Friday, September 17, 2010

Postcard Friendship Friday - Why Am I Here?

It's Postcard Friendship Friday! Today's postcard shows Ellis Island and was written January 21, 1908 to inform a friend of a safe arrival. There are as many stories of immigration as there are immigrants. I wondered what my owned family's stories were. They did not pass through Ellis Island. It was not yet built. Three generations ago, the parents of my grandparents came as young children. They came from Poland on the heels of the Civil War and settled in the Polish neighborhoods of Detroit.

When we think of Poland we think of...well Poland. However, since the abdication of the last Polish king in the 1700's, the land has been partitioned like a pie, invaded, swiped and governed by other countries. The story is told by what my grandparents wrote on the census documents, death certificates, WWI Draft documents and Naturalization papers: German Poland, Prussian Poland, Russian Poland, Polish Russia, Polish Germany, Prussia, Russia, and Germany. Some said they were from Poland. Good for them. That shows the Polish spirit that survived over 200 years of living in an ever changing section of what often looked like a pie chart.

We watched the movie Letters From Iwo Jima last night. The story, a rather common one, told by one of the characters is similar to what happened in Poland. The commanding officer of the small Japanese army, ordered to keep the island from the Americans, reminded a private that he was a soldier. The young man said: I am not a soldier. I am just a lowly baker. My wife and I owned a nice bakery where we worked hard and made sweet buns to sell. The elite army came and they just took the buns. When we ran out of sugar we made bread. They took the bread. Then we made sandwiches and they took those. When those were gone they took all of the metal utensils to make guns and planes and we had nothing to bake bread in. We just had each other, but now they have taken me and my wife is all alone.

This was the same story of the wave of Polish immigrants that came with my forebears. They came with education, trades, and pride in their country. Some perhaps planned to return one day. The Prussians, Germans and Russians took all but their hope, so they came to the land that others described as a place where they could find a job and where they were allowed to think for themselves, even to speak their own language among themselves and there would be enough sausages for everyone.

So that's why I am here.

Stop by and see Beth at The Best Hearts Are Crunchy for more Postcard Friendship Friday Links.

12 comments:

pfranzme said...

Wow. Powerfull story about the Polish soldier/baker.

pfranzme said...

Wow. Powerfull story about the Polish soldier/baker.

steviewren said...

Family histories are always interesting to me. I have no idea when my ancestors arrived in this country. I suspect it was early on since there are no family stories of emigration.

Loved that movie as well. I remember the passage you quote. It was really moving.

Bob of Holland said...

A moving story about your family history. Many of the Polish immigrants moved from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to America. Some of them stayed here, like the tailor Abraham Tuschinski. He builded the most famous movie palace in Amsterdam, which was named after him. Sadly, many of these Polish jews were killed by the Nazis during the war, as was Abraham and his family. A tragedy.

jeannette said...

Yes, it's a sad history:(
But for me Poland is the land of the fields of sunflowers and a courageous leader that dared to stand up to Communism (of course I forgot his name, but not his spirit! -something like Walenska? You probably know the name...)
Have a great weekend!

Snap said...

Wonderful/powerful post. Wonderful card. Happy PFF.

MrCachet said...

Great story! My forefathers came early as well, to Quebec and then Massachusetts.

Postcardy said...

Thanks for the information about Poland.

Pst--there us a spelling error in your title.

Mary said...

What a wonderful post. Very interesting, and moving, and powerful. Thanks!

Aimee Dars said...

So interesting! Thanks for sharing!

Linda said...

How exciting to find a card with a message tied to the actual picture on the postcard. Just arrived at Ellis Island. Great card. And your family's history in Poland is fascinating.

viridian said...

My father's family came from Poland too. I really liked your post.
viridian