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.

04 January 2013

Am I Really Polish American?

My family lived in Chicago but we were of Polish descent.  I grew up in an area of the city that would be dubbed "Little Warsaw".  It was so named since it had as many Polish people living there as Warsaw, Poland. Many people spoke Polish as a first and sometimes only language.  My parents, Ed and Loretta (née Szostek) Kolodzinski were born in Chicago but were fluent in Polish.
 Both of my father's parents, Michael and Mary Kolodzinski, were immigrants and only spoke their native tongue at home. Michael spoke 9 languages in all but did not care to learn English. He did not want his children speaking English in his home until his wife, Mary, stated, "how can I learn English if they do not speak it at home?"  My dad first learned to speak English when he attended school.  Neither of my paternal grandparents ever learned to speak English before they died.  Loretta's parents were Stanley and Mary (née Inda) Szostek. Stanley was an immigrant from Poland. Eventually he would learn to understand English but never to speak it. Mary was born in the USA and fluent in Polish.

One would think all of my grandparents immigrated from Poland but this is not true. Even though Michael Kolodzinski spoke Polish he stated he was born in Lithuania. During research this was found to be partially true. When he immigrated to the USA in 1908 the area he lived was part of Russian Empire (between bout 1795 until the Treaty of Versailles in 1918, the country we call Lithuania did not exist). After finding the passenger of his immigration I found he had lived in Dykshuy (Dokshytsy), Russia which is now part of Belarus!

My paternal grandmother, Mary Kolodzinski, could not read or write.  Her two daughters would write letters for her and send them to the family in, no, not Poland but Vienna, Austria!  When Mary immigrated to the USA in 1901 the passenger list stated she had been living in Zapolocz, Hungary.  When she died in 1936, my grandfather gave Czechoslovakia as the place of her birth.  Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia were all part of the Austrian Partition between about 1795 until the Treaty of Versailles in 1918.  The countries no longer appeared on maps.
Stanley Szostek immigrated to the USA in 1907.  The passenger list states he had lived in Gromiec, Galicia prior to immigration.   Galicia was an area in the Austrian Partition and today is part of Poland.
My maternal grandmother, Mary Szostek, was born to Jozef and Antonina (nee Nowicki) Inda, both immigrants.  Mary knew her parents were from Posen.  At the time Jozef and Antonina immigrated (1892) Posen was part of the German Partition, the Polish spelling is Poznan.  At times this area was called Preußen or Prussia.  Also, my Inda ancestors did not come from the city of Posen but from the Province of Posen.  Currently this area is part of the Wielkopolska Province also called Greater Poland.

The map below shows the various partitions of the region.  The first occured about 1792.  Some countries disappeared off of the world map but most remained in the hearts of their citizens.  If you are interested in learning more about the various Partitions of Poland I would suggested reading the following website http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partitions_of_Poland  Here you will also be able to see a larger and better view of this map which was on the site.

 Even though the boundaries of the lands changed and they owed allegiances to different monarchs, my ancestors considered themselves Polish Americans and so do I.