What would my ancestors do? Your response.


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.

God bless,

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!



  1. My parents were devoted Catholics. I know that in 1939 they were put in a work camp. Nexus Largar. After the war they came to America to start a new life. Like most people they came with nothing but a strong work ethic and a will to succeed. After enduring all that I believe they would roll up their sleeves and do what needs to be done.

  2. May I contribute to this fascinating account by providing a translation of a Polish-language response I sent to Zenon last week? As follows:
    ‘You ask what my ancestors would have done…
    My grandfather died on 17th October 1918; his 3 year old son, my uncle, died on 19th October. The cause was the Spanish flu; 50m million people died world-wide.
    So what did the survivors of my family do? My 38 year old grandmother, Stefania, sold her small-holding since she couldn’t manage it by herself given the deaths of so many men in her village. She held on to just one cow, to have milk for herself and my father, aged 3 at the time. And they went on foot from Romaniszki (now Bjelorussia) to Nowe Swieciany (now Lithuania), where they knew friends who could help with accommodation and work. My grandmother was illiterate, so, when she told me years later that she worked for PKP, the Polish state railway system, I understood that it wasn’t an office job, but simple manual labour.
    So, yes… I would hope that my ancestors would have coped in the same sort of spirit today.’

  3. My paternal grandfather was Paul (Powel) Cezar Przybylowicz who came from Warsaw and immigrated to New York City in 1905. He was a mechanical engineering graduate of the Warsaw Institute of Technology. His father was then a general in the Polish Russian Army but my grandfather decided he was not going to serve in the Russian army. So he immigrated to NYC. In the 1930s he decided to shorten his last name because Americans could not pronounce his last name or spell it. So he became Paul Ceasar. My father had been born earlier in the 1910 and was named Julius after his maternal grandmother Julia. So when my grandfather changed his last name to Ceasar, my father became Julius Ceasar!

    During WWII my grandfather Paul Ceasar had a small machine shop in NYC where he and my father who was a machinist assembled Norden bomb sights on B17s that were used for accurate bombing of the Nazis.

  4. What would my Grandparents do? Oh so many wonderful stories to tell; but that of giving was the best, so generous! I truly loved My Maternal Grandmother so much; she would buy small bolts of fabric and insert money between the fabric layers during and after WWI and beyond before sending to her family in Poland as they were checking all mail and packages, etc. during that time!
    She worked as a commercial cleaning lady in Boston and I later learned that she scrubbed the marble floors at the building at the corner of Washington St. and Court St. After high school I ended up working there, in that same building, while it was owned by State Street Bank! How inspiring; my heart still pours out to her for that hard work she did.
    My Maternal Grandfather was a fantastic carpenter & built beautiful houses in and around Boston.

  5. My Polish grandparents came to the U.S. around 1903 and settled in Toledo, Ohio.
    My grandfather Wietold (Victor) Lyczkowski worked for Libby-Owens glass and died in August 1944 from an accident at the plant.
    My grandmother Marianne (Mary) worked very hard at home raising their children, including my mother Evelyn Virginia, and the home was always immaculate.
    The highlight of their lives is that they owned their own home before Wietold had died in 1944.
    A great Polish success story.

  6. All these posts are by folk who’s ancestors went to America. My Polish Mum ended WW2 in India – having ended up as a Nurse in Anders Army. Could not go home to Poland as her home town by then was under Russian Rule (now Belarus) – Had she returned (as some of her cousins did) she would have been sent to Russian labour camp for up to 12yrs! as was recognised as a Polish patriot! So my research suggests Mum came to Australia after having agreed to a marriage of convenience (to my dad – who had another complicated history re India). My MUM – on her own (after father left her) – & with No Assistance from Polish folk in Australia. My sister & I grew up knowing our Mum loved us but there was no cuddly stuff you guys promote nowadays. Over the years we were pushed to take advantage of all opportunities offered! …. But This is Australia –Things much more laid back & Mum made sure we grew up as ‘Aussies’ Not as immigrants (we both born here) -Brought up as Church of England – I was in my 50s before discovering Mum was Catholic. Having heard all her concentration camp stories thought we had Jewish history — Not So! – So My & My sister’s story is a little different to what I have been reading on this site. Not upset re same – Just curious Comments welcome.

  7. I am very proud of my 2 Great-Grandfathers and my 5 or more Great-Grandmothers. Since 1900 my Ancestors had to leave their own Country and homes. They participated in Austro-Hungarian Empire, Silesian Wars, II Polish Republic Wars, WWI and WWII, Russian prosecutions, Polish communist prosecution as AK fighters since they are only 16 years old. They work in military factories. Many of them died in USA during internal wars, they lived in England, Austria, Germany, Poland, Australia, Canada, Sweden and Poland. They were forced to change their religion to stay alive. They experience deceits, thefts, their own homes were burned, they were deprived everything what some criminals could deprived them, but we all have exquisite education and a lot of true Friends in other countries. I left Poland due to ongoing political prosecutions, deprivation to have my parents and grandparents land. Our Ancestors children were killed, our Great-Grandparents were deprived medical care even when they pay a lot. Young pregnant and young mothers were not treated neither. We were not treated for Pneumonia before the wars and after the WWII, when Antibiotic were in hospitals. We had no assistance from Polish folks too. My Ancestors married in more than one country, I was discriminated by Polish. My Grandfather and Grandmother had Catholic Funerals in Poland. My Father and Mother had Polish Catholic Christening Documents.I am still recovering my Ancestors documents. Someone during WWII took original documents from Olkusz and sold it to Australian Church Org. My Grandmother, our parents had, but we did not had original documents when we left Poland. I found that my Grandfather was employed, was living in Germany, England, USA and Poland. He was naturalised USA Citizen. He billed 2 more homes in Poland. We have the public and private education. I studied in Krakow, Katowice-Ligota University, QUT Brisbane University and Canberra University. Completed 2 Degrees. Employed in 3 countries and had Nursing Qualification recognised in 3 countries. Our children had private education, our daughters in law had as well very good education. We all were employed and successful. I am very proud that I had the courage to leave, study and get employment in 3 countries. I am very proud of our achievements too. I am so lucky that we meet so many wonderful people in every country where we live and work. Thank you to all the government for giving us chance to learn, work and live peacefully. We wish you all the bravest peaceful, healthy and blessed Easter.

  8. I am sustained by my grandparents Jan Srokosz and Ludwika Czyzowska Srokosz. Married in USA in 1900. Grandmother emmigrating in 1892, worked,saved $ and purchased land. Given a mortgage by William Seward II, son of William Seward, Secretary of State to Abraham Lincoln.
    She was married after purchase of land. All deeds in her name only. Grandfather, skilled mason and carpenter. Together they founded the Polish Church and school, St.Hyacinth in Auburn, NY. She then purchased adjoining land and also leased land to have a sizable little farm. They sponsored approximately 70% of the Polish people to this city. Added to there home to Accommodated those being sponsored until they found work and could make it on there own. They were a reference to those who started small businesses in the Polish Community. She conducted business for sponsored families with Mr. Seward. Many obtained jobs in the local shoe factories. They had three children. My father the youngest.My grandfather contracting ‘Consumption’ Tuberculois while working on the Gensee River Dam in Rochester,NY. He died at the local sanitorium in 1922 at the age of 50. My father only 10 years old. sister 13 and brother 15. Now widowed, she perseviered with her little farm selling milk, eggs,vegetables, etc. bartering for coffee and sugar etc. With that little farm and her tireless work they were sustained during these times. When my father married, the duplex was renovated and I grew up there and very close to my grandmother. She was very very religious and walked to the first mass every morning regardless the weather. She instilled in me you do not look back but look to today and plan for tomorrow. My grandparents were from the village of Ryczow, Poland. 30 minutes S.W. of Krakow and 20 minutes north from Wadowice. My grandmother saved every nickel and dime to send my father, Jan to St.John Kanty Prep School in Erie Pa. At the age of 99 (2008) he was there oldest Alumni and very supportive of the school until it’s closing in the mid 1980’s He died in 2008. There legacy is who we are today. We are in blessed gratitude as we move into this unknown time of a global pandemic. “Do not look back- Maintain today- plan for tomorrow.” They did it..WE CAN DO IT!

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