We had an amazing response to our latest message ‘What would my ancestors do?’. I didn’t want your stories and comments to be read only by me and our team. They are so important that they just have to be shared with more people to raise at least the same feelings I had reading them.
These are not all and not full responses. I picked out for you these fragments which had the greatest impact on me.
I especially appreciated your comment:
“You are descendants of one of the bravest. You are descendants of those who were leaving their world, their tiny village far away from civilization, to travel to a completely new world.”
In what little research I have accomplished over the past couple of years, I have been left thinking of how fearless my grandparents must have been when, as teenagers and young adults they decided, individually, to pack a bag, leave their family, friends, and home towns/hamlets in southeastern Poland behind (Frysztak and Letownia), travel overland to the coast of Germany (about a thousand km away), board a ship and cross the Atllantic to start a new life in America.
Although I never knew my grandfathers (my dziadzius) – both had passed before I was born – I know that their life was no “bed of roses.” Each worked hard, long hours in not very pleasant factories that were full of men who had immigrated to the U.S. for economic opportunity. It was the way it was, the way it had to be in order to support the families that these men had started.
But at the heart of both families was the mother. Stern, loving, hardworking women and as time went on, each became the head of their respective household. They raised their children, saw most get married, have children and were the center of attention when we gathered, always wearing big smiles on their faces when their grandchildren were around.
My grandmothers and grandfathers, all of whom came from Poland, each left “. . . their tiny village far away from civilization, to travel to a completely new world. . . ” where they made a new life for themselves. They certainly were fearless young adults. They experienced many hard times and I’m sure had times when they wondered why they left their homeland. There were wars in Europe that threatened the American way of life, extremely hard economic times during the Depression, and a Second World War that involved sons/sons-in-law serving in the military. Fortunately all would return safely.
What would my grandparents do today? They would persevere. Their decision to leave Poland, commit to a long and stressful journey to a place they did not know much about, and learn to live in a very different culture taught them to stick with it and that with patience their hope for better times would be realized.
Today my hope is that the OLD NORMAL will at some time in the not too distant future become the world’s NEW NORMAL. We are all depending on that outcome.
I believe my father, who experienced the Great Depression in America, which brought poverty to all, who served in WWII where he fought for America and their allies freedom and was attacked on his destroyer ship by Nazis and Japenese, has seen much worse than what we are experiencing now with this Coronavirus. We can’t see the virus, but we know what to do to keep it from us personally and in our communities. My ancestors had great belief in God and resolve in knowing that things would get better and they were in some awful situations. We are free here in America, we must keep it that way. We must maintain our love for this country and the love for each other too. God Bless,
Pray, be thankful and help others as much as possible. Love. Thank you, Greg.
My mother had a little friend whose mother died in the 1918 pandemic when they were 5. As her father worked in the mill, she spent a lot of time with my mom’s family who helped take care of her. My grandparents were generous and strong, and helped others. My grandfather was able to buy a little farm, that probably replicated his life in Poland. He took me around the boundary of our woods when I was a little girl, and told me about the owls and other animals that lived there. He fiercely loved nature, and Poland.
I do think a lot about my ancestors in this time of the pandemic, and how strong they had to be to survive what they did. I am in the age group who are most in danger but it means a lot to think of my two little grandchildren, hopefully life and my family will go on.
Through the years in my research and asking questions, I have found my ancestors people of great faith and love. I got to meet a few elderly who were people of great faith. They gave that to me through my family. Peace only comes to us from within the heart.
I thank you, for all you and your family, went through in difficult times in the past, and I thank my ancestors because I would not be here today.
My hope for the whole world is that we all learn something about peace and love starting within oneself, respecting everyone’s life at every stage, lovingly communicating with each other without devices, discernment in life, and being here to help each other. I trust that God will bring out good from all the events.
My grandparents from Poland passed on to my parents and me the gift of faith in God and a dual spirit of frugality and generosity: be grateful for what you have, be careful with how you use your resources and remember if you have two, you can give one.
My ancestors were ordinary peasant folk who lived hand to mouth for centuries near Kaunas and Vilnius which were then in Russia. Others lived south of Poznan, part of Germany. By a combination of desperation and hope, they drove themselves to the New World, America, where they arrived with nothing. They found the lowest jobs, those that only desperate immigrants would take in coal mines and steel mills. Yet, they persisted. They struggled but by dint of their perseverance they seized opportunity and achieved a small measure of prosperity.
They are heroes to me, these uneducated flotsam of Eastern Europe deprived of their country, their language, their culture suppressed in the land of their ancestors.
Two generations and 72 years on I sit, their heir, having earned a PH.D. having prospered beyond their imagination. Only by their will, their embrace of risk, their acceptance of mistreatment and their belief in possibility do I sit in satisfaction.
They fought America’s wars endured her depression and celebrated her rise and theirs to pre eminence. Grateful and humbled I am by their commitment to the future which is my present. Dzięki, babcie, dziadkowie.
My ancestors would hunker down in their sod covered cabin on a farm near Independence, Wisconsin with 6 of their children.They would do whatever they knew how to fight the virus and pray to God they didn’t get it. All survived the “ Spanish Flu” of 1918 so they were very hardy stock. All lived long lives from 63 yrs. to 95 yrs. old. The life expectancy at the time (1883) was about 40 years old. They were hard working and God fearing people. I believe that is what got them through 5 recessions and 2 World Wars during their lifetimes. My Great Grandfather came from Upper Silesia to the U.S.A. in 1869 with a wife and two young children and the shirt on his back. By 1920 he had accumulated 715 acres of land .He died in 1924 and left 3 farms to his 3 living sons at that time. I think this shows that he was a very enterprising individual and provided well for his family. I am proud to be one of his decedents.
Some of what my grandparents brought with them was passed on to my mother and father, especially my maternal grandmother retained so much of her ways even of speaking although she was only six when arriving here. Anyway, her frugality and industriousness she passed on to us. Your article reminded me of that heritage. Thank you for taking time to write us all – your question enriched my thoughts.
I thought immediately of my grandfather, Paul, who was born in Harklova, which we visited with PO in 2018. What a grand tour. What my ancestors would do is unclear, but my grandfather left no doubt. He was resourceful and a survivor. I believe I inherited, from my dad, his pluck and nerve. I had a kidney transplant when 42 (33 years ago) and kept up a great professional career by working out. Five years ago June 1, 2015 I was diagnosed with non Hodgkins lymphoma at the Mayo Clinic. But I survived. My grandfather taught me that life is tough. It’s often grim and not pretty. But there is much joy as well in our love of family, wife, children and friends. I know why Poland survived. The people have guts. We all need to be strong and disciplined like the Polish people during these last 200 or 300 years.
Have a Happy Easter season.
I am proud to be a descendent of the bravest group of people. I will channel their spirit remember their stories to get through difficult time. I will do as they did, pray, work with what I have, share with others, protect my loved one. Peace and love to all. Be safe. Stay healthy. Be prayerful. We will get through this….Together.
Thank you for reminding us all that we are who we are because of the fortitude of our grandparents and great great great grandparents. We’re here because of them and their love and sacrifices.
I just explained this to my daughter living in quarantine in NY. Sometimes I when I think I cannot deal with a situation, I think of my Busia and Dziadek. My mother was a 1st generation American, my father 2nd generation American. They instilled all the fire and passion of our Polish ancestors!! We remember and honor them thru traditions, incredible food and the language PROUDLY!!
Proud and inspired!