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singingfalls
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Joined: 21 Dec 2014
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Post Posted: Sun Sep 27, 2015 11:04 pm      Post subject: Polish through and through
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The record of my grandparents immigrating to the USA was lost in obscurity for me my entire adult life. Now that I am 67 years old I have finally settled down to a reasonable level of sanity from my very busy and wandering ways. I began searching my roots.

For many years I wondered who I was. This is meant in the context of family and human history of course. The question was a natural outflow of the long arduous path I traversed seeking to define who I was as a person. There was no doubt that I was ethnically a Pole. My early years were filled with Polish Roman Catholic traditions and Polish foods. St. Laurentius Church and parochial school is where I learned to read and write. Prayers were said in Polish, Latin and English every day.

http://www.phillychurchproject.com/project-blog/2014/10/1/save-st-laurentius


[html-link]


It is a sad note in this missive to say that the Arch Diocese of Philadelphia is seeking to sell the church at the present.

All of the deeply entrenched traditions of a Polish family were very evident in our family calendar. The major holidays were all celebrated with great pomp and unbelievable amounts of Polish cuisine and vodka. There was always two Christmas trees at Babush's house. From the ceremony of breaking wafers at Christmas after midnight Mass, the elaborate feasts at funerals, to the Lenten rituals associated to Polish Roman Catholic tradition the one continuum was that this was the Polish way to do things.

About nine months ago everything changed. The ignorance of my roots had been a persistent gnawing void in my life and understanding. Several attempts were made over the years to do some genealogical research to no avail. Babush, Dzjadek, my aunts and uncles and my dear parents had long passed away. My chances of tapping their knowledgeable insights were nil.

One evening when unwinding I received a message from a young man from Poland. His name was totally unfamiliar to me. He was looking for any relatives with the surname Petrowski that would be a associated with one Katarszynia Kyć, whose children were the names of my aunts, uncles and father!

The flood gates opened. More has been revealed to me and my living siblings in this past year than all of our long lives combines. The influx of information was staggering. I was able to piece together the personal information and immigration data on both my maternal and paternal sides of the family. Here are some of the interesting factoids related to all of this.

I never met my mother's parents. They died before I was born. They had immigrated from Poland in 1906 from Luchów Górny, Bilgoraj, Lublin Voivodeship, Poland. Tragically their names, Wojciech and Anna never reach my ears. Only now does it dawn on me why. They both, along with my uncle Adrzej died of Tuberculoses during the Great Depression era. This caused of the demise of my mother and her sister, aunt Mary also. This was the “poor man's disease” and the details of their lives and passing were never discussed for that reason. Though I never met them, knew their names or understood their origins, they are of blessed memory to me now. Presently I have in my possession the records of their immigration, naturalization, birth and death. It is nothing short of phenomenal to have made these discoveries. How is it that I love them having never known them or them me?

More than this, a huge repository of letters from Poland, which I have digitized, are now stored in mutliple places and media. Uncle Stanley, my mothers bother, was corresponding with relatives in Luchów Górny and sending them gifts and money so that they might survive post WWII conditions in their rural Polish village. Some of the letters sent from Poland during the 1940's contained pieces of opłatek from the old country. The letters are in need of translation.

Who would have guessed that I would have an uncle that had been a professor at the University of Poznan? That there are relatives of mine in Florida here in the US!? That there is a world of relatives in Poland from that line of the family still very much alive and well and waiting to be met?

Then also, the curious link, and there must have been one, that existed between my paternal grandmother, Katarzyna Kyć, and my maternal grandfather Wojciech Wlaż (Wlas) came to
light. Babush and Dzjadek lived only three miles away from each other in Poland. How could they not know each other even if they were from what are now different Voivodeships?

Babush Petrowski came to the United States in 1907, on her own, at the age of 16. Why? How could her parents send her away at the young age to a foreign country, across the Atlantic ocean, whose language and customs she did not know? Surely her father knew what was brewing politically and socially in Europe. “Hindsight is always 20-20” they say. Was it the pending Bolshevik Revolution? Was it the stirrings of the Austrian empire and WWI? It may never be known. What I do know is that had she not come I would not be here. My Polish nephew informed me of much concerning her and her family from Adamówka, Poland (Galicia). Pictures of her siblings and much in the way of the complex family genealogy are now in my records along with images of the very spot on the land in which she was born and raised. Apparently the rural property is still in the Kyć family. Incredibly my nephew is very interested in genealogy. He has a GED file with some 1200 names in it. Names of relatives who are alive today and spread far and wide throughout the Polish nation.

This of course led to a wild chase, a paper trail as it were, documenting naturalization and most interesting of all, the history of my grandmother and ciocia Mania taking trips to Poland during the 1950's and 60's with huge boxes of clothing and food to Adamówka, Poland. They never forgot the family I never knew. She spoke English fluently. Her yard was a veritable cornucopia of medicinal plants and vegetables. She made her own tinctures and always, always she had an abundance of Polish varieties of flowers. She always had a plate at the table set for a stranger or the poor. She made her own kielbasa and irresistible pastries . I ate Czernina, Gołąbki, Kasza, Kiszka ziemniaczana, Pierogi, Kapusta, Kutia, Beet Barszcz and much more made by her hands. I will confess that I was somewhat of a rascal in my youth. In spite of that she would always say to me, “You are a Polish Prince.” Her hands were never idle. All of her windows and tables and chairs were covered in hand crocheted full length elaborate works of art. They were everywhere in the house. She never just sat and talked. Speaking of which, I dare not forget to mention the incredibly ornate Easter eggs that she and my aunts would make every year the week before Easter using bees wax and tooth picks. I watched for hours as a little child.

The final and somewhat shocking revelation concerning my family and ancestors centered on Dzjadek Ludwik Petrowski. His surname was not Petrowski, or as it is written on my birth certificate, Stanislaus Pietrowski. No, it wasn't Petroski as it was written in the 1920 census. He real full name was Ludwik Stanislaw Petraszczuk! The ships manifest declared him of “Polish race” and Russian nationality! He was born and raised in the small village of Khrabuzna in what was then Czarist Russia. His birth record was stamped with a hammer and sickle logo. Now I know that he was born in the Ukraine and his birth records (I have images of them) are kept at a Roman Catholic church not too far from where he was born. His father and mother were Stanislaw and Anastasia Petraszscuk. Ludwik's brother Marianca took the surname Piotrowski when he arrived in the U.S. some years before Dzjadek. Not once did I ever hear my grandfather say a word in English. If he were alive I would ask why he changed his name. He worked until the day of his death in a factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He raised 7 children, three of whom died in the Pacific during WWII as Navy men.

There is much more that I have discovered. I am inexorably drawn to the land of my ancestors. Only the Lord knows if I will actually go there some day. I have a great desire to be there and to touch the ground of my grandparents places.

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Kyć - Adamówka
Wlaź - Lucków Górny
Petraszczuk - Khrabuzna, Ukraine
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singingfalls
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Joined: 21 Dec 2014
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Post Posted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 9:54 pm      Post subject:
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My apologies for the grammatical errors.
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dgawell



Joined: 01 Jun 2014
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Post Posted: Wed Sep 30, 2015 6:09 am      Post subject:
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Your story is an inspiration. I was raised in a half Polish family so unfortunately didn't learn a lot of the customs and traditions. My grandparents came from Poland right around the time yours immigrated. I have purchased many books on the topic and have scoured the LDS microfilm of the Polish villages they are from. How fortunate I have those!
Now, if I could fine just ONE willing relative who can communicate in English. My cousins who were raised more Polish than I was have no interest in family history even though all the family treasures were passed down to them.
I would be interested to know if you are planning on writing any family histories based on what you have learned. Good luck.
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singingfalls
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Post Posted: Thu Oct 01, 2015 4:33 pm      Post subject:
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Thank you for the encouragement dgwell. Yes, I concur wholeheartedly. Making the connection overseas is very helpful. Surprisingly, I have made most of my beneficial contacts in that regard via various forums related to Polish genealogy on line. Three very significant contacts were of value by that means. Another valuable resource has been my DNA testing. It provided me with a contact that is very very old genealogical significance.
I must confess that of all my family and distant relatives I was the one with a severe case of wanderlust. It wasn't until later in my life that all the pieces came together with regard to my roots. Of course to a degree I blame that on the USA being a melting pot nation where the emphasis is placed not so much on cultural continuity but cultural success as it is designated by the segment of society we gravitate toward.

After I tie up all of the loose ends I possibly can I hope to compile a compendium of all the information I gather with anecdotal stories and related images. Not being a professional writer I would be hard pressed to make a book of it but one never knows. I married a woman who was an English major at University who holds very strict standards. I slipped this little story past her and I am hoping she doesn't see what I have done. Smile Perhaps she could make something of these historic bits and pieces.

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Petraszczuk - Khrabuzna, Ukraine
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annatokaj
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Joined: 01 Apr 2015
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Post Posted: Wed Oct 28, 2015 8:49 am      Post subject:
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Dear Staśu,

Thank you so much for your 'Polish through and through' post on PolishOrigins Forum.
Your history evokes strong emotions!
It is a pleasure that you shared your family history with us and agreed to place your post into our PolishOrigins Blog to share your memories with possible bigger amount of readers.
This a very personal, touching story was published on our blog today http://blog.polishorigins.com/2015/10/28/polish-through-and-through/

Thank you for that once again

Anna
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singingfalls
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Post Posted: Wed Oct 28, 2015 10:18 pm      Post subject:
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You are very welcome. Thank you for the opportunity to share.
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ossnhughie
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Joined: 19 Sep 2010
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Post Posted: Sun Nov 01, 2015 10:52 pm      Post subject:
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So well put together Stasu, very emotional content for sure. I am only a quarter Polish but I feel a strong connection to my Polish heritage, more so then my other ancestries, don't know why, just happens to be this way. I find the Polish story to be full of all sorts of emotion, heroism, tragedy, love of God, victories and the defeats. The suffering of those who have gone before, yet they still stand as a people. How proud I am to have this blood running in my veins.

Again thanks Stasu.

Hugh
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singingfalls
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Post Posted: Mon Nov 02, 2015 8:46 am      Post subject:
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Thank you Hugh for those kind words and encouragement. I understand your sentiments quite well. It is a curiosity to me how ignorant I have been about the long and arduous history of Poland. I am just now catching up with the history by reading several books. My grandparents never spoke of Poland. They only spoke of us being Polish. Currently I am reading the book, The Nation in the Village. It is a very interesting read and I find the same cultural proclivities that existed in the people of rural peasant Poland to exist in rural areas I have live in most of my life here in the US. Next read on the list is the two volume set, God's Playground - A History of Poland.

The real game changer is electricity and the internet. Information is readily available to any and all that are hungry for knowledge. With carefulness we can get a pretty good picture of our place in history, our ethnic origins and the plethora of opinions to choose from regarding the truth of it all. Wink

I've taken my search for my ethnic roots and personal identity even a step further because of the internet. It has been almost a year now since I began DNA testing. The results are amazing. It is very fascinating what we can learn about ourselves through genetics and genealogy. The biological and historical threads of our identity connect us to the tree of humanity in a powerful way. It IS the tree. Our part in it. The continuity of our family and extended family have important impacts on who we are as people. And ownership of our origins, even if we are 1/4 as it where, is not uncommon. I live in an area where the Native Americans were slaughtered wholesale and there are no pure bloods among them. Yet they are recognized as a sovereign nation by the US Government. They take their national identity very seriously. They have resurrected many of their ancient traditions and are now even teaching classes of their original Takelma people group language. That makes us what we are also, doesn't it? I am sure that there are Poles who have very little "Polish blood" but are still Polish, nonetheless. I am sure I am odd man out in that regard. My DNA clumps me at 99+% "Eastern European". The statistics at this time indicate the average Pole is 65% Eastern European. Poland has been run rough shod over by many empires and nations. German, Finnish, Russian, Roman, Turkish, East Asians etc. have all played a role in Poland's national identity. My family comes from a region of small villages in remote poor Polish peasant culture and apparently was unaffected by these shakings of history. So much so that I did a DNA test to see if I was inbred or not! Fortunately there must have been some deeply entrenched customs in the villages that prevented such things. That will be my next line of study. The customs of Peasant Poland and how it evolved from the days of the hunter gatherers until today. I own it all, even as an American.

I hope you continue to be blessed in your meaningful search.

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Kyć - Adamówka
Wlaź - Lucków Górny
Petraszczuk - Khrabuzna, Ukraine
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dgawell



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Post Posted: Tue Nov 03, 2015 8:32 am      Post subject: visit to Poland?
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Stashu,
Do you have any plans to visit Poland? We were there in 2014 and it is my favorite country outside of the USA. We will be back next spring. One recommendation for more research is to find the website for the skansens or outdoor folk villages. They tell the story of the local's history so much better than a typical museum. This might be a good starting place:

http://www.skanseny.net/o_skansenach

BTW- my dad was "Stashu" also. Love the name.
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singingfalls
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Post Posted: Tue Nov 03, 2015 12:39 pm      Post subject:
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Yes, I plan to go at some point in the near future. I must if I am going to be able to trace down my genealogical paper trail to its ultimate depths.

My brother Casimer (Cazu) is very interested in going also. We would have to coordinate our schedules etc. Although I am "retired" I serve on seven non-profit organizations in one capacity or another. Also we have a ranch here in Oregon. There will need to be a lot of coordination. Neverthless my passport sits on my desk to remind me Rolling Eyes to get it renewed.

With regard the name Stashu, I was pleasantly surprised one day when a colleague of mine called me by Stashu. My father, maternal uncle and great grandfather had that name so it is part of a tradition.

Thanks for the encouragement to really "get back to the land" Smile

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kamcglynn



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Post Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2015 11:00 am      Post subject:
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My great grandfather's sister was married at St. Laurentius in 1903. I wish I could have visited it before it was closed. Kate
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singingfalls
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Post Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2015 3:04 pm      Post subject:
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kamcglynn wrote:
My great grandfather's sister was married at St. Laurentius in 1903. I wish I could have visited it before it was closed. Kate

Wow, that is amazing. There is quite an enclave of Poles in Fishtown, Philadelphia to this day. Most of them attend the Holy Name church of Irish ethnicity just a few blocks away from St.Laurentius.

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kamcglynn



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Post Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2015 3:36 pm      Post subject:
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Interesting! My Philadelphia Irish ancestors also lived in the Fishtown area...and in the Kensington area. My Polish great grandparents attended St. Ladislaus' up in Nicetown, which also has been destroyed. Ever hear of Dudeks/Konieczkas/Floreks or Kendras in Philly?
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singingfalls
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Post Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2015 4:13 pm      Post subject:
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kamcglynn wrote:
Interesting! My Philadelphia Irish ancestors also lived in the Fishtown area...and in the Kensington area. My Polish great grandparents attended St. Ladislaus' up in Nicetown, which also has been destroyed. Ever hear of Dudeks/Konieczkas/Floreks or Kendras in Philly?

I went to school 1-8 with a Dudek at St. Laurentius. Don't ask me to remember anything more than that since it would have been around the late '50's Laughing I do remember that name very clearly though. I lived in Fishtown/Kensington from 1952 - 1964. My wife is currently in touch with my first girlfriend and corresponding via internet. She is still in Fishtown. I have an old class picture somewhere of the St. Laurentius days. I'll try to dig it up. No guarantees that I'll find it but I'll give it a shot.

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singingfalls
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Post Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2015 5:02 pm      Post subject:
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OK, So here you go. Dudek is #9 top row left to right in school_1.jpg and he is #6 fourth row left to right in school_2.jpg




http://www.singingfalls.com/images/school_1.jpg

http://www.singingfalls.com/images/school_2.jpg

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