Project Research

Now What?

I have been pondering what my second book should be about and I can’t tell you how daunting that thought is.

The idea of writing a book and actually accomplishing the task has been overwhelming at times. The idea of book #two is more insane. So instead I will write this blog entry. The work of getting published is difficult enough, not having done it before; but now marketing the book is a whole other difficult task, not ever doing it before.

Cover 3 20 2018

I am excited that family and friends have embraced my book, but that does not make for a real marketing effort. I will be having a book signing/launch party on June 6, 2018 at the Wildbird Shack located at 854 East Northwest Hwy, Mt. Prospect, IL at 6 p.m. The shop is adorable, featuring bird seed, bird houses, yard ornaments, and many handcrafted items from local artisans. Please join me for a reading and enjoy some refreshments as well as the opportunity to browse through this well-appointed store. I will have additional events which are pending for summer and fall and they will keep me busy.

I have to thank Alyce Burman, the owner of the Wildbird Shack, who offered to open her store to me for this marketing opportunity. I will be forever indebted to her.

It’s Published

My last two months:

The last two months have been an interesting time for me. I feel like I have taken two steps forward with my new venture, the book, only to take three steps back.

Letters from the Box in the Attic, a Story of Survival, Courage and Love is ready to launch! There are a few bugs that still need to be ironed out, but nothing major.

The last two months have been a journey which took me from ecstasy to tremendous self-doubt. The first printing of the book did come out in late February, which prior to it going live, the thought of the book actually being printed was an enormous high for me. But when it actually happened, I got panicked. The idea of being an author scared me. The idea that there may be some mistakes in the manuscript, some errors in the book, frightened me to death.

I had spent so much time researching the book, taking the time to find out as much as I could about my parents, but now I even regretted taking on the job.

So there I was, the night when my complementary copies from the publisher came to my door, I could not sleep. Thoughts of problems emerging crept into my head, of putting myself out there and being questioned. I doubted and had reservations about the whole project, thinking why did I do this?  Why have I tried to tell Mom’s story? I was overwhelmed with self-doubt.

So I had Alan, my husband, read the book to find errors. I then submitted three corrections. Then I started to read the manuscript again and found more. So I did a re-submission of the whole book. In the meantime, I could not market the book; sales on Amazon were suspended. The book was originally edited, but the editing process is huge and not easy.

At the present time, I have taken a leap of faith; the book is in its present state; it is what it is. It’s finished and it’s on Amazon. God forbid there are any corrections needed. If there are, I can’t do anything about them. The book is worth reading. The story is beautiful and its message is compelling.

Letters from the Box in the Attic now has a Facebook page:

Please like the page and share it with your friends.

The book is available for purchase on Amazon:

It is also available on Barns & Noble:

Or on Balboa Press:

Thank you!

A Tribute to my Father

My memories of him come alive when I think of my dad and see photos of him both as a young man and older. Because so much time has passed since his death, I have to spend more time processing memories of him.

My dad, mój tatuś, in Polish, was a larger than life person when I was a child, as most fathers are. My dad was not tall, but was a large man, a steel worker. He was strong and able to do manual labor in a steel mill. He was also a survivor of World War II and was the head of our household; so he ruled the roost. My brother and I knew that and we knew our place.

This time of year brings a flood of memories back because his Feast Day has come and gone, November 28, 1979, and the anniversary of his death is coming up. As is the custom for many older Polish people, and it certainly was when I was growing up, feast days or name days were more important than birthdays. It was on your feast day that you received presents. Feast Days in Poland, imieniny in Polish, were the days on the Catholic calendar commemorating the day of a saint for which you were named. Dad’s was St. Zdzisław, his patron saint. Now on a non-Polish calendar, Zdzisław, would not be there, but on a Polish Catholic calendar, it’s there. And it’s important to note that on any given day on a saints’ calendar, your name may share the day with other names. Living in the United States, my brother and I did not celebrate our feast days, but our parents did.

I do remember when dad was very sick, a few days before he died, which was also a week after Thanksgiving that year, he only wanted turkey and rice for his feast day meal. He used to have quite an appetite, but not that year. He was so sick from receiving weekly dialysis treatments, and he was getting weaker every day. I also remember the morning of December 4, 1979, which was the feast of St. Barbara, my feast day. Since my husband and I lived near my parents they often watched our little miniature Schnauzer during the day. I don’t remember the circumstances, but it was agreed upon that Spanky, the dog, would go down to grandma’s house that day and I would go on to work. I vividly remember that morning when dropping off the dog. My dad was on the second floor at the top of the landing in his pajamas and robe, saying that he was not doing well and that my mom needed to call an ambulance to take him to the hospital where his doctors were. Now the beauty of where my parents lived was that they were a block from the local hospital, but the hospital where he needed to go was in the city, on the north side of Pittsburgh. The morning traffic was a problem and complicated because one of the bridges was under re-construction, consequently the ambulance had to make a detour.

Going on to work, I stood by the phone to get a status call from my mom about dad’s condition. The hospital from downtown where I worked was very close and I would go over at a moment’s notice.

Well the call came but it was with mortal news that dad had died and I needed to get over there right away.

I immediately prayed to St. Barbara, my patron saint, to welcome dad into the afterlife. When I got to the hospital, I found him lying on the emergency room table, no life left in his body, as I walked over to say good-bye. This indeed was a surreal experience. He needed to get up off the table and tell everyone that he wanted to go home. But I realized that was not going to happen. The whole experience was awkward. I did not know what to do or say or think. I had never had anyone close to me, especially someone I loved, die before. I did realize I needed to say good-bye, feeling that his spirit was still in the room. I do think I was numb to what had just happened.

So as I think of my dad these days, not having him in my life for 38 years, what could have been had he lived? He would have been around for the birth of my first child, Christopher, who was born three months after his death. He could have been around for his two other grandchildren, granddaughters, Stephanie and Samantha. There would have been so many other events, but none of that was to be.

He was my father and he was the only dad he knew how to be during his time on earth. He loved me, that I know. Was he hands on? No. He would get reports from my mom about what was going on in my life, but actually asking me? No. Was that normal when I was growing up? Maybe. I feel that is totally immaterial, since he was my dad and that’s the way he fathered. He put food on the table, paid his mortgage, and walked me down the aisle. And he loved me.


It’s all About the Letters

So far my blogs have focused on growing up Polish and remembering my mother and how she influenced my life and my family’s. But now it’s time to talk about all the letters she left in the attic.

I have vivid memories of my mother both from the early years and as she grew older as well as her modest life, sometimes too modest in my estimation. She tried to add a positive spin to whatever was going in her life while being frugal. I remember when she said her heating bills were too high in her old, drafty house and how the new thermostat reading needed to be 65 degrees on some of the coldest days. She simply wore an extra sweater to keep warm. When I came to visit the thermostat went up a few degrees. I don’t think I am holding her up to be this perfect person, but she was able to tackle adversity with grace. She was someone who could make lemonade out of sour lemons, when she had to, and she had to make lemonade quite a bit.

My greatest accomplishment, next to giving birth and rearing my children has been memorializing my mother’s World War II experience. This period in her life was when her survival skills, making lemonade out of sour lemons, were the most useful. The art of tackling adversity head on served her well the rest of her life also. The project, Letters from the Box in the Attic, a Story of Survival, Courage and Love” is a tribute to this woman I called mother. My book is a work of love, which will be published sometime in early 2018.

The book’s genesis began in the fall of 2012, shortly after I resigning from my job. Because I am a one track minded type of person, there was no time for two major undertakings in my life. I needed to focus on researching the book and gathering as much information as possible. Later another job found me, which took 18 more months away from the project. Eventually I got to where I am now.

I always thought I knew so much about European World War II, only to find out that I knew only some of the basics which are taught in school. There was so much more that I needed to know to begin the writing process. The learning curve also involved needing to know more about my parents’ lives during the war; however, they were both deceased when I started the project.

This was when the letters became the dominant focus of the project, the heart and soul of the project once the letters were translated. Revelations were learned, the inner most feelings between two people, and family members were exposed. After digesting all the translations I was left with trying to make sense of it all. Eventually I was able to connect some of the dots between historical events and what my parents experienced.

Historical context is so important to put events into prospective – why things happen, not just that the events themselves occurred. Knowing what my parents experienced needed to be put into an understanding of why. As a history nerd, this was the most fun!

Then there are the personal revelations that come from doing some introspection about family. We are all interesting human beings, who suffer from human failings along with some burdens we carry both good and bad. All families have issues.

This has been my first attempt at writing a manuscript. I thoroughly enjoyed the research portion of the journey. Collecting the data, intertwining the letters with all the historical facts was fascinating. A non-fiction author once gave me a bit of advice; he said that at some point you have to start writing. You cannot just keep doing research, was his advice. As difficult as it was to follow his advice, I took it to heart. I was nevertheless convinced that I could find more information if I just tried. As I began to write, I did pursue archived information from the Polish government, which did reveal interesting facts. I was so excited to add them into the narrative. But for me the reality is that there are facts I will never know.

The idea of becoming an author is crazy to me. I am sure my high school English teachers are rolling over in their graves if they are deceased. As with other new ventures, I will have to buy into the fact that I did write the book. This next phase of my life will be exciting.

The South 40

In my family the south 40 was a reference to my parents’ back yard, which was anything but large. Their home sat on a small lot in the heart of Sewickley, a village outside of Pittsburgh, Pa. along the Ohio River, and their back yard was tiny. The lot may have been 30 X 100 at most.

The reference to the massive acreage was because of the large yield of produce from the small plot of land every summer. My parents had several fruit trees: a peach, apple and cherry tree. The peach tree did not survive because it became diseased, and produced tasteless and tiny peaches. The cherry tree, however, produced an abundance of cherries, which mom gladly said she would shared with the birds, since they took the first of the ripe cherries. There was enough for everyone. These were sour cherries which made the best cherry pies. I even stained a brand new pair of pants with cherry juice once, while pitting a batch.

Mom and dad had created a paradise for themselves with a produce garden, which had to share space with their car. There was no garage but only a drive up space from the alley which was large enough for the vehicle. The fruit trees outlined the garden  area and a low retaining wall separated the grassy back yard from the vegetables and car. Dad would relish his time off from work and lay in his hammock on the postage sized grassy portion. They even had a picnic table back there.

I remember when we first moved in to the house and we all looked at the back yard. I envisioned a dog house and little dog in back, but their plans were grander, a yard and a sustaining vegetable garden with a place to relax. They began to transform the yard, from front to back into a peaceful retreat. One of my mother’s most favorite plants was her raspberry bushes which lined the opposite part of the property from where the car was. These raspberries represented the wild raspberries she picked in fields where she grew up, Kosów Poland. She would take my kids out there to pick fresh berries, even if there were only one or two to be had.tatus-back-yard.jpg

During the garden’s hay day, they grew pole beans, lima beans, cucumbers, tomatoes galore, dill, parsley, kohlrabi and Brussel sprouts. Dad lovingly took care of his tomato plants, by watering them at dusk most nights by using a watering can instead of a hose. He felt they received better hydration. He did produce some of largest Beefsteak tomatoes. One year they even tried to grow corn, but there were issues with cross-pollination, and the plants did not bear fruit. The back portion of the garden was bordered by a fence, a white picket fence lined by poplar trees which created a hedge. The fence also had a gate which enclosed the car in its gravel based space. You may be perceiving a pattern here. Privacy was absolutely a must. I also remember tall, majestic sunflowers gracing the property in front of the hedge during the summer.

As the years went on, the garden became smaller. The upkeep involved was too much for what it yielded; although tomatoes and herbs were still grown. The fence was mended several times, and flowers eventually replaced the raspberry bushes. My dad became ill, and his bit of paradise became neglected, while mom did what she could to clean it up every spring. She allowed wild flowers to grow everywhere. Even if the flowers were wild as seeds blew in with the wind, she loved them and let them take over wherever space they wanted. Her philosophy was that if they are green and wanted to flower, let them alone.

The garden, in its abundant state, went on for over a decade after they moved in which brings me back to the south 40 reference. My husband Alan coined the phrase about their yard, because he was amazed at what the little patch of land produced.  Our family now uses the phrase when there is an abundant back yard of not just produce, but of beauty which grows and brings us peace and joy.



Let’s Never Forget

Kresy siberia banner

“If I forget about them, then Lord, forget about me.”     Banner Caption.

The banner goes on to say that those deported from occupied Kresy fought for their lives and their freedom. Attending this conference was the best thing that I could have done.  At first I thought I did not belong with these people at the conference, the survivors who were deported to Siberia in 1940-41 and those of us who were the second generation. From my family only my grandparents and aunt were deported. Into the second day, I realized that my family was touched by all the tragedy that could have come from the Soviet invasion and occupation of the Kresy region, as well as subsequent Nazi occupation.

The conference began on the 75th anniversary of the Soviet invasion and occupation of my parents’ homeland region.  My dad fought in the September Defensive Campaign of 1939, attempting to defend his county, while my mother and her underground network got Polish officers out of Poland while it was occupied by the Soviets. Each parent was arrested and imprisoned. My dad’s brother-in-law, Adam also fought to defend Poland. As a Second

My Uncle's entry in the list of victim of Katyn.

My Uncle’s entry on the list of victim of Katyn.

Lieutenant he was captured by the Soviets, imprisoned in Starobielsk prison, then executed in the Katyn Massacre in the spring of 1940. He was one of over 14,000 officers executed.  Since my dad’s family had two fighting soldiers involved in the war, and one was executed, dad’s parents and sister made the deportation list of undesirable families. Families of soldiers and especially those who fell victim at Katyn were deported to Siberia in April 1940, and forced into hard labor. Dad’s parents and sister were in several locations in Kazakhstan for six years.

Then there is my mother’s family. She and her father along with their underground network were arrested and shipped off to a couple of prisons before being sent to a Siberian Gulag. She never saw her father again. Survival was all she could think about during the gruesome and grueling time while imprisoned. A few years later her mother was murdered in the streets of Kosow, her hometown, by Ukrainian Nationalists, whose violence was fueled by the Nazi’s as they retreated in advance of the Soviet Red Army. The reign of terror and brutality inflicted by both aggressors in the region directly impacted my family which created a wound that was slow to heal.

The second day of the conference was held at the Polish Military Museum, which is home to the temporary Katyn Exhibit.  A permanent Katyn Museum is being built with its opening scheduled for spring 2015. The massacre involved the murder of over 14,000 Polish officers captured and imprisoned by the Soviets following the defeat of the Polish Army and the September Campaign of 1939.  These officers were in three separate prisons in Russia and were led away from each of the camps into the countryside, shot execution style by the Soviets, then buried in shallow graves. Some remains were unearthed by the advancing German Army in 1943, which started the blame game between the two former allies.

It was only after the fall of Communism that the Soviets admitted that they were responsible for the executions. Many items from the excavations have been recovered and preserved.  Katyn Museum2These soldiers thought they were being moved to another prison, so they had on them all of their possessions, which included razors, matches, cups, eating utensils, rosaries, combs, scissors, coins. Unearthed were buttons, wedding bands, dog-tags, uniforms, coats, even grain in a leather pouch.  That soldier thought he might get hungry during the transport.

After hearing the curator’s presentation and seeing this exhibit, I knew I belonged at this conference and among this group of Siberia survivors.                                                                                                                                       Katyn Museum 3

My aunt never received formal notification of what happened to her husband back in 1940, never receiving a death certificate. She was however able to file documents declaring her a widow 10 years after her wedding date. My dad informed her that he saw Adam’s name on a list of deceased from those three camps, while dad was training in Palestine. That was the only concrete information she received. According to the curator, it was not until 1990 that formal notification went out to families, but then only if they inquired. By 1990, my aunt was dead, my father was dead. Maybe from Adam’s side of the family, there was someone who sought formal notice.

There are few people who know about Katyn and the horrors of what Polish soldiers and citizens suffered at the hands of Joseph Stalin.  As with all horrors of war, human lives are lost, families separated and many of them victims of atrocities. More needs to be written and publicized about the Katyn Massacre and the human suffering and loss in Siberia, so we don’t forget.

Katyn Museum1

Unfinished Business

Like so many of the people I met at the conference in Warsaw, I am looking for information and answers about my parents. Looking for a piece of history, that represents a time in a loved one’s life, about their youth, their military experience, what prison or gulag they spent time in, can be daunting.  With the fall of Communism in 1990, Poland received its freedom and over time, the release of many documents and papers previously held by the Soviet government. Many of those papers documented Soviet repression of Poles during the war, about lost family members, their fate, where they suffered or died. All this is now available for research. I am very fortunate to have personal family letters and some military documents to help me put together the puzzle pieces of my parents’ lives, but even with this information, there are still many holes that need plugged about their past.    


I feel like I am trying to find a bit of myself through this project, find where I fit into the narrative of being a Pole, while telling the story of their war experience and how it affected their post-war life. However I find that there is an untold story, some unfinished business. My mother in one of her journal entries mentioned, what if? What if there had been no war, what would she have done, what would she have become? My dad, while trying to bury his melancholy in a bottle, would say that the war ruined his life. Those comments tell me that there was a great deal of sadness and sense of loss surrounding their unfulfilled lives, wondering what if.


I cannot change history, but I can tell their story and by doing so, enrich my life by honoring my mom and dad, who sacrificed so much, which included the sacrifices of war but also how they were effected as a result of war. I have thought many times that maybe by making this emotional and historical journey, I could ease their pain, the pain that I remember seeing in their faces when I was growing up. The pain was their struggle of raising a family when money was scarce, living from paycheck to paycheck. As I see it, they deserved a better life. On the surface, and in many ways they had a good life, living the American dream by buying a modest house in a lovely community, providing for themselves and their children. However being without family, not having the love of departed parents and extended family,and not living in Poland was a loss my mother often spoke about. She would say that they are totally alone; they have no one but themselves. At the time, I would shrug off comments like that. I was sad for her but all that bad stuff happened a long time ago and we were living in the United States, I would say, and things were okay. After all she was the adult taking care of me. My dad had regrets about not finishing his education to be something better than a steel worker. I also remember feeling some criticism toward both my mom and dad for not taking more risks and making a better life, if that is what they wanted. Looking back that was easy for me to think. I did not walk in their shoes. One Christmas Eve, at the end of our dinner celebration, my mother turned the radio on to a station that was playing Polish Christmas carols. My dad started singing, and soon there after he started to cry. I do think my dad did not have the mental energy to really start over in the United States. This became evident to me because he did not learn the English language very well. He learned enough to get by, was able to read the language but seemingly did not care to improve. He probably thought his lot in life was to be a steel worker which put food on the table and paid the mortgage.

Now I feel that a debt needs to be repaid and my regret is not caring more to ask them about their lives before and during the war. My dad died when he was very young, but my mother lived a long life. I remember one time when I visited her in Sewickley, Pennsylvania, right before she had her stroke, I asked her something about her home life. She told me that when she graduated from secondary school in 1938, her father gave her a present of visiting all the major Polish cities so she could experience her country. She went on to tell me that she went with her Aunt Aniela, her father’s sister and not her mother. The conversation then continued about how she and her father were close. She was remembering a happy time in her life, right before the war started. If only there had been more times like that when she could share more stories with me. The dark stories didn’t flow as easily. Many survivors of war do not want to discuss traumatic events of the past; they do not want to burden their children with what really happened, possibly for fear of going through the trauma again. Even when my mother wrote about her experience of being arrested, the prisons, and gulag she still spoke in generalities.

So I continue to try and find more nuggets of information, to try and complete the puzzle about these two people, my parents, to better understand them and to tell their whole story, including the unfinished business.    

Do Widziena Warszawa – Goodbye Warsaw

My week is up and I am heading home today, reflective and satisfied with the visit.  Having met so many remarkable and passionate people, I feel an special bond to Warsaw and to Poland.  My relationship with the country previously was through my mother’s eyes, and visiting as a tourist, as an outsider, but now I feel more connected, as if this were my country too.  The country’s past inspires me.  My parent’s story is my story too. Being of Polish descent, speaking the language, trying to pass some traditions down to my children, I don’t think I ever personally bought into being Polish in the true sense, the spiritual sense.

I was in Warsaw last year for a few days for the first time ever while visiting a newly rediscovered cousin who lives in another part of Poland.  I was a tourist in her town of Opole and a tourist in Warsaw.  This time I came for a conference and as fate would arrange, I stayed in an apartment, where actual families live.  The accommodations were adequate in a minimal sense, but what was interesting to me was walking the streets like other residents as if this city was my city, learning short cuts back and forth from different parts of the city.  The cabby that picked me up this morning for the airport thought I lived in Warsaw, because I spoke the language so well.  I think it was more that he picked me up at the apartment and not a hotel, but I’ll take the compliment nonetheless.


Nozyk Synagogue

The physical history of the city fascinates me, the buildings, old and new.  To know that Hitler totally destroyed the city after the Warsaw uprising in 1944 and how the city is transforming itself today is remarkable.  There is so much rebuilding going on now after years of communism, which is great, but the old remnants that represent the past are slowly disappearing.

I walked around to find the only remaining wartime era synagogue that survived, relishing the time inside the walls.  If only the walls could speak. Although desecrated during the war, it was rescued from the flames, restored and renovated.


Courtyard view of the old building, ready for renovation.

Some of these historical locations are tucked away on small streets and inside courtyards with very little to identify them, unless you are persistent.  I wanted to find the old abandoned building that I read about with its boarded up and broken windows and decaying mortar. It had been apart of the Jewish Ghetto. Online reviewers posted photos of it, with a comment that if you want to see the building in its abandoned state, you need to see it soon, before the renovations begin.  I was fortunate to find the building and to see some of it in its original state.  When I stood still, I could hear children playing in the courtyard, women shouting from window to window, and the men discussing the latest rumors floating through the streets.  There is virtually no visual history left in Warsaw except for monuments, plaques and museums.  I am so glad I was able to experience this bit of visual history before it disappears forever.

Realizing that buildings need to be renovated for safety reasons, and that photographs do preserve history, for me there is nothing like seeing this building and thinking of the people who lived there, feeling their presence, practically hearing them speak, but knowing that they were all exterminated.

This part of the building faces the street.  There is a draped facade over the front to show what the building will look like.

This part of the building faces the street. There is a draped facade over the front to show what the building will look like.

People watching in Warsaw

How fun to sit here this afternoon in the heart of Warsaw, where the people live and socialize. I am sitting along a street called Nowy Swiat, translation, New World.
The street is so alive with a solid continuous stream of people walking along this long avenue of commerce. I love seeing mothers and daughters walking holding hands as my mother was inclined to do with me. But I thought that was weird. I sit here listening to the language that I hear in suburban Chicago everyday but I feel I am eaves dropping on their conversations when I am there. The language is the same but hearing it around me here lends a special feel, an energy, and excitement. Here they all speak the same language. There is no feeling that I am eaves dropping.

The other feeling that I have that can not escape me is drawing a parallel to a vibrant city such as I see today and the city months before the invasions in September 1939. Warsaw, the capital, the cultural heart of the nation, the place where financial and political decisions were made. I can only imagine that the city was active and electric during the months leading up to devastation. People living their lives, going to work and shopping, taking children to school and out for ice cream. All I see that would be different from then to now is the clothing and the fact that today, this city has over the years been rebuilt from total ruin. 1938 to 2014 the changes have been dramatic but the spirit is the same. However the event of 1939 changed lives in a heart beat, with no turning back the carnage and suffering.
My closing thought is, one can never take their freedom for granted. It is not always a given when you think of the crisis in the Ukraine and Poland is on their border. I live in the United States and expect that to be my right. I am the lucky one.

It Takes a Village or Just a Home

When I think back of when I was a child, I remember the security of my family home, the love and warmth of my mother and father but what I remember the most is growing up in a Polish home. What separated us from the rest of our community was not only different food, but the language and traditions. In school and outside the home it was English but as soon as I crossed the threshold, I stepped into a European world, the Polish world of my parents.

I now think back to the last three days, attending the Kresy-Siberia Conference here in Warsaw, meeting so many fascinating and truly inspiring people.  The reason we all came together was to share and keep alive stories of a time in history and remember a region we all came from, either directly or through family. One commonality is the rich Polish heritage.  We all spoke either broken English, broken Polish, had great command of them both, or spoke only Polish or English.  The survivors of Siberia, referred to as Syberiaks, were only children when they and their families were forced to leave the comfort and security of their homes and their lives by the Soviets in WWII.  The youngest Syberiak I met was four months old when she and her family were deported. With their worlds turned upside down, experiencing starvation and contracting diseases, they survived to tell their stories of traveling out of Russia, of time in Persia or Lebanon before being sent to the safety of India and Africa for the rest of the war.  Once they were removed from the horrors of war, they spoke of their time in India and Africa as a happy time in their childhood.

Fast forward in time, these children that survived had children of their own.  The families had resettled in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Great Britain, the United States or Canada which is where they came from for this conference. The core take-away is that the Polish heritage lives on, no matter in what country, or what continent.  The second generation was taught well as most spoke the language and even knew many of the songs.  I compared notes and found that many of the these second generation children went to Polish school on Saturdays, which accounted for their excellent language skills today, or they were a part of a Polish scouting experience where they learned many songs and other traditions. When the group broke out in song, I did feel somewhat envious not knowing the songs except for the Polish happy birthday, “sto lat”.  I did not have the option of Saturday school or a Polish scouting program, but my parents made sure I learned the language.

Many resettled families collectively settled in areas where other Poles lived.  This made for an immediate community experience of traditions and celebrations.  Throughout history it was ethnic neighborhoods that grew cities all over the world.  Sometimes I feel that me and my family missed out by not living in a Polish neighborhood where you heard the language spoken outside the walls of your home and learned the songs because you heard them at parties and neighborhood celebrations. Even though my parents chose to live outside a Polish community, I still grew up in a Polish home rich in language and traditions, just on a smaller scale.

This conference brought me many new contacts, people just like me who are exploring the history of their families and a connection to a region that does not exist today as Poland. It was so much fun to hear a conversation across the table where someone said their father was in the cavalry at the start of the war like my dad.  My eyes lit up and I had to approach her for more details.  I was among other history nerds.  Life does not get any better.