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.  

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