I was raised Polish-American in western Massachusetts. My grandparents, all of whom died before I was born, came to America in the late 1890s during one of the large waves of immigration from Poland. My parents, aunts, and uncles spoke Polish, but none of my generation learned "the secret language, " except for a few basic words (we always knew when we were being scolded!).
When I asked my parents where their parents were from, they could not tell me. We are from Galicia, my mother said, We are from Poland. She could tell me nothing about either family, except that both sets of grandparents had made the trip to America twice.
I was intensely bothered by the lack of information about my grandparents and their ancestors. On their death certificates, where the names of their parents should have been, it said "cannot be learned." For a long time, I thought this meant that the Russians refused to let us know anything about our family in Poland.
In 1976, my parents invited me to go with them on their first trip to Poland. We joined an organized tour of the southeastern part of the country, and were able to take a side trip to Błazowa, a town south of Rzeszˇw. There we saw the official entry for the 1904 birth of my Ciocia Frances, who was one of the few of her generation to be born in Poland.
Below is a photograph of a skansen cottage that we visited during the trip:
Click to see more of the pictures from my trip to Poland, 1976.
Sister Mary Placyda, my Aunt Paulina
written by Nancy Maciolek Blake
2005, revised January 2006
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