01 October 2013

Poland: The Land of Our Ancestors

The land we currently call Poland is one of contrasts.  The country’s total area is slightly over 120,700 square miles, a bit smaller than the combined areas of the states Wisconsin and Illinois.  Forests cover almost 29% of the land.  More than 1% of the land is classified as a national park, therefore protected by the government.

On the northern border one finds the Brackish Baltic Sea.  Along this area you will find many long sandy beaches, impressive cliffs and unusual geological formations. Dense forests can also be found here.  There are many islands in the Baltic Sea; many under the flag of Poland.  Some of these are under government protection due to the varied protected wildlife such as eagles, wild boar and other protected species.  There is also a small bison preserve on one of the islands.  Others contain resorts which are enjoyed in the summer months.  These are major tourist attractions for the Poles and other nationalities.  Also found are the remains of one of the oldest Slav settlements that had been built during the 9th and 10th centuries.  At one point in the history of the land, this area had been a Viking stronghold.   This event continues to be celebrated in an annual Viking Festival held in Wolin.
The land along the Baltic shoreline also holds its charm.  Here one finds beaches and sand dunes, lakes and flooded meadows.  Spas, resorts and many historic buildings also tempt the tourist who journeys to the coast.  Scattered among the resorts one finds many fishing villages.  Even a 14th century castle once occupied by the Pomeranian Duke Eryk I who had also ruled Denmark, Sweden and Norway can be seen in the area. 
It is along the shoreline that one finds Poland’s fourth largest city, Gdansk.  It has long been Poland’s major port and trading center.   Here one finds many historic buildings some dating back to the 10th century.  There are fine examples of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture much of which was destroyed during World War II but beautifully restored by a people proud of their heritage.
Now we travel to the contrasting southern border of Poland.  Here we find the Tatra Mountains, part of the Carpathian Mountain range.  The Tatras contain some of the highest mountain peaks of this range.  Winter sports abound in this beautiful area as tourists flock to resorts scattered around the Tatras.  This area has well earned the title “Winter Capital of Poland”
Since World War I, the small town of Zakopane at the foot of the mountains has been known as a refuge for well-known artists, a place to relax and enjoy the rustic beauty of the area.  It continues to be known today as a Bohemian town attracting many artist, writers and composers.  Zakopane also hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics and both the 2011 and 2013 Alpine World Ski Championships.
Even so it is the mountain peaks that attract most of the three million tourists that visit annually.  The area is enjoyed by both the Poles and many other Western Europeans for skiing and various other mountain sports.  The entire mountain area is part of the Tatra National Park which was created in 1954.  The park holds a wide variety of both indigenous and Alpine plants and animals which are protected by the park system.  The area is one of the Poland’s last refuges for the Golden Eagle.  You will also find bears, Marmot and chamois, to name a few.
Previous to the creation of the park, the area was inhabited by the Polish peoples called Gorale or mountain highlanders. Here they could have been seen grazing goats, sheep, and cows in the summer pastures of the Tatras.  The language of the Gorale is a mixture having Polish as the base language.  Their original culture is preserved in stories told by the highlanders who still live in the area. 
The central region of Poland is the largest.  On the west it extends to Germany and the Czech Republic and on the east to Lithuania, Belarus and the Ukraine.  It consists of flat plains interspersed with lakes and ice-aged rivers. The geography of this area allowed Poland to become a natural roadway between foes; usable for other counties during various European conflicts. 
City of Poznan circa 1890.  
Here is the agricultural belt of Poland. Fields with wheat, rye and potatoes along with other crops are planted on narrow strips of land.  It is an area of contrasts; large, mechanized private farms bordering small farms being worked in the way of the 19th century farmer.
The towns can be bustling cities like Warsaw, Krakow or Posen or small, quaint villages containing thatched wooden cottages.  Nobles’ castles are preserved and war torn cities have been rebuilt.  Most Polish cities have retained their medieval layouts containing a town square with markets, a town hall and burgher’s houses.  The architecture can range from Romanesque to Gothic, Renaissance to baroque or neoclassical.  In the large cities one also sees the bland apartments built during the 45 years of communist control. 

28 March 2013

Dyngus Day Fun

The celebration of Dyngus Day is a  very ancient Polish custom is preformed on Easter Monday.  The first known writings on dyngus date back to the Middle Ages.  Some tie this celebration to the 966 AD baptizing of Prince Mieszko and his court on Easter Monday.  This custom is well documented in the Poznan region of PolandIt is a celebration of the end of Lent, a rejoicing about the end of the Lenten restrictions.
Men would pour water on the heads of an unsuspecting female friend or lover.  Dyngus began about 5 in the morning.  The house where the unsuspecting female lived would be secretly invaded, sometimes with the collusion of the males of that household, and the females of the house were doused liberally with water while some were still in bed! 

Even though there was much screaming and shouting by the girls, Dyngus was and still is considered a popularity contest.  The more times in a day that a girl had to change her dress, the more popular she was!  Reilly, the celebration is a strange type of courtship ritual!  It was well known that the girl who was not dumped with water would not be married in the next year.
When our ancestors came to the United States, switches from willows were used on the girls’ legs instead of or in addition to water, but the basic idea of the custom remains the same. 

My mom, Loretta Szostek Kolodzinski, told me of celebrating Dyngus Day when she was a child in Chicago.  There would be a knock on the door and her sister, Phyllis, and her would run yelling and squeaking into the bedroom.  They would crawl under the bed for protection but it would not last.  Their father, Stanley Szostek, would show the boys the bedroom, lift the dust ruffle and point to his daughters hiding under the bed.
Even though this custom seems one sided, the women and girls had their days.  From Easter Tuesday until Pentecost, this period of time was called the Green holidays, the women doused the men!

Dyngus Day is celebrated today in many locations in the USA, mostly where there are large Polish communities such as Buffalo, NY (the consider themselves the capital of Dyngus Day in America!), South Bend, IN, Chicago, IL, Elizabeth, NJ, Bristol, CT, and Pittsburgh, PA. 

26 March 2013

Polish Easter Eggs

Eggs have been decorated for centuries.  The early Christians of Mesopotamia were already coloring eggs by staining them.  It was in 1610 A.D. that the Christian Church officially adopted the custom.  What did they do prior to the availability of food coloring? 

In today's world Easter eggs are largely decorated by children with the help of a parent.  We purchased "fizzy" coloring which is a tablet that is placed in cold water.  We add the boiled egg and after a while take it out and the shell is colored.  Prior to this there were tablets which were place in extremely hot water with a teaspoon of vinegar.  Again we added the boiled egg, waited a bit and soon had a beautifully colored egg.  When I was a child we just used bottled food coloring, a messy alternative but we obtained the same results.

 Prior to the food coloring we know today, eggs were colored with natural dyes.  Red wine results in a violet blue egg, blueberries a blue one of course.  Would you like a green egg?  Try boiled spinach leaves.  Yellow?  Boiled orange ore lemon peels should do the trick.  Boiled yellow onion skins will  give you a shade of orange or peach.  Like pink eggs, try beets.  The list goes on and it is fun to try different and unique natural dyes.  Even strong coffee will dye eggs a brown!  Think of what will stain your clothes and you know of something that will dye eggs naturally.

I did title this the Easter Eggs of Poland.  In our ancestors time the coloring of eggs would use many of the same dyes we term natural today.  It is all they had but they used dyes, wax, paper and sometimes straw in different ways.

In Poland, the decorating of Easter eggs was mainly the task of the girls and women.  It was done in great secrecy on Holy Thursday or Good Friday.  Men and boys were not allowed to see how the eggs were decorated.  If a man happened to enter the room where the eggs were being decorated, he was chased away and the women would have to throw a pinch of salt over their shoulders to cleanse themselves!

The Easter eggs of Poland usually fall into five types:

   Kraszanki – hard boiled and made for eating, these are dyed one color only (these are our basic Easter eggs)

Malowanki – blown egg with a colored design painted on the top (this type is also made in Russia but I am sure they have a different name)

   Pisanki – blown egg made by applying various wax patterns (sometimes known as the Ukrainian Easter egg)

Okeljane or nalepianki – blown egg decorated with paper or straw

   Skrobanki – blown egg that is scratch carved

25 March 2013

Easter Sunday

A vast majority of Polish peoples are members of the Catholic faith.  Some who originally lived in the German Partition of Poland were encouraged to follow teachings of the Lutheran religion.  There were also many members of the Jewish faith.

With the typical Polish families, Easter Sunday began with a High Mass, a celebration of the Resurrection.  After Mass the family shares Swieconka, foods Blessed on Saturday.  

In my family my mom would slice the ham and Polish sausage and place them in a pan to fry in a light amount of butter, basically just to heat them.  While they were heating she would remove the shells from the eggs  and slice the eggs.  Later she would crumble the shells and bury them in the plants (the shells had also been blessed so they could not be thrown out but in the potted plants the would add nourishment to the soil).  When the ham and sausage were heated they would be moved to the side of the pan and the egg slices would be added to fry a bit and heat.  Frying of boiled eggs may sound strange but on Easter Sunday they were delicious.  The eggs, ham and sausage would be served along with the rye bread, butter lamb, horseradish and other items which had been blessed.
In some households the water in which the Polish sausage was cooked on Saturday was used to make a white borscht.  The following recipes was shared with me by my Aunt Emily Dul Szostek.  The recipes was given to her by her mother, Catherine Zuba Dul.  Both women served this to their families on Easter.

Easter Borscz

½ cup flour
1 1/4 cup milk
¼ cup vinegar (or to taste)
Smoked Polish Sausage – cooked
5 to 6 eggs – hard boiled
Touch of horseradish
Tiny crisp pieces of bacon - optional

In a small bowl mix together flour and ¾ cup milk (mixture should be fluid, not paste).  Pour ½ gallon (8 cups) of water into a large pot.  Bring to a boil and immediately add the remaining ½ cup milk.  Stir.  Pour in flour/milk mixture and stir.  Simmer over a lowered flame for a few minutes (mixture may rise). 

Remove from flame. Add bacon pieces, if desired.  Serve pieces of sausage and eggs in the soup bowls along with the borscz.  Horseradish can be added as an optional seasoning.

 Others just added sour cream, flour and horseradish to this water and heated to make this soup which is shared along with the rest of the items from the basket.  Many would added their kielbasa and eggs to the borscht.  
In Poland, husbands and wives share their decorated eggs with each other.  Many children play a game called “wybitki”.  Two children each take an egg in their right hand and hit one against the other.  Whoever’s egg does not break wins the other child’s egg.

In my maternal side of the family it was traditional to celebrate both Easter and my Grandma, Mary Inda Szostek's, birthday together.  She was born on 30 Mar 1894 so her children, Edward Szostek, Phyllis Szostk Wegrzyn, Loretta Szostek Kolodzinski and Helen Szostek Huffman, decided it was better to all get together on Easter to celebrate no matter which date Easter fell on.  After my Grandpa, Stanley Szostek, died in 1955, we normally got together at whichever sibling my Grandma was living with at the time.  Many times this was at the Wegrzyns, home of the my Aunt Phyllis and her family.

After visiting for a while we would sit down for a huge Easter dinner!  This normally started out with homemade chicken noodle soup and continued with ham, chicken, mashed potatoes and gray and many vegetables.  Dinner was finished off with a birthday cake and other desserts.  After dinner the men would get together for pinochle while the women would clear the tables and head to the kitchen to wash and dry the dishes.  Both of these were great times to get together and share stories and great conversation. 

Just wait until you hear about Easter Monday!

23 March 2013

Święconka - Easter Baskets

A major part of any Polish Easter tradition is the Święconka or the blessed foods of the Easter.  The Blessing occurred on Saturday, the day before Easter.  Saturday mornings were busy days for a Polish housewife, not only was she making her home ready for visitors she would have the next day but she would be busy preparing the foods to be eaten on Easter Sunday.  Normally this is when the children of the house decorated Easter eggs. The Blessing would take place at church in the mid-afternoon   In my father, Edward Kolodzinski, parents' home the family would fast from noon on Saturday until after Mass on Easter Sunday morning.  Easter breakfast was the end of the Lenten fast.

 Traditionally, a special basket was decorated to carry the blessed foods.  The baskets were decorated especially for this coming time of celebration, the Resurrection of Jesus.t.  The cloth had been previously beautifully embroidered, possibly even an heirloom from her mother, to line the basket and cover the foods.  Sometimes a crocheted cover was made.  These items were special and used only for this occasion.

The foods that were placed in the basket had a religious meaning. I have listed the foods with both their Polish and English names.  Although not all Polish families could afford all of the items listed but the basket contained many foods that were only purchased for the Easter celebration:

 A carved or molded maslo or butter lamb represents the goodness of Christ

Jajka or eggs are the symbol of Christ’s tomb and resurrection

A special Easter rye chleb or bread which would have a cross cut in it before it was baked symbolizing Christ, our true Bread (in later years the rye would have a purple paper sticker with a white cross attached)

Fresh kielbasa or Polish sausage indicative of God’s favor and generosity (the water one cooked the sausage in would be saved for Easter morning for white borscht, I will include my Aunt Emily Dul Szostek's recipe which she generously shared with me, in my next post for Easter)

Szynka or ham which is symbolic of the joy and abundance of Easter

Sol or salt which is symbolic of prosperity and justice

Chrzan or horseradish symbolizing the bitter sufferings of Christ

A candle to symbolize the power of light over the darkness

Sometimes, slonina or smoked bacon (to symbolize the over abundance of God's mercy and generosity) and ser or cheese (to symbolize the moderation Christians should always have) were also added.

When everything was prepared, the basket is taken to Church for the Blessing.  Many times the whole family would attend this event, children carrying their own baskets of food.  This tradition is still celebrated in PolandBulgariaBohemiaRussia and other Slavic countries along with many areas of the United States.

In my household we would include jellybeans and candy eggs in the basket, in later years would also include a biscuit for our special feline or dog member of the family and birdseed for our feathered friends.  My materal Grandfather, Stanley Szostek would include his favorite Babka in his basket (he was the cook in the house).  I have included a recipe for Babka at the end of this post.  I have also seen people bring bottles of wine in their baskets for Blessing.  Yes, the baskets could get really large!

Babka is a traditional Polish cake made for special occasions, especially Easter.  Babka also means old woman or grandmother in Polish.  The cake was baked in a fancy pan that looked like a grandmother’s skirt and that is how it received its name babka.

Babka Wielkanocna Lukrowana
(Easter Babka with Icing)
1 envelope dry yeast
½ cup half and half – room temperature
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups flour
3 eggs – room temperature
1 teas vanilla
1/2 teas rum extract
1 teas grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine
1/3 cup raisins (mixed light and dark)
 ½ cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon rum (you can use lemon juice instead)
Dissolve the yeast in the cream.  Combine this with 1 cup flour and half the sugar.  Let rise until double in size.  Add all the remaining ingredients except the raisins and knead until smooth (this may be very sticky and will be kneaded in bowl).  Add raisins and knead into dough.  Grease and flour babka pan.  Place dough in pan, cover with cloth, and let rise in a warm place until double in size.   Bake at 350° for 35 to 45 minutes or until a tester is inserted and comes out clean.  When cool remove from pan.  Mix icing ingredients and drizzle over cooled babka.

27 February 2013

My American Grandmother, Mary Inda Szostek

Mary was the third child and first daughter born to Jozef and Antonina (nee Nowicki) Inda.  She was born in 1894 in Chicago, Illinois in 1894.  Since she was my only grandparent born in the USA, I had always thought of her as my American Grandmother.  She completed 8 years of school in Chicago and was fluent in both English and Polish.  Her daughter, Loretta (my mother), told me of finding a long braid of auburn hair in a trunk in her parents' home.  She was told this was Mary's hair which she had cut about in the sometime after her marriage.

Mary Inda 1907 First Communion

  In the 1910 US Census, Mary is living with her parents and eight siblings at 1736 Wood Street, Chicago, which is part of the area known as Bucktown.  She was already working as a seamstress in a tailor shop and would eventually do piecework for a company called Smoler Brothers.  Sewing was a skill she was taught by her mother along with crocheting and embroidery.

Her uncle, Sylwester Inda, was living with his family at 2124 Berlin Street.  Living in the same building was a man by the name of John Bochyniak.  In all probability this is were Mary met John.  He was a very handsome man, tall with blond hair. The couple would fall in love and marry on 26 November 1913 in St Hedwigs Catholic Church.  On 3 October 1915, Mary would give birth to their first child, Edward.  There happiness would not last.  John was what is called a "ladies man".  He was not a faithful husband and because of this tragedy would befall the once happy couple.  John was diagnosed with syphilis and was being treated.  He told Mary that both she and their infant son would need to be treated also.  The shame he felt lead john to despair.  On 8 January 1917 John threw himself under a train in Franklin Park and died at the age of 30 years, 11 months.

Mary's sorrow knew no bounds but she had a child to raise.  She moved back in with her parents who now lived at 3344 Edgington in Franklin Park.  She would not be a single parent long.  John had been a moulder in Chicago.  He had a friend by the name of Stanley Szostek.  Stanley had also immigrated from Poland and now worked with John.  He was often invited to the Bochyniak home.  Over time he fell in love with Mary but had never let her know since she was married to his friend.  After allowing for a time of morning, Stanley approached marry.  He told her of his love.  He then asked her to marry him and told her he also loved her son and would adopt him legally and raise him as his own.  Mary and Stanley wed at St Gertrude Catholic Church in Franklin Park on 24 September 1918.

On 5 July 1919, Mary would give birth to the couple's first child, Monica Phyllis Mary.  Their daughter, Loretta Mary, would follow on 21 November 1921.  Their last child was also a daughter.  Helen was born on 16 September 1928.   Stanley did legally adopt Edward.  The family lived at various addresses prior to their purchasing their own home in the early 1940's at 2535 North Springfield Avenue in Chicago.  It is interesting to note one of the homes rented by the Szostek's about 1928 was owned by Michael and Maryanna Kolodzinski, my paternal grandparents.  That is a story for another day.

Mary was a wonderful sewer and never used a pattern just cutting the material and creating clothing for her children.  She would dress Phyllis and Loretta as twins since they were so close in age.  She did not have patience to teach her daughters how to sew feeling she could always do it faster.  Her daughters were taught embroidery and Phyllis learned crocheting.

Mary and Stanley's happiness continued as their children married and they would enjoy the arrive of their grandchildren.   Then on 20 September 1955, tragedy again struck Mary as the husband she grew to love died of a stroke.  Now Mary would move into the home of her daughter, Phyllis Szostek Wegrzyn.  At various times she would be living with each of her three daughters' families.  The following picture was taken in 1959 outside of my parents home at 2866 North Woodard in Chicago.  We lived near a neighborhood shopping district and Mary did enjoy shopping.

Mary enjoyed spending time with her family.  As her children grew they would visit many times during the year.  Some days were very special and would mean all of the families would gather.  These would include Christmas Day and one day in the summer for a family picnic also every Easter we would celebrate both Easter and her birthday even though the day of this event would in reality change yearly. 

My grandmother carried on the tradition of teaching needlework.  I fondly remember sitting by her when I was about six and learning how to embroider.  Yes, it was simple embroidery stitches but she taught me and instilled my love of the needle arts by doing so.  The first piece I embroidered was a quilted potholder with Humpty Dumpty on it.  Mary continued to sew and altered both her clothes and that of her daughters if they asked.  She enjoyed her soap operas especially All My Children and As the World Turns.  You were not allowed to interrupt her during her favorite soaps!  As far as she was concerned there were no commercials.  She assumed they were just a part of the show so you needed to save conversation until they had finished, commercials and all.

Mary Inda Szostek died in Chicago on 10 February 1977.  She is buried next to Stanley at St Josephs Catholic Cemetery in River Grove. 

22 February 2013

My Elusive Babcia, Maryanna Kolodzinski

In Polish, babcia means grandma, Maryanna was my paternal grandmother.  She died in 1936, eleven years before my parents were  married.  Growing up I believed the stories all to be true.  First the stories told to me by my father, Edward Kolodzinski and aunts, Anna Drozek and Mary Porebski:
I was told Maryanna was born in Austria about 1883.  My grandmother spoke Polish exclusively.  She did not know how to read or write Polish or English.  Both of my aunts, her daughters Anna and Mary, remembered writing letters back to the "old country" for their mother.  They were addressed simply as SMULSKA (everyone also believed this to have been my grandmother's maiden name also) in Vienna, Austria.  The letters were sent to Marianna's mother and after a time replies would be received.  Our family understood Maryanna's maiden name was SMULSKA.  When asked if this was the right spelling of her surname Maryanna would say it looks like it. 
My cousins and I heard tales of my grandmother coming to the United States as a young girl, working as a servant to a rich family aboard a ship to obtain passage.  My father and my aunts never told us what brought her to Chicago where she began her new life.  It is quite probable even they did not know.  In the late 1800's and early 1900's it was common for immigrants not to talk about life in their homeland.  They were afraid word would get back to the authorities there and bad things would happen to the immigrant's family which was left behind.  
Picture taken soon after she arrived in Chicago.
Maryanna married Michael KOŁODZINSKI in Chicago.  Anna, born in 1909 was the oldest child, Edward was born in 1914 and Mary in 1916.  Two other children, Genevieve and Michael, died in infancy.  The family lived in an area of Chicago called "bucktown".  Bucktown was an area on the northwest side of Chicago.  At the time it was predominantly Polish. 
Maryanna owned a candy store in the area.  My father told me stories of her sitting on the front stoop of the store after closing on the 4th of July and enjoying herself shooting off all of the fireworks she had not sold.  She closed or lost the store at one time but would once again reopen it in the same neighborhood.  I would ask how she handled the store and the paperwork involved and all my dad would say is she had no problem.  She loved to cook and the family would always have good food and delicious desserts even during the lean times. 
 Maryanna and Michael Kolodzinski - 1929
She was the buffer between her husband who was an alcoholic and her children.  When Maryanna died in January of 1936 the family was devastated.  Today lumbar pneumonia would be treated, in the 1930's it meant death for Maryanna.  She is buried in St Adalbert's Catholic Cemetery in Niles, Illinois, the same cemetery where her children Genevieve and Michael were buried.
It would have been wonderful to have known my babcia or at least to know more about her.  It was her untold story which started my interest in researching my family tree.  As I had written in a previous, I was in my mid 30's when I found out my babcia had been married previously and my Aunt Anna was born from that union.  My cousins had also been in the dark about this part of our history.  Little did I know this was just the beginning.......
The records found so far place Maryanna's birth as occurring between 1882 and 1884 but the location is not always stated as being Austria let alone Vienna.  Yes, Austria is named but at the time she was born much of the area was part of the Austrian Empire.  Her death certificate states she was born in Czechoslavakia and the passenger list from her arrival (27 Jan 1901) states she had been living in Zapolocz, Hungary (I have not been able to find this location).  She may have moved there to work.  Other than her location prior to arrival the passenger list bears out the story of her working as a servant to gain passage to the USA.  The passenger list was difficult to locate due to the name she traveled under, Maria Czmar.   Not quite the surname Smulska she told her daughters her name looked similar to when they wrote letters. 

When we were told about the two marriages we found out her first husband had been a man by the name of Andrew Opalenik.  Maryanna and Andrew had four children, Helen born about 1903 (she died sometime in the 1920's), Paul born 1905 (he died the same year), Dmitron born 1906 (he died in 1912) and Anna born 1909, before Maryanna filed for divorce in 1913.  The 1910 US Census confirms Mary having given birth to 4 children 3 of which survived.

It is thanks to the dedication of my aunt Mary that the divorce documents had been located.  According to the document, the couple had married on or about 1 Aug 1906.  When did they really marry?  After sending for a copy of a marriage certificate for Andrew Opalenik and Maryanna Smulska and being unsuccessful I asked the Cook County clerk to look for various spellings (they must have had an interesting time with the variety).  Almost giving up Itried just using Andrew Opalenik's name.  Success!  This is were Maryanna's name was found to be Mary Czmur!  Paul's birth register states his mother's maiden name was Murzat, Dimitron states Zuner. The error in the spelling Czmur to Murzat or Smulska is no doubt due the inability to read or write or hearing a name pronounced by someone who does not speak English.  Since the letters were sent to Austria with the name Smulska could Maryanna's mother have remarried and Smulska was his surname?
Maryanna and Michael's first born was Edward in 1914.  Since their marriage certificate has not yet been located the question which comes up is did they formalize their marriage?  Why would Mary have gone through a divorce, hiring a lawyer and appearing in court, if they did not intend to marry.  Once again spelling may hold a clue in finding the record.
Yes, she did own at least one candy store.  The proof is in the 1920 US Census which states the fact and a Chicago City Directory showing a Mary Kolodzinski having a candy store in the 1920.  From the record found of Paul's birth in 1905 until she died in 1936, Maryanna lived at thirteen different addresses, all in Bucktown. 
Her love of family lived on after she was gone and is still shown by the closeness we all feel to our elusive babcia.

22 January 2013

How We Relate to History

Yesterday I watched the Inauguration of President Barack Obama on television and thought about the other Inaugurations I had lived through.  Each of of lives and destinies are formed by our families and the land we live in, its government and relationship to the world.  I was born during the middle of President Harry Truman's term in office, yes, I am dating myself.  I was a toddler during the first Inauguration of Dwight D Eisenhower.  The Inauguration of John F Kennedy was the first I truly remember.  These men have influenced me and how I live as have the men who followed them in office.
This made me think of my ancestors.  They immigrated from Europe and did not experience a democracy until they arrived in the USA.  Who were the Presidents when they arrived?  What was happening in the United States?  This would have influenced the lives they lived in, they would be part of this history.  What other historical events happened the year they arrived?
My paternal grandfather, Michael Kolodzinski, arrived in the USA in January of 1908.  Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the USA (William Howard Taft was elected to succeed him in 1909).   Henry Ford produced his first Model "T".  Wilbur Wright flies 30 miles in 40 minutes.  Yes, his history continues to influence my world and life.
My maternal grandmother was Mary Czmur (we thought her maiden name was Smulski but that is a story for another day) immigrated in January, 1901.  William McKinley was the 25th President of the USA when she arrived but in September of that year he was assassinated to be replaced by Theodore Roosevelt.  Queen Victoria of England had died and was succeeded by her son, King Edward IV.  Cuba becomes a US protectorate.  The first Nobel Prize ceremony is held in Stockholm, Sweden. 
My maternal grandfather, Stanley Szostek, immigrated in April of 1907.  Theodore Roosevelt was President.  The RMS Lusitania makes its maiden voyage from Liverpool, England to New York.  Marconi initiates the first commercial transatlantic radio communications.
My maternal grandmother, Mary Inda, was born in Chicago, IL.  Her parents, Jozef and Antonina Inda arrived in April of 1891 and her grandparents, Jan and Anna (nee Schleichert) Inda arrived in May of 1892.  Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd President of the USA.  In 1891, the first escalator is patented, Wrigley Company is founded, Edison unveils the kinescope (a precursor to our motion picture camera), and the first Sherlock Holmes story is published.  In 1892 Ellis Island opens its doors to immigrants, the first official basketball game is played,  Thomas Edison receives a patent for a two way telegraph and the University of Chicago holds its first class.
For my cousins I would also like to add some of their ancestors years of immigration and a bit of history. 
Albert Schleichert (my half brother of Anna Schleichert) immigrated in 1882 and 
Catherine Inda Manicki (sister of Jan Inda) immigrated in June of 1882.  Chester A Arthur was the 21st President of the USA. 
Valentine Inda (cousin of Jan Inda) immigrated in July of 1872.  Ulysses S Grant was the 18th President of the USA.  The Great Chicago Fire was the previous year (no wonder Valentine settled with his family in LaSalle, IL)
Julius Drozek immigrated about 1889.  Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd President of the USA succeeding Grover Cleveland in March of 1889.  North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Washington become States.  The Coco-Cola Company is incorporated in Atlanta, GA. 
Paul Porebski immigrated about 1910.  William Howard Taft was the 27th President of the USA. The Boy Scouts of America are founded.  The first filmed version of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein comes out.  The Mexican Revolution begins.
For my Inda cousins having ancestors settling in Waushara County, WI:
Frank Inda immigrated about 1881.  His sister, Josepha Inda Korleski, immigrated in April of 1883.  When Josepha Korleski immigrated with her family Chester A Arthur was President.  Not knowing when in 1881 Frank Inda and his wife arrived it is hard to know who was the President.  Rutherford B Hayes was the President until March of 1881.  He was succeeded by James A Garfield who was then assassinated on 19 Sept 1881.  Chester A Arthur succeeded him.
For my Inda cousins having ancestors being in Michigan and before settling in Arkansas:
Peter Inda immigrated in June of 1868.  Andrew Johnson was the 17th President of the USA.  He was sworn into office upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  The Civil War had ended and it was time of Reconstruction.
For my Inda cousins in who had ancestors settling in Branch County, MI with many moving to Nebraska:  Anthony A Inda immigrated between 1870-1880, his sister, Anna Inda, immigrated about 1873, and brother, Martin Inde,  immigrated about 1874.  Ulysses S Grant was the President.
For my Inda cousins having ancestors settling in Huron County, MI:  Jacob Inda immigrated about 1884.  Chester A Arthur was President of the USA.  The first eight hour work day is proclaimed by Federation of Organized Trades and Unions in the USA.  May 1st is called May Day or Labor Day.
For my Inda cousins in who had ancestors settling in Buffalo, NY:
Peter and his brother, Wojciech (Albert or George) Inda immigrated in 1890.  Benjamin Harrison was President of the USA.  Idaho is admitted as the 43rd State, Wyoming as the 44th.  The Wounded Knee Massacre happens in South Dakota.
For my Inda cousins in who had ancestors settling in Milwaukee, WI and Cheektowaga, NY:  Anthony Inda immigrated in 1887 and his brother, Jacob Inda, in 1893.  Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th President of the United States serving between 1883-1889 and then again from 1893-1897.  Benjamin Harrison was the 23ed President between 1893-1897.
For my Inda cousins in who had ancestors settling in Milwaukee, WI:  Valentine, Michael and Catherine Inda immigrated about 1874.  Their father, Anton Inda, immigrated in 1879.  Ulysses S Grant was President until 1877 when Rutherford B Hayes was sworn into Office.
History was never one of my favorite subjects in school, it was just memorization of dates and events.  When I see how it relates to my family it becomes enthralling!

05 January 2013

Stories and Spoons

As children many of us are told stories about our ancestors.  The stories may only be about our parents or grandparents but we feel they are the history of our family.  Many things are also left out of stories as I found out when I was in my early thirties.
My father, Ed, had two sisters, Anna and Mary.  There were two other siblings, Genevieve and Michael, both of whom died in early childhood.  Aunt Anna was older than  my dad.  She had married William "Bill" Drozek and they had three sons.  Aunt Mary was the youngest in the family.  She had married Thaddeus "Ted" Porebski and they had one son.  Yes, we were a small family but we were close.  There were many fun visits throughout the year and Thanksgiving traditionally spent at the Drozek's home and New Years Day at the Porebski's.

 There was one Thanksgiving I will never forget.  It had been a fun day as usual and our stomachs were all filled with wonderful food.  We had just finished a game of "Spoons"* and the conversation turned to my grandmother, Maryanna.  One of my Aunts mentioned something about  Maryanna's first husband.  Well, my jaw dropped and when I looked at my cousins, who were older, and they looked equally surprised.  We seemed to ask as one,
"What do you mean first husband?"

It seems Maryanna had first married a man named Andrew Opalenik and Anna was born from this marriage.  The couple also had another child who survived to adulthood.  Her name was Helena!  She had married and had two stepsons before she died sometime in the 1920's.  No one remembered the year of her death or her married name.  There were more cousins out there!!!
Then one of my cousins asked when Andrew died and we were told it was sometime in the 1920's.  Well, my father was born in 1914 from the marriage of Maryanna to Michael Kolodzinski.  How???  Then we were told Maryanna had divorced Andrew sometime between the time Anna was born in 1909 and Ed in 1914.
Helen Opalenik (eldest daught of Maryanna Czmur and Andrew Opalenik)
When my family returned to my parents home I was still reeling.  When I commented once again on the fact that Maryanna was married twice,  my mother, Loretta (née Szostek) told me that my other grandmother, Mary (née Inda), had also been married twice!  That is a story for another day since there is more to this story.

A year or so later I started again asking my dad about his siblings.  He then told me there was another Michael plus another child but he was not sure of the name.  Both of the children died as infants or toddlers.  Over the last few years I have found records confirming these two children born to Maryanna.  They were from her marriage to Andrew.  Michael was called Mike but Baptized as Dmitron.  The other child was also a son.  Paul was 7 months old when he died.

We seem to believe divorce is something new to our lifetimes but it is not.  My grandmother, Maryanna, divorced her husband Andrew in 1913.  Thanks to the persistence of my Aunt Mary in looking for the paperwork, I have a copy of the divorce decree and the court records.

* * * * * * * * * * *

*SPOONS is an easy game which can be played by many different age groups, children and adults at the same table.  All you need is a deck of cards and one spoon less than the number of people playing (eg 10 people playing = 9 spoons, etc).  Remove the jokers from the deck of cards.  If you have 8 people playing you use 8 sets (a set consisting of 4 common cards) ignoring the suits (eg 4 twos, 4 threes, 4 fours, etc until you have the needed amount).  Everyone sits by a table and the spoons are laid down the middle.  Shuffle the cards and deal each person 4 cards face down.  People can look at them but not let others know what they have in their hand. Each person passes one card, again face down, to their left and adds the card from their right which has been passed to them to their hand.  This continues until the first person obtains 4 of a kind.  They then take a spoon out of the center of the table (most people do it as silently as possible).  It is up to the others to notice a spoon is taken and the scramble for spoons begins.  Whoever does not have a spoon is out of the next round and one spoon is removed from the table.  This continues until there is one person left and they are the winner!
We played this game at family gatherings with both sides of my family.  There is another variation to this game called "NOSE".  You do not use spoons in this version, just the cards.  Everything else is the same but when the first person collects 4 of a kind they place their finger next to their nose and everyone else must do the same.  The last person to do such is out of the game.  This is a much tamer version and personally I do not believe to be as much fun as the original game.