History of the Polish People in Rochester
ALTHOUGH the controversial events described in the preceding section are highly important in their relation to the history of the local Polish group, and at the time engrossed the attention of almost the entire community-to some extent, in fact, that of the city itself-it must not be supposed that these events took place to the complete exclusion of all other developments within the settlement, or that every Pole in the city was an active participant. Activity which was going forward in several quarters, and which upon the termination of the parish dispute immediately accelerated, points to the conclusion that even during this diverting excitement, the basis was being laid for a smooth and healthy resuscitation.
Important among the organizations at work during this period was one which, in the nature of things, could not have become entangled in the internal warfare of any of the contending factions; namely, the Polish Socialist Alliance. Committed at the outset to a non-religious creed, whose followers studiously avoided all church connections, its interest centered at once about certain projects which had somewhat inspired its formation, and which proceeded to more or less successful accomplishment, unimpeded by the outward course of affairs.
The presence of Polish Socialists in Rochester probably dates from the early nineteen hundreds and it will ho remembered that the Socialist group became articulate as an organized body in May, 1905. The Polish Socialist Alliance in tile United States, with headquarters in New York City, had existed since 1896, a national party with which the local chapter was affiliated. Unlike the Polish National Alliance, however, the parliamentary structure of the Socialist party permitted much more liberal group autonomy, and in effect, the Rochester branch has existed since its foundation as an essentially independent society.
Sporadic Socialist movements had been a feature of European Poland almost from the date of the last partition, and patriotic groups frequently found in one or another form of Socialism a congenial environment in which to work for Polish freedom, a situation which created much misunderstanding among Poles themselves as well as among sympathetic alien peoples. (23) At the time of the Russo-Japanese War (1905-6) the powerful Socialist wing in European Poland saw the involvement of Russia with Pacific affairs as a long awaited opportunity for Polish insurrection. Failing of adequate support from the outside, however, this movement proved abortive and was put down by the Czarist government in a tedious and painful campaign of sanguinary guerilla warfare, highly ennervating to Polish morale. Fear and disappointment resulting from this unsuccessful revolution caused many Polish Socialists to emigrate, and investigation will show that their ranks in the United States grew materially during 1905 and the four or five subsequent years.
The Rochester Alliance of Polish Socialists was formed in May, 1905, under the leadership of Franciszek Kryszewski, with the immediate purpose of self-education in political matters, becoming one of the first Polish societies in the city to organize toward this end. Having had for three years no permanent meeting place, the group in 1908 rented space in an empty tailor shop on Bernard Street, a building since demolished. In keeping with its program of mental improvement, Polish books were purchased and a public library founded, containing 213 hound volumes, besides numerous periodicals and current bulletins dealing with Socialist affairs. It should be noted that the organization at that time was not large, and this ambitious enterprise represented a considerable sacrifice of money and effort on the part of individual members, particularly in view of the great difficulty with which books and publications in the Polish language were procured and imported to this country.
The library, being at the disposal of the entire community, met with prompt response and became an extraordinary success. Contributions came to it from many private sources and its popularity soon made it evident that new and larger quarters were necessary. Accordingly, on October 1, 1911, the large frame dwelling at 818 Hudson Avenue was acquired, and in this roomy structure the organization established its headquarters. Indeed, it may seem that the child had now overshadowed its parent, for title to the new building was vested in a corporation, the Polish People's Library, Inc., a device employed for the somewhat naive reason that Socialistic principles forbade the ownership of real estate by a Socialist society.
The interest in real estate and the security which its possession is thought to afford is significant of the intense nationalism of the Pole, to which, of course, even the idealism of the Socialist philosophy has been subservient. Almost simultaneously with the permanent installation of the library, a cooperative home building corporation was being formed, also the outgrowth of the Socialist Alliance. For a number of years this company functioned efficiently, building amid disposing of upwards of seventeen houses in the vicinity of Weyl Street. A cooperative store for the sale of groceries and retail merchandise was started, the idea being later taken up by other groups in the community. This type of joint venture, for some reason, was short-lived. It may be said, however, that the program of the local Socialist Alliance during these years added much of value to the life of the Polish community, and its comparative independence of the disputes which held other programs somewhat in abeyance made its contribution doubly important in the circumstances.
Another organization, later to assume a position of high importance among local Poles, and, during the World War, to the city of Rochester, had quietly held its first meeting and elected its first officers in the midst of the parish dissension. This was the Polish Falcons' Gymnastic Society, known to national Slavic circles as Nest 52. Again the outside world reached into Rochester to advance further the cause of Polish freedom and again the local settlement of Poles rallied about ancient banners, for the Falcon Society as an institution dates from 1875 and had its origin in Lemberg (24), Austrian Poland. In Europe. as elsewhere, the Falcon movement had ostensibly existed only for purposes of athletic development, but always over the innocent exercises in which its members engaged there hung, as a pillar of fire in the wilderness, the fond hope that one day this league of Polish youth might become the nucleus of a national army. In 1880 the Polish National Alliance had encouraged the establishment of Falcon societies in the United States and the national association formed as a result became the father of the Rochester chapter.
The American Falcon program at its inception and for many years thereafter was strictly athletic with no official emphasis upon military ideas. Notwithstanding its requirements for membership in the early days were extremely strict, indicating that the possible mnilitary future of the movement was borne constantly in mind by its leaders. Young men seeking to join were placed on one year's probation, during which interval their characters and lives were intimately and rigidly scrutinized. Admission to full membership meant subscription to a code of honor and regimen of personal conduct, rigorous as such undertakings are when inspired by lofty patriotic sentinients.
Rochester Falcons organized unobtrusively on New Year's Day, 1905, under the presidency of Stephen Kwiatkowski, one of the charter members of the old St. Casimir's Society, and now a veteran resident of the Polish Community. Its headquarters until 1912 were in Maciejewski, or Pulaski Hall, and, although indirectly the outgrowth of Polish National Alliance activity, the society began its career on friendly terms with the church. A Mass, in fact, in recognition of its foundation was celebrated by Father Szadzinski. Disapproval by the priest came later, however, apparently arising from the subsequent formation of Falconettes, a girls' auxiliary, whose cooperation with Falcons in the pursuit of certain common objectives was considered not in accord with the Church's principle of sex segregation.
In the spring of 1906, the Falcons' Society determined to become a chapter of Polish National Alliance and on May 2nd of that year this affiliation was completed with the receipt of a charter from Alliance headquarters and the assignment to Falcons of the conventional designation, Group 783. Since that time the organization has maintained fairly constant relations with the National Alliance, although Group 783, as such has dissolved by its merger on February 20, 1923 with P. N. A. Group 216, the oldest Rochester chapter, which now comprises both its original membership and that of the Falcons' Society.
The momentous activity of this gymnastic club properly began in 1911, when its greatly augmented ranks necessitated a building of its own. Despite the fact that finances hardly warranted this project, it was bravely started and successfully finished. Stories of the expedients adopted to accumulate funds and to minimize expenditures are highly inspiring. The Polish contractor, Marion Wojnowski, who undertook the job, lent his hearty support, and the performance of labor involved became a kind of community adventure. Falcons themselves took pick and shovel and excavated the site, military fashion, in squads, arousing the applause and assistance of friends and neighbors, and realizing from the experience a considerable amount of enthusiastic amusement as well as much needed economy.
On May 30, 1913, the new hall at 290 Weyl Street, was dedicated in the presence of Theophil A. Starzynski, national President of Falcons' Association, Joseph Krysztawkiewicz, of Buffalo, President of the so-called 3rd District of Falcons, Mr. and Mrs. George B. Draper, the latter now on the staff of the Rochester Corporation Counsel, Mr. and Mrs. William T. Noonan, then a high official of the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railway and Colonel Brown, the Masonic parade marshal, through whose friendly offices, Falcons were for many years accorded a favored place in the line of march of Memorial Day processions. To some extent, therefore, it would seem, that this event marked an awakened interest on the part of non-Polish Rochester in the activities and accomplishments of the growing Polish community.
In a sense also, the signal growth of the Falcon Society at this time calls attention to the name of its President, Stanley K. Kowalski, still a hardworking citizen of the local Polish contingent, to whose lot it has fallen to lead the organization not only during this auspicious time, but indeed during many of its most stirring periods. A native Pole born under Austrian occupation, Kowalski had sought American shores in 1884, and took up permanent residence in Rochester in 1907. He has held the Falcon presidency from 1912 to 1914, 1916 to 1917, and again during the year 1928. His name may be found on the roster of numerous Polish organizations, local and national, and his ceaseless activity in the field of recruiting the Polish army units from this district forms a chapter in the story of wartime years without which any local account of those years would be incomplete.
The partial disintegration of the St. Stanislaus parish, besides stimulating the organization of these important secular groups, actually imparted fresh vigor to the growth of the parish itself. Among those who had remained faithful to the priest, an intense and unswerving loyalty had developed, lending strong momentum to the program in which Father Szadzinski was interested.
One of St. Stanislaus' most important societies, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, came into being on July 30, 1905, on the eve of the open quarrel. To its banner rallied forty-three staunch supporters of the pastor, under the original presidency of Matcusz Zagurski, and during the thirty years since its birth this organization has been a large factor in the prosperity and expansion of its parish. It is at present headed by George Warzocha.
For a number of years prior to the parish dissension, it had been the determination of Father Szadzinski to undertake the erection of a new church building, a project which, in fact, was launched during the most trying and unsettled days in the history of St. Stanislaus. Ground was broken in 1907 and on July 5, 1908, cornerstone ceremonies were held. In August, 1909, the building was solemnly dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Thomas F. Hickey, Bishop of Rochester, and the dedication sermon presented by Rev. Alexander Pitass of Buffalo. The distinguished Polish Bishop, Rt. Rev. Paul Rhode, of Green Bay, Wisconsin, also was present and pronounced the formal blessing. With this event, long cherished dreams of priest and parish became a reality, and the imposing church building, with its Roman-Byzantine spire at the corner of Norton Street and Hudson Avenue, has since effectively symbolized the permanence of St. Stanislaus in the life of its community and of Rochester.
Tragically associated with this significant event is the death of Father Szadzinski himself, which occurred almost simultaneously with the realization of his paramount ambition. The extraordinary burden which this task placed upon him, rendered infinitely more difficult by the distracting differences seething within the parish during this period, proved fatal to the health of the priest, who was confined to the sick room some time prior to the completion of the church edifice. Notwithstanding this handicap, he insisted upon directing all parish affairs personally from the bedside, so vital was his interest in finishing the work upon which his heart was set. The dedication procession was witnessed by him from the window of the rectory, while sitting in a wheel chair, and on August 27th, 1909, but a few days later, he died. (25)
The career of Father Szadzinski, so thoroughly identified with the single parish in which he served, is curiously interesting and cannot but prove increasingly significant as years pass. The extraordinary tenacity of purpose which he displayed in the face of trying obstacles, his dogged devotion to the growth and establishment of the tiny church which had been placed in his charge, constitute a distinct and valuable contribution to community life, typifying, as these qualities do, so much that is desirable and necessary in the development of civic responsibility.
During the years immediately succeeding Father Szadzinski's death, the affairs of St. Stanislaus were ably administered by Rev. Helminiak, a former assistant, and in June, 1910, Rev. Ignatius Klejna, a native of Dabrowka, Poland, was appointed its permanent rector. Father Klejna (26) enjoyed a long and prosperous pastorate, and guided the affairs of the parish through the trouble-some years of the war, during which time he greatly endeared himself to the Polish community and to Rochester. Further building projects were undertaken by him, notably the St. Stanislaus convent at 919 Norton Street, completed in August, 1915, and the present rectory on St. Stanislaus Street, completed in 1918. (27)
These years were somewhat distinguished also by the expansion of local commercial ventures. Shops and stores were enlarged and rendered sufficiently attractive to draw much patronage from outside the community. Notable among new establishments was the bakery of Stanley Dukat, founded in 1903, which became well known for the quality of its delicacies throughout northeastern Rochester. In 1910, Dukat became associated with Walter Wojtczak, who later (1921) purchased the business, and now maintains it as one of the best known independent bakeries in Rochester. Both of these men have played important parts in the public life of their community. Following his departure from the bakery business, Dukat became connected with a number of pretentious commercial ventures in the Polish settlement and his family is well known in the city. Mention of him will recall to many Rochesterians the name of Emily Dukat, his daughter, a violinist of great promise whose untimely death is still mourned by her many associates among local musicians. Wojtczak is well known in this city not only for the business in which he is engaged, but as having received in 1931, at the hands of Pope Pius XI the Order of St. Gregory, becoming one of the first five communicants of the Rochester Diocese to enjoy this distinguished recognition.
The period herein treated is further marked by the greater organized interest in community music. Presumably, much of this stimulus proceeded from the enthusiasm of the musician, Franciszek Piorczynski, a native Pole who took up residence here in 1892 and served as organist of St. Stanislans Church from 1907 until his death in 1919. The Star Society of Girl Singers was organized by him in January, 1909, a choral group which, although short-lived (discontinued 1911), proved extraordinarily active in the pursuit of its musical ambitions. On June 14th of the same year (1909) also under the baton of Piorczynski, the well known Echo Singing Society came into being. This group adopted parliamentary formality in its structure, electing as president Joseph Kuzminski, and has occasionally supplemented musical functions with the addition of dramatics and allied social activities.
CHARTER MEMBERSHIP, ECHO SINGING SOCIETY, BACK ROW, left to right, Edward Sypniewski, Leon Badura, Eugeniusz Oszywa, Michal Dobosz; MIDDLE ROW, left to right, Maryan Szatkowski, Kazimierz Pilznianshi, Wladyslaw Bartczak, Boleslaw Naglik, Walenty Jablonski; FRONT ROW, left to right, Antoni Wardynski, Josef Kuzminski, Franciszek Piorczynski, Antoni Paprocki, Jan Chlebowski, Stanislaw Binkowski, Ignacy Pilznienski.
The Echo Society has, in fact, become one of Rochester's foremost musical groups, and its participation is frequently enlisted in civic celebrations of one sort or another. One of the most colorful and effective presentations in the elaborate Shakespearean tercentenary of 1916 was organized and presented under its auspices, and its members have proved on numerous occasions their enthusiastic and tireless interest in the finished performance of choral music for the benefit not only of the Polish community but that of the city at large. On November 20, 1920, this organization incorporated as "Rochester Echo Singing Association, Inc." and in July, 1933, began the construction of its new building, now complete, pictured herein.
Musical expression was further advanced on January 6, 1912, by the organization of Moniuszko Singing Circle (28) with Michael Klosowski as president. One of the first societies to enter community life from the new St. Casimir parish, the Circle has enjoyed a long and anive eareer. Its serious efforts have been confined principally to the national and religious chorals characteristic of old Poland, a singularly fruitful field for musical exploration.
September 1, 1918 saw the initial meeting of Chor Ludowy, or People's Choir, of which Antoni Bogdziewicz became president and Casimir Baranowski director. To a large extent this choir was the outgrowth of the Socialist and allied groups interested in the Polish People's Library. For a number of years its musical development proceeded slowly, for lack of suitable accommodations, but with the acquisition by its sponsors of the building at 818 Hudson Avenue, which later became People's Hall, regular rehearsals began and the society soon took its place among the other musical clubs. Of late years the choir has interested itself in the community instruction of Polish-American children, an enterprise which has occupied its attention somewhat to the exclusion of music.
Begun as small neighborhood aggregations, these groups have, in the passing of time, proved significant for the manner in which their work has brought the Polish settlement into contact with the city, and helped to make it an integral factor in Rochester life. The keen interest in music, which seems to have distinguished the city of Rochester from earliest thues, has offered for the expansion and recognition of such organizations opportunities which do not often exist in large American communities.
The period from 1890 through 1910 also brought to Rochester an increasingly large number of concerts and other artistic presentations by Polish artists of national and international fame. Joseph Sliwinski, the pianist, played in 1894, and the frequent visits of Paderewski were becoming traditional at this time. Madame Modjeska, whose dramatic career was now drawing to a close, honored the city with no less than four "positively farewell engagements" during the six years 1895-1901. Investigation shows that the Rochester Polish settlement now was taking an alert interest in these events and had begun to lend its wholehearted support to their success.
Any consideration of the avenues through which the early Polish community established greater identity with Rochester as a cily ntust include mention of a modest group of youngsters from the vicinity of St. Stanislaus Church, assembled in 1902 to form our first Polish baseball team, the Hudson Stars. The outgrowth at first of that natural interest in the great American game with which all youth inevitably becomes infected in this country, this club soon wearied of impromptu games in the vacant lots of its own neighborhood and cast down the gauntlet before other nines in and about Rochester. Some of the earliest close friendships developed between Polish-Americans and Americans of other backgrounds at this time and can be traced to the influence of this and other ventures of its kind originating soon afterward.
CHARTER MEMBERSHIP, HUDSON STARS BASEBALL TEAM. STANDING, left to right, Frank Paprocki, Ladislaus Kotwas, John Bernacki, John Plica, Andrew Gorzadzielski, Michael Lipinski, Joseph Balcerak. SEATED, left to right, Frank Kwiatkowski, Ladislaus Budny, Joseph Paprocki, Casimir Mrzywka, Waclaw Murawski.
In deference to the baseball prowess achieved by the Hudson Stars, the famous season of 1903 should not go unrecorded, in which the banner of victory was won in thirty-five of the thirty-six games played. Perhaps the outstanding feature of this season was the game with an East Rochester team, forfeited to the Stars by their opponents in the fifth inning with the score 35-0, when Charles Budny of the winning team batted with such superlative zeal that the ball disappeared completely and was never found thereafter.
This interesting baseball team is further distinguished for its leader in 1903, Frank J. Paprocki, who later won numerous laurels in the field of sports and in 1912 became a pitcher with the Baltimore Orioles, a career which was abruptly interrupted by an injury to his arm. Paprocki has been intimately identified with amateur and professional sports in Rochester and Western New York for many years, and became in 1916 one of the organizers of the old Rochester National baseball team, the record of which is well known to local sportsmen.
Investigation of community activity during the first years of the twentieth century discloses another interesting trend in the direction of peculiarly American institutions. This is the remarkable interest which appears to have been taken in the purchase of insurance. It is likely that this circumstance is not altogether coincidental. The fact that such protection usually accompanied membership in the various societies is novel, and inquiry reveals that such groups sought by introducing this feature, not sa much to attract members as to justify their existence in the eyes of the Church or similar powerful agencies which might otherwise question their motives. It is, moreover, to be observed that the factional turmoil resulting in the division of St. Stanislaus parish seriously disturbed that sense of personal security which had characterized the more native European element in the Polish settlement, helping also to awaken interest in the security offered by strongly financed insurance corporations.
In fact the first organizations to adopt insurance programs were church societies. Prior to 1908, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Society in St. Stanislaus seems to have been the chief, if not the only group possessing this feature. Two other St. Stanislaus societies, that of St. Lawrence, (Oct. 9, 1909) and Polish Roman Catholic Union, 799 (April 3, 1914, with Frank Kocinski as President) apparently originated with the insurance idea definitely in mind. The latter, first chapter of the Polish Roman Catholic Union to organize in this city, is an outgrowth of its national parent, the Roman Catholic Union in the United States. This is a closely knit association of Polish Roman Catholic laymen, devoted to the preservation and advancement of parish fealty. There is evidence indicating that the Union came into being partially as a deterrent to the influence of dissenting groups involved in church differences with the Polish National Alliance. However, the Rochester chapter did not organize until some time after local phases of this upheaval had subsided, and therefore has never been identified with these matters. It has, in fact, proved a powerful stimulus to the growth and expansion of St. Stanislaus and has been a factor in the creation of other societies, such as Kosciuszko Benevolent Society, R. C. U. 114 and Group 1250 (Mar. 5, 1933), designated St. Leonard's Society, which is a part of the younger parish of St. Theresa. The original group still exists and Anthony Bednarski is its current president.
The Polish Workers' Sick and Mutual Aid Association, organized in October, 1910, under the leadership of Anthony Kaszuba, has been from the first an exclusively insurance movement. As its name implies, this group sprang largely from the Socialist and allied clubs whose concerted action has done so much to develop community life. The insurance activities of this unit have been signally successful and recent corporate expansion has been undertaken for the purpose of amplifying the benefits which its membership enjoys. At the present time its president is a woman, Mrs. Marya Kaczmarczyk.
An entirely independent group organized with insurance as a prime motive in February, 1912, under the presidency of Kasimir Dembowski, who was also chosen its president at the last annual meeting. (29) The name Nowe Zycie, or New Life, chosen by this society, is somewhat original and suggests an interest in more social phases of endeavor. The first minutes recorded by Nowe Zycie are striking in their elaborate attempt to make the society acceptable to all factions, and here is revealed perhaps the first of the Rochester Polish organizations which opened its membership to non-Polish Slav. The single curious exception applies to clergymen, a circumstance naively reminiscent of earlier years. This society incorporated in February, 1921, as New Life Benevolent Association, and celebrated successfully its twentieth anniversary October 16, 1932. Of late years the self-education of its members has played a prominent part in its program.
A major catastrophe to the community which occurred May 2, 1913 undoubtedly raised insurance consciousness to a high pitch. On that day the well-known Zielinski lumber yard, with adjoining properties, was completely destroyed by fire. This conflagration, in fact, ranks among the famous fires in Rochester's history, bringing about serious injury to a number of firemen and causing property damage conservatively estimated at $200,000. Starting from unknown sources, the blaze was discovered by a workman early in the afternoon. Weather conditions and the character of the property, however, permitted too great a headway for timely action, and the entire northeast quarter of the city was soon in danger from a flaming furnace fifteen acres in extent. Excitement ran high when it was feared that St. Stanislaus Church had caught, a rumor which fortunately proved false. Numerous buildings in the vicinity and several houses were almost totally destroyed, leaving their occupants homeless.
Side by side with newspaper accounts of the fire appear insurance advertisements urging property owners of the neighborhood to protect their homes, an appeal somewhat fraught with irony, since accounts of efforts to obtain insurance prior to the fire reveal that failure to do so was occasioned chiefly by the prohibitive rates imposed by insurance companies due to the proximity of the lumber yard. It is a fact, however, that fire insurance became much more general in the Polish settlement at this time.
Apropos of community participation generally in the city life of Rochester, it may seem unusual that not until 1914 did there exist any organized group of a partisan political nature. This reluctance to organize politically is explained largely by the characteristic jealousy with which the Pole guards his right to change political opinions, and his consequent unwillingness to place himself "in line", lest allegiances should arise which might interfere with independent thought. To some extent this conclusion is borne out by the career of the Polish Citizens' Social Republican Club, which first met in 1914 with Andrew Gzeszczak as president, a group apparently committed to the concerted advocacy of municipal measures beneficial to the Polish section. Not many years had passed, however, before the society discarded its partisan character and now its doors are open to members of all political parties. John Jagla is now president and permanent headquarters have been established at 1157 Hudson Avenue.
The expansion in Rochester of the Polish National Alliance during these years has somewhat interesting phases. On February 13, 1909, Group 1020 was chartered by the national organization, under the presidency of Wawrzyniec Paluczynski. Considering the recent turbulence of P. N. A. relations with the Church, it is surprising to find that this Group chose St. Stanislaus Hall as its meeting place and has continued to meet there throughout its existence. Theodore Jablonski is now president. A year later John Adamski organized P. N. A. Group 1145, which elected Stephen Mroz first president. This chapter, which still meets at its original home (Markowski Hall, Gilmore St. and Hudson Avenue), declared certain specific objects worthy of note, and indicative of a somewhat practical, if all-inclusive patriotism. These were the patronage of Polish-American business, the promotion of European Polish independence, and the assumption of American citizenship by its members. The latter pronouncement, although implied in the constitutions and early minutes of several previous societies, apparently had not been definitely incorporated into the charter of any Polish organization in Rochester until this time. Excellent work has been accomplished in this field, moreover, and Group 1145, now headed by Victor Podsiadlow, is an active factor in P. N. A. affairs in Rochester.
A PART OP THE MEMBERSHIP, P. N. A. GROUP 1200, "DAUGHTERS OP POLAND". POSED FOR 20TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, 1930. BACK ROW, left to right: Teresa Lelek, Florentyna Milocz, Teresa Jablonaka, Teresa Lubkiewtcz, Agnieszka Ziebro, Cecylia Zielińska, Weronika Szarlacka, Jadwiga Piorczynska, Agnieszka Corecka, Stanisalawa Dziegielewska, Franciszka Kubacka, Marya Kukura. MIDDLE ROW, left to right: Helena Techmanska, Genowefa Ostrowska, Bronislawa Jasnowska, Antonina Dominiak, Bronislawa Kaleta, Paulina Lossowska, Anna Tanska, Marya Kolansks, Anna Anuszkiewicz, Jozefa Luczak, Wanda Pilznienska, Marya Pogoda, Marya Zemel. FRONT ROW, left to right: Zofia Pietrzak, Eleonora Frantz, Aniela Antczak, Stanislawa Lendzioszek, Marya Dylewska, Eugenia Dembowska, Pelagia Skiba, Antonina Kowalska, Alexandra Dukat, Marya Orlowska, Wladyslawa Kaminska.
On April 10, 1910, there was organized the latest of the Polish National Alliance chapters to form in this city, Group 1200. This is the only exclusively female branch in Rochester, and has selected the designation "Daughters of Poland", by which it is generally known. Organized by Mrs. S. K. Kowalska, its first president was Wladyslawa Sosnowska, whose office is now held by Agnes Ziebro. Group 1200 has during the years rendered incalculable service to the Polish community in several directions. The consolidation of the feminine point of view which resulted from its organization aided greatly in adjusting differences left over from the parish dissension, and united action on the part of Polish women in Rochester received considerable stimulus from the fact of its existence. This group now meets in Falcon Hall, and numbers one hundred and fifty-nine members.
The growth of Polish population, which was substantial during the first decade of the century, brought to the city a sprinkling of Poles of a class never numerous hut becoming increasingly active. These were Polish Baptists. The Baptist appears to have been the first of the Protestant sects to establish organized congregations in European Poland, and immigrants of that faith settling in the United States did not readily associate themselves with the Roman or National Catholic parishes usually found in the Polish communities of American cities, preferring to set up modest organizations of their own. In Rochester the Polish Baptist movement began some time before 1910 under the sponsorship of Rev. Ludwig Adamus, who had been a divinity student at the local seminary and who was ordained in that year.
The interest and assistance of the Baptist Union of Monroe County was enlisted, and in 1911 the church building pictured herein was erected, being designatedas the Polish Baptist Mission of Rochester, which became an independent church on October 5, 1913.
Rev. Adamus served actively as its pastor from 1911 until 1919, after which Rev. Michal S. Lesik assumed the pastorate until 1922. Temporary ministers were thereafter employed until 1926 when Rev. John Czajkowski received pennanent appointment. It was during his incumbency that Tow. Promien, or Society of the Ray, was organized, an interesting group concerning which more will appear in later pages. At present Rev. John Gilewicz is pastor, having come to the congregation in 1932. Although small, the Baptist group is a loyal and active one in the community and its presence is particularly encouraging when it is considered that there are but seventeen Polish Baptist congregations in theUnited States.
Analysis of the developments sketched in preceding pages, and devoted for the most part to the years following the parish upheaval discloses the fact that a kind of assimilation en masse of the Polish community was now gradually transpiring. It is apparent, for example, that the fever to achieve self-expression through organization--an impulse characteristic of most Slavic groups in the United States--was constantly providing new opportunities for the adoption of American ideas. As new aggregations formed, the objects of their existence and the parliamentary mechanics of their creation reflect habits of thought and action upon which life in the new world inevitably was stamping its impress. Reactions to events within the community were acquiring the more practical, cosmopolitan flavor that comes from life in the United States and contact with its varied racial and national backgrounds. Moreover, in view of the extraordinary cohesion of the Rochester Polish settlement, which has persisted in the face of many opposing factors arising within the settlement itself, the conclusion may well be drawn that assimilation of this nature derives a certain stability and vigor from the very fact that its processes were evolutionary and therefore imperceptible during the years of their operation.
Undoubtedly the controlling factor in the unusual exclusiveness of Polish groups, not only in Rochester but in all parts of the world to which the Pole emigrated, has been the concrete determination to play a part in the eventual restoration of nationality to the Polish state. The supreme confidence of the Polish people in the ultimate rebirth of Poland, and the infinite patience with which this event was awaited by successive generations of Poles for a period of over one hundred years constitute an astonishing miracle of national patriotism, sometimes difficult for the nationals of other lands to comprehend. When, however, this phase of Polish temperament is perceived in its full force and vitality, much misunderstanding is at once clarified and many seeming vagaries of Polish viewpoint are seen to bear a consistent relationship to each other in an inspiring struggle toward the attainment of a tremendous ideal.
Events had been for some time preparing the stage on which Poland was to demonstrate her devotion to this ideal, and in its own fashion the city's Polish community had now made ready to prove itself to Rochester. No less world-wide than local, the issue presently was to arise in which the Pole in America should find at last the opportunity of proving his loyalty to the American republic, a loyalty which, in the unique and significant setting of affairs that followed, was finally measured by standards established by his ancestors a hundred years earlier upon European battlefields.
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