the library looking for books about Polish traditions, I stumbled upon Polish Folktales and Folklore. Because I know very little about traditional Polish tales and games, I decided this book would provide me insight into stories, games, or riddles that could have been part of my grandmother’s childhood.
Polish Folktales and Folklore focuses on recording many of the Polish games, riddles, and stories. Part one provides general information on the country as a whole. Part two starts recipes for customary dishes found in Poland. Zocerka is a Kaszubian recipe and is a porridge made up of milk egg dumplings. Zocerka is a common comfort food. Zurek is sour rye soup. During Lent, zurek is had at least once and on Easter morning it is tradition to have a bowl of soup with sausage. At Christmas, the Poles have 12 traditional dishes of which includes sauerkraut with yellow peas. Along with the traditional 12 dishes representing the 12 apostles, it is tradition to set an extra place for an stranger who may be asked to join. Another traditional Easter dish is cwikla, red beets with horseradish, with the red color of the beets symbolizing the blood of Jesus. One of the most common and varying Polish dishes is the pierogi. Pierogis come with a variety of stuffings such as sauerkraut and mushrooms, cheese, meat, potato, and fruit.
Polish games are similar to common games children play in America. Berek and Chowanego are the Polish versions of tag and hide and seek respectively. Ciuciubabka shares similarities to that of Blindman’s Buff; however in the Polish version, the person who is “it” must identify the person they touch before that person becomes “it”. Old Albert is similar to the common chant game Little Sally Walker. Both games involve a circle of players where one player in the middle acts something out. In Old Albert, all players must act out the action of the person in the middle and if a player is not repeating the action properly they are “it”.
Similarly to America, there are many stories and legends in Poland. Many of the stories revolve around the important people in Poland. Though the most of the stories specifically relate to Poland, a few of the stories borrow plots from other cultures. Bazyliszek is based off of the Greek legend of the basilisk and and Janosik is similar to the tale of Robin Hood.
This book pertains to my project because it provides many of the traditional food, games, and stories of the Polish people that could have been brought to America with my great-great-grandparents. Because spoken stories are easily passed down from generation to generation, I spent most of my time focusing on these stories. Knowing if my grandmother has heard of any of these tales will help me to better understand whether my family came to America planning to start over or if they strived to keep their Polish heritage alive.
National Archives and Records Administration. National Archives and Records Administration, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
Arriving in Montana, Albert Kowalczyk filed an application under the Homestead Act of 1864 for 160 acres of land. Required to live on this land for five years to keep it, Albert and his wife, Agnes, built a house and started their family in Ingomar, Montana. Before their five years were up, the house went up in flames. Due to the fire, Albert and Agnes moved their family to Wisconsin.
The Homestead Act was signed in 1864 and was a government initiative to help create revenue. Entailed in the Homestead Act, was the claim to 160 acres of government land in which the homesteader had to live on for 5 years. Not only did they have to live there, the homesteader had to build a home of a certain size and grow crops. Once the five years had come to pass, the homesteader could purchase the land from the government with proof of residence and improvement of the land. Homesteaders could purchase their land at $1.25 an acre.
Learning more about the Homestead Act was important to my project because this was a vital time in my family’s life. I knew that during the end of the 17th century the government gave out land in the west, but I was unsure how much land was received and what stipulations came with the land. Learning about the Homestead Act helped me understand how much land my family received in Montana and why it was such an appealing opportunity. However, had my great-great grandparents house not burned down in Montana they never would have moved to Wisconsin and then from Wisconsin to Illinois which would have created an alternate life for my family.
Pacyga, Dominic A. Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society, 2005. Web. 10 Mar. 2017.
Polonia is the name given to the Polish portion of Chicago. Most of the migration of Poles to Chicago took place after the Civil War and slowed during World War I. Although the number of immigrants declined during the war, by the 1930’s there were more Polish immigrants in Chicago than German immigrants. Polish immigration started after the Polish-Russian War in 1831. Starting at the North Branch of the Chicago River, the Polish community began to grow.
The most popular religion in Poland is Catholicism, so the Poles in Chicago attended mass at one of the German Catholic churches. The Germans held some animosity towards the Poles because they did not want their priest to comply with the needs of the Polish people. Due to this conflict, the Poles created their own Roman Catholic church which lead to the creation of Polonia. More Polish communities came about some being located in the Near West side of Chicago. A large portion of Polish immigrants were in Chicago for the industrial jobs and the neighborhoods grew surrounding this industry. Although these neighborhoods hosted many Poles, none of the neighborhoods were exclusive just to Poles. A variety of ethnicities could be seen throughout these neighborhoods.
The Poles disagreed with their ideas of their homeland. Polonia was considered by some the “Fourth Partition” of Poland. Though they disagreed, many Polish institutions were created to help with the unification and interests of the immigrants in America while also helping to liberate Poland. The Polish National Alliance, the Polish Roman Catholic Union, Polish Falcons, and the Polish Women’s Alliance were institutions that were created in America that helped aid in the independence and reunification of Poland.
Many Polish Catholic schools arose throughout Polonia. These schools started teaching only in Polish however were then forced to start teaching in English as well. One of the priorities of the school was to keep Polish culture alive in immigrant children as well as help prepare children for life in America. High schools were also created by Polish Chicago.
As with the growing popularization of most cities, the Poles moved away from the city and into the suburbs landing in Niles, Park Ridge, Palatine, and Lansing. Though Polonia no longers exists in Chicago, it was vital to the political, religious, and educational institutions of the city. Signs of Polonia can still be seen throughout the city such as Pulaski and Solidarity Drive.
From Montana to Wisconsin to Illinois, my family moved across three states in a relatively short period of time. With my grandmother growing up in Chicago and still residing in the suburbs of Chicago, I felt it was important to take a look at the Polish community that existed in the time of mass migration from Poland to America. This source was beneficial because it talked about the creation of the Catholic church in Chicago and my grandmother was Catholic throughout her childhood. I was unaware that many of the Catholic schools in Chicago were started by the Polish community. My grandmother attended a Catholic school and may have unknowingly attend a Polish Catholic school. My grandmother grew up in the Near West Side which is one of the areas that the Polish grew to. This source was able to provide me with the history of the Poles in Chicago which can benefit me in my interview with my grandmother by providing me with the basic structure of Polonia and how it affected her life with the advances they made in the religious and educational institutions of Chicago.
The Origin of the Polish Joke
The Origin of the Polish Joke. Polish American Journal, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.
A Polack goes to the eye doctor. The bottom line of the eye chart has the letters:
C Z Y N Q S T A S Z.
The Optometrist asks, “Can you read this?”
“Read it?” the Polack replies, “I know the guy!”
The Poles are a common source of ethnic jokes. Polish jokes originated within the Nazi and Soviet propaganda of WWII. They created the stereotype that the Polish people were unintelligent people. Soviet sympathizers in America published this Polish stereotype which benefited the Soviets because people would not mind that they occupied Poland. The German Nazis made the stereotype a reality by killing off the educated population of Poland. Hitler employed Polish jokes in two of his speeches after invading Poland. Not only did Hitler mock the Poles, Nazi guards did as well. Hollywood encouraged Polish jokes even though they were anti-Nazi. Before WWII, there had not been this stereotype of unintelligent Poles in America. Today Polish jokes, along with other ethnic jokes, are mostly taboo; however, ethnic jokes are still told by some.
My family came to America prior to the start of World War One. Because they came earlier than the wars, my family most likely did not experience these Polish jokes about inferior intelligence. By the time WWII came around, my great-great-grandfather had died. Because my grandmother rarely talks about her parents, I do not know what impact their Polish history had on the lives of my great-grandparents. I have to imagine that my great-grandparents felt some embarrassment during WWII due to the Polish jokes made in America. This source pertains to my project because my family was most likely affected by the Polish jokes made during the time, even though they had not been in Poland for almost 40 years.
National Public Housing Museum. NPHM, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.
In Chicago, some of the first public housing were the Jane Addams homes. These were three story walkup buildings built in 1938. There were a few families per entrance of these homes which allowed the families to get to know one another well. One of the defining features of the Jane Addams homes were the large animal statues out front. The public housing in Chicago was located near downtown. Today all of the Jane Addams homes have been torn down but one. The last Jane Addams home is going to be made into the National Public Housing Museum. It is going to have apartments furnished like they were when people lived in them. The National Public Housing Museum is going to be a museum to tell the stories of the people who lived there.
I chose to include this video about the public housing in Chicago because my grandmother first lived in a Jane Addams home. This video provided some of the facts of the public housing but it mostly focused on the feelings of past residents. Many residents felt that the public housing provided hope and that they were lucky to have newer buildings and facilities; some even went as far as to say that the government wanted them to succeed. Nowadays people view public housing as poverty stricken and muderous. This video helped me understand how the public housing was seen when it was first constructed and was very eye-opening to me. Seeing how these homes affected people will help me to better understand how my grandmother and her parents felt living in public housing.
Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.
Do you Shirley Adaline Kowalczyk take Glynn Dilworth Jones to be your lawfully wedded husband?
One August 21, 1955, my grandparents changed the fate of our family with two words and a kiss. Glynn Jones and Shirley Kowalczyk were married in a Methodist church in Prescott, Arkansas, with only half of the church filled. The Kowalczyk family was noticeably absent from the wedding of their first daughter. My grandmother and her family were Catholics but my grandfather was methodist which caused her family to not attend her wedding. This event caused my grandmother to become estranged with her family. I decided to take a look at the catholic beliefs because these beliefs created strife within my family.
Catholics believe in the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. One of the most common practices of the Holy Trinity is the making of the cross while saying “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” at the end of prayer. The making of the cross is also done before the Gospel is read during Mass which what the Catholics call their church service. During Mass, hymns are sang and the Gospel is read. The Catholic faith has important religious ceremonies throughout the life of a believer such as First Communion and Confirmation. Communion occurs every week during Mass. The members of the church take bread that represents the body of Christ and wine that represents the blood of Christ. One of the most important holidays to Catholics is Easter. Before Easter, Catholics observe Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday in which they give up some luxuries to represent when Christ entered the desert for 40 days. Lent ends before Easter. Within the Catholic church, marriage is a sacred ceremony that is only viewed by the church as valid if it is between two Catholics. A Catholic and a non-Catholic can be given permission to marry as long as the Catholic does not stray from the church and the children are to be raised as Catholic.
August 21, 1955, changed the future of my family. With the absence of my grandmother’s family, my grandmother left Catholicism and was put off by the idea of religion in general. Because of my great-grandparents my family is no longer Catholic and my mother did not attend church throughout her childhood. This source was relevant to my project because it has provided me with the background knowledge of the Catholic beliefs and why the marriage of a Catholic to a non-Catholic was a significant event that resulted in strained relations within my family. I wanted to have the background of Catholicism so when I interview my grandmother I could ask about Catholicism throughout her childhood without being oblivious and causing painful memories to resurface. Though my grandmother did mend her relationship with her parents she never did mend her relationship with Catholicism which led to an alternate life for the next generations of my family.
Cinnamon Bear. Cinnamon Bear, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.
The radio crackles to life at 2 p.m. With gusto, the radio host proclaims The Cinnamon Bear is coming up next. My grandmother turns the volume on the radio up while she drinks her tea.
Aired in 1937, and written by Glanville Heisch The Cinnamon Bear is a classic Christmas radio show. Broadcasted in the Northwest and Chicago areas of Illinois, The CInnamon Bear was on-air Monday through Saturday in the weeks before Christmas ending on December 23.
The Cinnamon Bear is a story about twins, Judy and Jimmy, who are decorating their Christmas tree and want to put their favorite ornament on, a silver star. Unable to find their star and remembering their uncle put some decorations in the attic, Judy and Jimmy convince their mother to go look for the ornament. During the search for the star, the twins find a 4-inch bear with a green ribbon around his neck. As Jimmy is playing with a telescope, he notices the bear moved. Jimmy proceed to ask the bear who he is and the bear sing that he is the Cinnamon Bear, Paddy O’Cinnamon and that the Crazy Quilt Dragon stole the silver star. With this revelation, the adventure to retrieve the star begins.
I chose to pick The Cinnamon Bear as one of my sources because it was a radio show that my grandmother listened to when she was a child. Not only did she listen to this radio show as a child, a radio station in Chicago plays old time radio shows during the day and my grandmother likes to listen to it around Christmas nowadays as well. Radio shows were very popular when my grandmother was a child because television was not a common household object yet. Not only does my grandmother like to still listen to The Cinnamon Bear, she also has a Christmas tree that has all the characters on it. Listening to one episode of The Cinnamon Bear made me want to finish listening to the whole show even though it is March.
The Surprising Art of Wycinanki
Williams, Kitty. Art Soul. Crizmac, 25 Jan. 2011. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.
Papercutting can be seen throughout the world in different ways but in Poland it is called wycinanki. Wycinanki originated during the mid 1800’s and is the most colorful form of papercutting involving symmetrical patterns and layers of colorful paper. Wycinanki has always been used as a form of decoration used in rural Poland. Traditionally wycinanki has been completed using sheep sheers because they were the only available cutting instrument in the rural areas of Poland. Usually wycinanki is created with free-hand cutting, no pre-drawn designs. Wycinanki is mainly used as wall or window decoration, but can be used for bookmarks, placemats, holiday decorations, and even lampshades. No two wycinanki are ever the same just like with paper snowflakes.
I chose to use this source about wycinanki because this activity is a traditional Polish art form that my grandmother likes to make. I was surprised to find out that my grandmother does this Polish art form. This is an important source because it is a distinct cultural tradition that has survived in my family for over 100 years. Polish paper cutting is very similar to paper snowflakes I cut in elementary school. I found it interesting that without my knowledge I was basically creating wycinanki. Learning about wycinanki, helped me link my grandmother’s and my lives together more than just being family. We both enjoyed paper cutting and the surprise that comes with unfolding the paper to see the design. Learning about wycinanki I feel closer with my grandmother.
The New Anglophilia: How the Brits Are Colonizing Our Telly
Lawson, Richard. The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 12 June 2012. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.
a strong admiration or enthusiasm for England, its people, and things English
Shirley A Jones is a anglophile. From tea multiple times a day to tweed blazers to British television, my grandmother loves British culture. Recently British television has taken off in America with Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, and more. Although British television has just taken hold of most Americans, my grandmother has watched British shows for years. My grandmother enjoyed watching Upstairs, Downstairs a British television show about the lives of a wealthy family (upstairs) and their servants (downstairs). Upstairs, Downstairs ran from 1971–1975. My grandmother continues to enjoy British television with the show Downton Abbey.
The largest example of anglophilia in the world of television is the tizzy over Downton Abbey. This show is about post-Edwardian life in an English manor has swept through the nation, a show that would normally only attract a select few. The arrival of Downton Abbey kicked the American anglophilia movement into high gear. Though Downton Abbey has spread anglophilia, the origins of British television can be traced back to The Office, directed by Ricky Gervais. Noticing the popularity of British comedy, networks like HBO started to import more foreign shows and BBC America garnered some attention. The new generation of Anglophiles can be attributed to the disdain for post-millennial America. These millennials have turned toward the ‘greener pastures’ of quirky and cultured English shows. Not only are the shows drawing in new anglophiles, the royals have peaked the interest of Americans. A new-era of anglophilia has spread far and wide across America mainly through the television shows that have crossed the ‘pond’.
I chose to include this article about the new found anglophilia in America through television because my grandmother has always enjoyed British television shows. She used to watch Upstairs, Downstairs and now enjoys Downton Abbey. With its entrance into the mainstream media, British television has re-entered my grandmother’s life. This source discusses the American draw to all things British. I wanted to include this because my grandmother has always loved tea and enjoys wearing tweed. When talking about my grandmother, my family always takes note of how she loves British culture. Though my grandmother is Polish, I think she missed her British calling.