History of the Polish People in Rochester
DURING the period from the restoration of Poland to the present time, the Pole in America has emerged. in a new light and, as will be seen from events in the Rochester community, which may be considered a fair prototype of them all, a striking change has come about in his approach to life in the new world. The inhibitions imposed by lack of nationality having been removed, the impulse to self assertion and expression has become manifest in numerous avenues in which formerly it was completely absent. Apart from this natural psychological factor, it is also true that much of the time and attention formerly expended in planning toward the freedom of European Poland has heen released for application to the problems of social adjustment in an adopted environment. Furthermore, the passing of time has brought forth a new generation of American born Polish children, which has grown to manhood and womanhood in a political setting far removed from the stultifying humiliations of pre-war Poland. The comparatively sudden rise to articulation on the part of Polish groups, therefore, can be seen to result in large measure from these developments, which of course had been transpiring quietly for many years, but which received their essential sanction and stimulus from the rebirth of Poland.
That life in America had proved unknowingly attractive even to native born Poles is strikingly attested in the fact that a relatively insignificant number of such aliens have left the United States and established themselves in Poland since the restoration. With very few exceptions, Rochester Poles who travelled to Europe as soldiers or relief workers have returned to this country, and in the ease of many whose lives virtually had been lived in the steadfast determination one day to settle in "free Poland", the fact that they have not cared to do so is a perplexing mystery even to themselves.
To some extent, increased participation in civic affairs is evident in the Rochester commnnity during the war years, and certain notable events in which Polish groups took part at that time are an indication of the expansion that was to follow.
|The city-wide pageant in celebration of the Shakespearean Tereentenary held on June 7, 8 anti 9, 1916, became the occasion of a colorful Polish procession at Edgerton (then Exposition) Park. In recognition of the contribution to Shakespearean art made by the famous Polish actress Modjeska, local Poles were invited to take part, and under the direction of Miss Helen Gregory a troupe was assembled, headed by Miss Martha Chudzinska, who impersonated Modjeska. The dances and traditional ceremonies displayed by this group were prepared with the most painstaking care and were greatly appreciated by the audience before which they were given, to the immense satisfaction of the performers, for the Poles have a much keener interest in and appreciation of Shakespeare than is commonly supposed by English speaking peoples (40).||(Footnote 40) Poles generally are familiar with Shakespeare through the exhaustive translations of Jan Kasprowicz (1860-1926).|
Perhaps the next pretentious venture into cultural display of a general natnre and for the benefit of the city as a whole took place during the Homelands Exposition, held in Rochester in April, 1920. Opening on Saturday evening, April 10, this production lasted ten days, and the Polish exhibit steadily gained in popularity from the first. It will be noted that this was the first function of its kind to occur after the establishment of the new Polish nation, and with unbounded enthusiasm the local Polish group set out to justify its right to national recognition. Dances and various other group activities were arranged with meticulous regard for traditional detail, and costumes were made and worn with strictest accuracy, that there be no mistaking their Polish identity. Individual performances were of a high order and Stanley Okonicwicz, a native Pole residing in Rochester, received several columns of highly complimentary publicity for his skill as a potter, which he displayed daily during the hours of the Exposition. In fact, examination of newspaper files for this period strongly indicates that the keen desire of the Polish group to assert its preeminence in the field of art and handicraft did not go unfulfilled.
|Group of Rochester Poles in native Costume. "Homelands Exposition" (April, 1920)|
In the realm of independent business, also, it is noticeable that Polish enterprise was now augmenting. Well known to Rochesterians generally is the Norwich Clothing Company, which incorporated in 1918 as the Polish Clothing Manufacturing Company, an entirely Polish venture. Headed by Adam Norwich, Stanley Dukat and Adam Felerski, Polish attorney, this concern operated for a time on Avenue D, and in 1920 constructed its own building, 850 Hudson Avenue, at a cost of $120,000. The capitalization of one million dollars was paid in to the extent of seventy per cent in a remarkably short time. Unfortunately, however, this rapid expansion proved unwarranted in the face of the violent business slump of 1921, which the company was unable to survive.
It is not generally known by non-Slavic Rochester that this city had a weekly newspaper, The Polish Record, published in the Polish language during the six years, 1923-1929. This journal, owned at first by John Felerski, Adam Felerski and John Lelesh, was later (1924) sold to Joseph Zlotnik. Its first directors were James B. Kaleta, Casimir Mrzywka and Francis Openchowski, and during its brief existence the latter, with Stanislans and Max Skop, John Lelesh, John Grycz, Stanley K. Kowalski and Anthony Zlotnik served as editors in the order named. At the outset, this project gave fair promise of success, but like so many similar ventures essayed at that time, it lacked the material backing necessary to withstand unforeseen emergencies, and the destruction by fire of its editorial offices and printing equipment (1119 Hudson Ave.) in 1929 proved its undoing.
A powerful factor in the enlarged civic interests of the Polish group undoubtedly is the comradeship and common interest which developed among army members, whatever their national or racial backgrounds. In November, 1919, the well-known Pulaski Post of the American Legion formed in Rochester under the command of Louis Nowak, with Michael Kozlowski acting as Vice-Commander and Max Szczepanski as Secretary. This post is composed exclusively of Polish American veterans who fought in the army of the United States, and has been prominent in local Legion affairs since its organization. During the Monroe County Legion convention in June, 1932, Pulaski Post acted virtually as host, since the meetings were held in Benjamin Franklin High School on Norton Street. Annual Pulaski Day celebrations (October 11) now would be incomplete without the services of the post in organizing and participating in parades and, other displays of a martial character. Its affairs at present are directed by Commander William C. Brodowczynski, Vice-Commander Henry E. Bielski and Secretary Alexander B. Tomczak.
A unique military organization, the Polish Army Veterans' Association, assembled in Rochester for the first time in July, 1921, with Frank Mularz as President, Joseph Nawrocki as Vice-President, Walter Jarus and Joseph Mazur as secretaries and Stanislaus Wrublewski as Treasurer. The various units of this national association, scattered about the country, are made up of men from General Haller's army and occupy a somewhat curious status, since the government under which they live can take no official cognizance of their existence. Notwithstanding, the formation of such a group has helped materially to knit relations between the Haller army and the regular army of the United States, which, during critical hours of the war, fought side by side and shared the rigors of the firing line. The Rochester chapter meets regularly in Falcon Rail and its present officers arc, President, Walter Jarus, Vice-President, Stanley Ribakowski, First Adjutant, Bronislaw Druzynski, Treasurer, Stephen Dominiak and Stanley K. Kowalski, Sergeant at Arms.
Enhanced interest in Americanization is also indicated by the creation on November 5, 1920 of the Polish Young Men's Citizens Club, with Max Szczepanski as President. Although the objectives of this society have been chiefly social, its outlook, fixed, at all times upon the ideal of American citizenship, has been consistently useful to the community and to the city. Members have been recruited from naturalized Polsih men, or those anxious to become naturalized, and it is one of the few Rochester Polish groups which has always enjoyed climb rooms of its own (927 Hudson Ave.). The tenth anniversary of its birth was celebrated December 31, 1930. Present officers are President, Walter Nawrocki. Vice-President, Max Szczepanski, Secretaries, Peter Sak and Joseph Kozlowski, and Treasurer, Paul Kwiatkowski.
The creation during the period 1915-1921 of several characteristically Polish societies carries the reminder that a healthy conservatism still lived in the community, despite the trend toward Americanization of a general-nature. In commemoration of Thaddeus Kosciuszko, the society hearing his name was organized July 19, 1918, with Ludwig Ziemkiewicz as President, John Jagla as Vice-President, Walenty Andrzejewski and Joseph Wawrzyniak as Secretaries, and Anthony Bednarski as Treasurer. While the motive of the group's existence relates mainly to the preservation of the Kosciuszko fame and ideals, its activities are of a practical and helpful sort, and insurance benefit, play a part in the program offered to prospective members. Its present officers are Bronislaw Druzynski, President, Stanley Szezepaniak, Vice-President, Edmund Dopieralski and, Stefan Zientara, Secretaries, and John Kubiak, Treasurer.
There are also two interesting societies concerning which mention should be made, since they are the only aggregations in the local settlement to which membership is recruited primarily on a basis of European birth or residence in a definite locality. On November 28, 1915, the Rakowian Society was formed, Stanislaus Stupkiewicz acting as President, Julian Anuszkicwicz as Vice-President. Baleslaw Borzdynski and Tomasz Bogdanowicz as Secretaries and Wincenty Anuszkiewicz as Treasurer. Members of this society are former residents of the Rakow district of Russian Poland, or their descendants. The group now meets at St. Stanislaus Hall and its present executives are President, Stanislaus Stupkiewicz, Vice-President, Adolf Lukasiewicz, Secretaries, Julian Anuszkiewicz and Vincent Okoniewicz, Treasurer, Stanislaus Stee.
Rochester residents who had come from the district of Chraboly. Russian Poland, united on June 16, 1921, to form the Chrabolan Society under the leadership of Joseph Kamienski, President, Casimir Daszkiewicz, Vice-President, Walter and Anthony Adamski, Secretaries, and Vincent Adamski, Treasurer. At first this group also met at St. Stanislaus, but now has adopted Falcon Hall as its headquarters. It was incorporated April 9, 1929, and its affairs are now directed by Baltazy Dziengielewski, President, Anthony Laskowski, Vice-President, Kasimir Skuaa and Joseph Krawiec, Secretaries and Anthony Dziengielewski, Treasurer.
It is essential that attention be called at this point to the expanding influence and development of St. Stanislaus Church, under the benign leadership of Father Ignatius Klejna. It will be remembered that Father Klejna came to the parish at a time when its affairs were most critical, immediately following the congregational break, and the quiet, tactful dignity of this priest in accepting and discharging the obligations of his trust over a period of unprecedented turmoil and excitement occasioned by the war, has gained for him a permanent place of honor in the history of his parish and of Rochester.
|The burden already placed upon the St. Stanislaus parish by the construction of the new church and other building operations was intensified by the demands of the war and relief agencies seeking to aid European Poland, a fact which was recognized by Father Klejna, who, in addition to his clerical duties, became active in many ways in the community. Rendering himself approachable to all in the midst of his extraordinary activity, he unquestionably strengthened the parish and increased its prestige immeasurably in the city of Rochester. His services to the Polish relief cause, in fact, received official acknowledgment on June 5. 1923, when he was decorated by Honorable Edmund Kalenski, of Buffalo, Vice-Consul for Poland. His picture is shown here with that of Stanley K. Kowalski, who was awarded a like decoration, and with many of whose projects during the war years Father Klejna was intimately indentified.|
In the summer of 1915, St. Stanislaus celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of its existence with special services and a mammoth lawn fete, in which all church societies participated. It is to be noted that the figure of one thousand persons, previously given as the size of the congregation in 1897 at the time of the first school dedication had now augmented practically three-to-five-fold and fully one thousand families now appeared on the church rolls.
In the year following the anniversary (1916) a new St. Stanislaus society organized in the parish, the original parish society of this name having passed out of existence. The present group elected John Karlowicz President, Ladislaus Walkonski Vice-President, John Racinawski, and Frank Drzewiecki, Secretaries, and Walenty Paprocki, Treasurer at its organization meeting. Its activities are principally social and, serve to coordinate parish action in many directions. Officers at this time are President, John Jagla, Vice-President, John Racinowski, Secretaries, Frank Drzewiecki and Frank Lazewski, and Treasurer, Anthony Bednarski.
In 1918 the present St. Stanislaus rectory was constructed, an attractive, roomy home for pastors and assistants, who, prior to its erection, were obliged to suffer considerable inconvenience for lack of adequate quarters. Two other signal material improvements took place during the pastoratc of Father Klejna. time complete redecoration of the church's interior (1925) and the installation of a new pipe organ.
Father Klejna was succeeded by Rev. Stanislaus J. Szupa, whose departure in 1933 was followed by the appointment of Rev. Joseph A. Balcerak, a lifelong resident of Rochester.
A major community development, which had been taking form for some years past, became a tangible reality on March 6, 1922 with the opening of Dom Ludowy Polski, or Polish People's Home at 818 Hudson Avenue. Properly speaking, this enterprise was conceived by the Rochester Chapter of the Polish Socialist Alliance, and received its first serious consideration in July, 1912, when Leonard Szklarski bought the frame house at this address for the purpose of providing a home for the new Polish People's Library. Thereafter, the library became a convenient gathering place for numerous societies which, for one or another reason, had not adopted any of the other neighborhood halls generally used for that purpose. The expansion and diversification of community interests taking place at the time were leading certain groups to conflict with others, and imbued the larger organizations which operated the buildings already in existence with a sense of partisan proprietorship embarrassing to the idea of a common meeting place. These circumstances led the Socialist Alliance to confer with community leaders from other organizations upon the advisability of erecting a social building in which interested clubs niight be able to procure suitable accommodations upon a purely business basis, without regard to religious or political complexion.
On December 27, 1918, a meeting of prospective bondholders was held at which it was determined to form a corporation, Polish People's Home, Inc., for the purpose of owning and operating the projected building. The officers of the corporation elected at that time were Stanley Klodinski, President, Edward Koszalka, Vice-President, Waleryan Dziekonski, Secretary and Antoni Zaczek, Treasurer. The corporate structure of the company, which has never been changed in any essential particular, admirably carries out the purposes of its founders. The right to use the building is acquired by purchasing bonds in the corporation, whose directors pass upon the eligibility of applicant-societies and adjust the allotment of time and space to insure the ready availability of facilities applied for.
Work was begun on People's Rail, as it is commonly called, July 30, 1921, and the building opened March 6 of the following year. The frame structure which housed the library was not demolished and is still in use, the larger building being located on the rear lot.
The consistent success which has attended the Dom Ludowy project has definitely proved that a real need for it existed when it was conceived. Member societies have taken considerable pride in the part ownership which they have enjoyed, and have developed among themselves a unity of spirit and interest hardly foreseen in the beginning. Joint social affairs are frequently held, at which money is raised for upkeep and material improvement of the premises, and the individual functions sponsored by the various groups are well supported by the entire membership. At the present time the corporation is headed by Frank Mietus, President, Joseph Pogroszewski, Vice-President, Martin Karolczak, Financial Secretary, Stanley Orzechowski, Recording-Secretary, and Mary Kaczmarczyk, Treasurer, and is supported by the following member societies: New Life Benevolent Society, P. N. A. Group 512, Polish Workers' Mutual Aid Association, Polish Local 206, Clothing Workers, Polish Women's Club, a new organization, and the Polish Socialist Alliance, besides one hundred twenty individual shareholders, represented on the Board of Directors by Stanley Orze chowski and Joseph Pogroszewski.
To some extent the example of People's Hall was followed by the Falcon organization, which enlarged and remodeled its building in 1922, the completed structure being dedicated on May 27 of that year. It will be remembered, too, that the ranks of returned veterans were constantly swelling at this time, which could not fail to tax the capacity of Falcon Hall, since these men invariably congregated here. Of late years this hall has been employed in essentially the same fashion as Dom Ludowy, and it is a rare moment that some form of meeting or assemblage is not in progress within its walls.
It will be seen that the years immediately following the restoration of Poland were active and ambitious ones for the Pole residing in America, and it was during these years that many pursuits were undertaken, the extravagance of which was unwarranted economically, and which doubtless sprang in part from the greatly accelerated enthusiasm with which, the favorable outcome of the war had infected him.
This enthusiasm, of late years, has assumed a somewhat different form and in a considerable degree has directed itself into political channels, the natural result, perhaps, of the increase in tbe adoption of American citizenship.
In 1926 with the modest membership of eleven, the Polonia Republican League organized under the leadership of John Felerski, President, Frank Zientara, Vice-President, Leo Adamski, Secretary and Chester Bialynski, Treasurer. Meeting regularly at Falcon Hall, this group has become large and influential during the years and has engaged in numerous enterprises not of a political nature, having a well defined charitable and social program. Its present officers are William Brodowczynski, President, Matthew Kowalski, 1st Vice-President, John T. Skalny, 2nd Vice-President, Stanley Kaczmarek and Joseph Nogaj, Secretaries, and Anthony Kaleta, Treasurer.
A Polish Womens Republican Club formed in 1929 with Mary Lazinska as President, Frances Szczepanska, Vice-President, Helen Reimer and Josephine Kwiatkowska, Secretaries and Sophie Kapczynska as Treasurer. Its meeting place was St. Casimir's Hall and it has acted somewhat as the auxiliary of Polonia Republican League. This organization has become inactive during the past year.
In August 1931, the Polish Democratic Union came into existence as the first aggregation in the community of Democratic persuasion since the club of Democrats formed immediately prior to the war, by John Leszczynski and Stanley K. Kowalski, which lasted but a few years. John J. Kaleta, an outstanding Democrat of the community, became and has since remained the leader of the present Union. The presence of this group has brought about healthy rivalry in political matters and developments of the past few years have greatly expanded its membership and importance.
To an appreciable extent, the existence of political organizations of Polish background, has operated to interest the city at large in the welfare and affairs of the settlement, and has made it a factor to be considered in civic life. In countless ways unconnected with the instant business of local politics, their presence focuses outside attention upon the contributions constamitis being made by the portion of the city's population which they represent. In this sense they may be regarded as significant of community development and orderly assimilation.
A somewhat new type of organization came on February 7, 1927, with the formation of the Polish Business Men's Association, its original officers being Stephen Milosz, President, Felix Wrublewski, Vice-President, Albert Kusak and Walter Kurowski, Secretaries, and John Szwajkos, Treasurer. The first serious attempt on the part of Polish merchants to organize, this society has become a thoroughly substantial and permanent institution. Although it first met at People's Hall, its deliberations are now conducted at Falcon Hall and meetings are regular and enthusiastic. As business has grown in the Polish quarter, new problems have arisen, which members attempt to approach with a united front through the Association. The organization has been especially generous in its response to appeals in aid of various local projects of a community nature. Present officers are William Brodowczynski, President, Edward Dembowski, Vice-President, John Nowicki and Stanley Nowak, Secretaries, and John T. Antczak, Treasurer.
|As the result of the geographical extension southward of the Polish population in Rochester, there is now a new parish, that of St. Theresa, 8 Mark Street, organized September 10, 1927. This is a Franciscan parish, efforts to establish which really date back to 1907 and the time of the St. Stanislaus schism. The St. Theresa church eventually was chartered by Rt. Rev. Thomas F. Hickey, Bishop of Rochester on the date above mentioned, following, which cornerstone ceremonies were held July, 4, 1928. Initial services were held at Concordia Hall in Clifford Avenue September 25, 1927, the sermon being presented by the Very Reverend Justin Figas, Minister Provincial of St. Anthony's Polish Province in America. Rev. Stanislaus J. Szupa, then pastor of St. Stanislaus, presided at the Mass, assisted by Rev. Stefan Musielak, deacon and Rev. Figas, subdeacon. At this service also, the Rt. Rev. Monsignor Francis O'Hern, then Vicar General of the Rochester Diocese, spoke in the absence of the Bishop, and Rev. Michael Drzewucki was appointed pastor.||
St. Theresa's Church, Mark St., Rochester, N. Y.
|On September 9, 1928, the day prior to a first parish anniversary, services were held in the new church building, and four months later (January 7, 1929) school was opened under the guidance of Franciscan Sisters, with a registration of one hundred and six. Thus the new parish proceeded apace to entrench itself in its community, with marked success. Its present pastor is Rev. Louis Sobieski, O. M. C., (41) who came to the church in the spring of 1933, and who is assisted by Rev. Fulgence Gorczyca, O. M. C. The St. Theresa parish now numbers about two hundred families.||(Footnote 41) Order of Minor Conventuals.|
Although probably one of the most active cultural agencies in the Polish community, the scope of general activity on the part of the St. Theresa parish has been limited by the unusual financial burden which its members took upon themselves at its organization, and much of their organized energy is now directed at relieving this burden. Within itself the St. Theresa group is closely knit by a roster of religious societies working for the welfare of their church. Some of the more important of these are Ladies of the Holy Rosary, Sacred Heart Society, Third Order of St. Francis, Young Ladies Circle, Young Men's Club, Young Ladies Sodality, Children of Mary Society, and the St. Joseph Society. Of these the St. Joseph Society has perhaps the widest secular interests, since its charter provides for extensive activity in the field of the American citizenship.
A new chapter of the Polish Roman Catholic Union, known as Group 1250, organized in St. Theresa's parish February 12, 1933. This society meets at the Church hall and pursues the common objectives of its sister chapters within its own congregation.
|The youth of the community has lately evidenced a reawakened interest in organized athletics, adopting, of course, the characteristic American games, baseball, football and basketball. The latter game had been notably indulged in by the Filarets, a team sponsored by the social and educational society of that name which until the past year existed in the St. Stanislaus parish. This society formed in February, 1927 with Walter Jankowiak, President, Anna Kwiatkowska, Secretary and Frank Tomkowiak, Treasurer. There were actually two basketball teams, one composed, of boys and the other of girls, both of which held city championship in their respective classes. (42) The Cadet Football Club, which formed under severe handicaps in 1929, was fortuitously rescued from impending oblivion the following year through the good offices of James B. Kaleta, Polish druggist, who equipped the team with uniforms and appurtenances, and under whose guidance it now flourishes as the Kaleta Drugs.||(Footnote 42) Championships were won by the girls in 1933, 1934, and 1935, and by the boys in 1930. The group has been active In the past in other than atheltic fields, having been responsible for the successful celebration of "Sienkiewicz Day" (1927), and the staging of a Passion Play at Falcon Hall (1930).|
An active interest has been maintained in baseball and, a number of organizations have featured this sport as a part of their social programs. Prominent among these is the Polish Young Men's Citizens Club team, called the Polish Nationals, which won the Western New York Polish cup at one time. At the present time, perhaps the foremost baseball team in active operation is that sponsored by the Echo Musical Society, which plays regularly during the summer months. The Roycrofts, so-called, a boys' team begun on the initiative of its own members, suffered a decline similar to that affecting the Cadet Football team, and was in like manner restored to activity by the interest of Walter Wojtczak, who provided its members with complete equipment during the season of 1933 and has since acted as its mentor. For the most part, these ventures appear to he short-lived, but the essential interest in their game seldom lags, and baseball as an established institution in the community seems assured of continued support.
Self-education groups originating in recent years are interesting as displaying the two-fold object of acquiring an enlightened and up-to-date Americanism while seeking to preserve the artistic and cultural qualities of a Slavic background. The achievement of this result, in a sense, constitutes the present major problem of assimilation now confronting the American Pole, and the various media through which its solution is being attempted locally may be said to provide a significant index of a widespread current development which, although general and fairly definite in character, frequently is not perceived by the Pole himself.
|On October 8, 1928, there organized within the parish of the Polish Baptist Church a society of young people whose Polish name, Towarzystwo Naukowe, Promien, is at once pointed and colorful, yet scarcely susceptible of adequate translation into English. (43) Its first officers were Frank Itakus, President, Isabelle Miecieszewska, Vice-President, Albina Mieciszewska, Secretary and Lillian Zaleska, Treasurer. The group is wholly intellectual in purpose and conducts debates, lectures and open forums in which self-expression is developed, The Polish language is used however, and its members strive to unite the American point of view with Polish atmosphere, an instructive and entertaining experiment. On September 2, 1929, American and Polish flags, together with a flagpole for their display were presented by this society to the Baptist Church in a ceremony of dedication held in the churchyard, and on Washington's birthday 1931, under the society's auspices, Hon. Thadeus Marynowski, Polish Consul, lectured at Peoples' Hall on "Development of Polish Culture in the United States." Its present officers are Joseph Jekot, President, Walter Nawrocki, Vice-President, Bronislaw Walecki and Tomasz Smietanowski, Secretaries and Lillian Zaleska, Treasurer.||(Footnote 43) Literally the expression means "Educational Society of the Ray". "Ray" in this instance, however, is a somewhat Ineffective equivalent of "promien". which connotes intellectual or moral enlightenment.|
|Another cultural group, the Kalina Circle, (44) composed entirely of women, organized November 9, 1929, with Stefania Osiecka as President, Anna Bartles, Vice-President, Marya Sadowska, and Marya Kolacka, Secretaries, and Helen Kedzierska, Treasurer. The Circle meets at St. Casimir's Hall and devotes its attention principally to the exploitation of Polish choral music. At present its official staff is composed of Agnes Kozlowska, President, Marya Kolacka, Vice-President and Anna Kolacka, Treasurer.||(Footnote 44) "Kalina", Polish name of a species of the viburnum, a shrub, bearing a round red berry, referred to colloquially as symbolic of active and healthy womanhood.|
The drama also has received active interest through formation of the Polish Dramatic Club on January 3, 1930, at which time John P. Leszczynski, Stella Krasowska and Joseph Kuzminski were elected to the offices of President, Secretary and Treasurer respectively. The club meets at Falcon Hall and has presented since its beginning sixteen plays in the Polish language. It has been customary for the club to hold a public ball each year, which occasion has now become distinguished, for its contest to select a beauty queen, "Miss Polonia", for participation in the Rochester Lilac Festival in Highland Park. This honor has thus been conferred in turn upon Estelle Rzepecka (1932), Mary Tabaczynska (1933), and Florence Czarniak (1934). Present officers of the society are Joseph Nowinowski, President, Marion Wojnowski, Vice-President, and Director, Sophia Cwalina and Stella Krasowska, Secretaries, and Bronislaw Sokolski, Treasurer.
Organized social advancement, and particularly the perpetuation of Polish culture and ideas is occupying the attention of national Polish associations to some extent a development which is reflected in the activities of local chapters. Of late years the Polish Women's Alliance in America, with headquarters in Chicago, has sprung into prominence, and Rochester has an extremely active chapter, Group 632, which first met March 4, 1931 at St. Stanislaus auditorium, still the home of the society. Officers chosen at that time were Aniela Antczak, President, Joanna Kubiak, Vice-President, Florentine Milosz and Stanislawa Wojdalowicz, Secretaries and Katarzyna Borzdynska, Treasurer. Membership is recruited from all women of the community entirely on a non-sectarian basis, the primary object of the group being the artistic and educational improvement of female Polish-American children. A school for this purpose has been maintained, admitting girls ranging in age from infancy up to sixteen years, in which the Polish language and history are taught, and dancing, drilling and other forms of organized recreation are fostered in the Polish tradition.
A state convention of tbe Women's Alliance was held under the sponsorship of Group 632 in 1932, at which future plans were laid, and which evoked considerable enthusiasm on the part of the local community. Although a comparatively new venture, the Alliance serves a growing social need and there are indications that its importance will increase as years pass. Present officers are Katarzyna Borzdynska, President, Bronislawa Buszka, Vice-President, Michalina Wasielewska and Zofja Michalska, Secretaries and Marvanna Emler, Treasurer.
On September 24, 1932, largely under the auspices of Peoples' Hall, there organized an educational movement known as Fakultet Szkolki Polskiej also designed. to in stil in the Polish youth of Rochester an understanding and love of homeland traditions. At the outset this project was headed by a board composed of Joseph Kobylarz, Frank Mietus, Ludwik Zabelny, Leon Buczek, Frank Lipinski, Antoni Stachura, and Frank Adwent, of which Stanley K. Kowalski was Chairman. John Pospula was selected to direct the school, and also gave instruction in the Polish language. For a time it was well attended and several demonstrations of its work were given at the hall.
This venture, soon after its organization, because identified with the movement known as Harcerstwo, or Polish Scouts, fathered by certain interests within the Polish National Alliance, with the result that the school, as such, has dissolved, certain of its major activities having merged with those of the Scout movement. The latter is sponsored chiefly by P. N. A. Group 512 in this city. Its adult adviser is Stanley K. Kowalski, and its units or troops are directed respectively by Henry Kraszkiewicz, Scoutmaster, and Stefania Dobrochowska, Scoutmistress.
The emphasis upon historical background and the use of the Polish language in its various activities are the principal factors distinguishing the Polish Scout organization from that of the American Boy Scouts and similar institutions. Some effort at affiliation with the Boy Scout movement has been made, and the activity of the Rochester Polish Scouts has been extensive. Under national auspices, Scoutmaster Kraszkiewicz was entertained in Poland in 1934, in connection with Harcerstwo affairs.
It is evident that the trend observed, in the formation of the societies just discussed is general, and indicates the realization on the part of Polish leaders that henceforth whatever bonds shall exist between a growing Polish-American population and its native Poland must be those of culture, art and social tradition, rather than those of an active nationalism. It may he said that this development foreshadows, in a sense, the essential contribution which shall remain from the Pole to America in the slowly advancing process of assimilation.
Perhaps the most noticeable recent development in the Rochester Polish community, from the standpoint of the city as a whole is its increasing capacity for unified action, and the consideration of this development leads to some interesting conclusions respecting community assimilation as it is transpiring locally.
Reference already has been made to the extraordinary propensity of the Polish-American group to form clubs and societies, a propensity which springs largely from the fact that conditions in European Poland for over one hundred years had precluded the expression of this, impulse. However, its over-expression in the liberal environment of America soon produced a natural result, which was disorganization, the persistence of which has been a curious phenomenon charateristic of many Polish settlements. It has required, in fact, the pressure of unusual events in most eases to bring about any advance whatever toward a workable unity of action.
During the early years of the war the necessity for preserving a united front became imperative in more genuine fashion than before, and for a time the complete devotion to an ancient cause, dramatically materialized in a succession of momentous events, rendered unity comparatively easy. Even the cleavage which soon developed in the original KON ranks, despite outward appearances, did not appreciably destroy that concerted approach to the Polish problem which circumstances had made so vitally essential.
It appears that Komitet Rekrutacyjny, or Polish Army Mobilization Committee, as it later came to be called, represents the first step in the direction of community leadership centered in one body. While it is true that this move was largely inspired by national leaders, it is certain that the local Polish settlement was solidly behind the Committee in the pursuit of its immediate objectives. The visit to Rochester of Prince Ludwig Poniatowski, scion of the last of Poland's ruling houses, in April, 1918, on behalf of Polish recruiting activities, was conducted under the auspices of this Committee.
|The exclusively military character of the Mobilization Committee, which materially insured its success among Poles, had precisely the opposite effect, however, upon its contacts with non-Polish groups, since at the time the United States was a neutral power. Accordingly there came into existence the Komitet Obywatelski (Citizens' Committee), which has been mentioned in Part IV, consisting of various outstanding local leaders and which was for a number of years the duly chosen spokesman of numerous Polish organizations. Over a considerable period this Committee carried almost complete responsibility in all matters requiring contact with the city as a whole, and discharged its functions with admirable tact and effectiveness.||
Leading Figure in Komitet Obywatelski
It was largely through the influence of the Citizens' Committee that Rochester received the Hon. John Wedda, United States Representative for Polish matters, on December 15, 1918, the same year in which Paderewski had come. Wedda, it will be remembered appeared in defense of his native land in connection with a sharp revival of the Jewish problem, and spoke on the same platform with Dr. Meyer Jacobstein, then professor at the University of Rochester, and the late Rabbi Horace J. Wolf, of Temple Berith Kodesh.
Also under this Committtee's auspices came the Hon. John Smulski, who spoke by invitation at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon January 29, 1919. Smulski at the time was President of the Polish National Department, in behalf of which Paderewski had addressed the Chamber.
Many thousands of dollars worth of Polish government bonds were sold in Rochester in a sales campaign for which Komitet Obywateiski was chiefly responsible. This bond campaign is notable for the lively interest which it aroused among non-Polish Rochesterians, and reports indicate high satisfaction on the part of purchasers who, from time to time, have found ready and profit able markets for their securities.
The emergence of a new Poland on the field of world affairs, in itself, has awakened the desire among Americans generally to learn more about the new state and about Slavic peoples. Numerous war heroes and Polish officials have travelled about the country in response to this desire, and Poland herself in many instances, has taken occasion to acknowledge publicly the aid and assistance which has been rendered her by nations and individuals. In this process of an awakening consciousness, Rochester has been notably concerned, and the public character of the events marking such concern has further developed the cause of civic unity in our Polish group.
Chief, perhaps, of all official visitors who passed through Rochester in the years immediately following the restoration, was General Josef Haller, commander of the Polish Army in France. General Haller came to America at the invitation of the American Legion and following his appearance at the national convention of that body, stopped. in the city of Rochester, on November 28, 1923, where his entertainment was sponsored jointly by Komitet Obywatelski, the Mobilization Committee, Polish Army Veterans and the local Legion. During his stay here Haller addressed a large gathering at Convention Hall, and was much feted by city officials.
The visit of Colonel Cedric E. Fauntleroy on December 8, 1920, on the occasion of his address before the Chamber of Commerce may he regarded as a highly interesting event in the history of Rochester and of its Polish community. Colonel Fauntleroy is considered one of the most colorful of the heroes produced by the World War. Fired by the ideal of gratitude for the deeds of Lafayette, Kosciuszko, and other American patriots of foreign birth, he had first become prominently identified with the French aviation as one of the moving spirits of the famous Lafayette Escadrille. Later, he and the war ace, Meriam C. Cooper, formed the Kosciuszko Squadron which saw exciting service in Poland after the Armistice. His visit to this city will be recalled by many who saw and heard him at that time, and his presence lent favorable impetus to the increasing fellowship which Rochester had begun to feel for its Polish population.
On June 5, 1927, Father, Ignatius J. Klejna of St. Stanislaus Church, and Stanley K. Kowalski, first head of the Rochester Polish recruiting unit, received the Polish government "Cross of Merit" at the hands of Dr. Edmund Kalenski, Polish Vice-Consul who came to Rochester for the purpose. This decoration is an honor reserved by Poland for men and women of Polish birth or extraction, who have served the cause of their homeland faithfully during the years of the restoration. It was also conferred July 1, 1928, upon Martha Gedgowd, Gray Samaritan heroine, Father Stanislaus J. Szupa, then newly appointed, rector of St. Stanislaus, Father Stanislaus Wysoczynski, his assistant, and Adam Felerski and Louis Kubiak, intimately connected with Komitet Obywatelski during the years of its outstanding activity. Dr. Kalenski is now not a stranger to the city, having spoken over the radio at Pulaski Day ceremonies October 11, 1933, on the same program with Colonel Oscar N. Solbert of Rochester, who also saw military service in Poland with an American unit.
Although relatively little prominence attended her coming, Lieutenant Sophia Nowosielska, who visited this city in March, 1929, remaining for a short time at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley K. Kowalski, is, no doubt, one of the most interesting Polish personalities to visit Rochester in recent years. Lieutenant Nowosielska enlisted as a man in the Polish army and for a surprisingly long period succeeded, in concealing her sex. Being wounded in action, however, she was discovered and dismissed, but the later formation of a women's squadron found her again in the service where she won her officer's commission and honorable discharge.
Rochester has leen twice honored in the award of the cross "Polonia Restituta", which is a very distinguished recognition conferred by the Polish government on civilians of other lands who have been of valued service to the restoration, and carries with it a titular knighthood. On December 10, 1927, Dr. Stefan Rosicki, Consular Representative of Poland, presented this decoration to George Eastman, whose interest in and contributions to the rehabilitation of the Polish territories had been extensive. Again on Pulaski day, October 11, 1934 Dr. Mieczyslaw Marchlewski, Polish Consul, of New York, conferred the cross upon Dr. Rush Rhees, President of the University of Rochester, in recognition of his service to the Polish cause while head of the War Chest committee, and of his consistent interest in Polish affairs.
Events of this character invariably brought the Rochester Polish community into the limelight of public notice, as a consequence of which the principle of action as a unit was taking deeper root. Although Komitet Obywatelski had successfully assumed and discharged civic functions, the essential reasons for its existence centered, about the war and Polish rehabilitation, and the attention of the community it represented, through it, had been at all times directed at a European Poland, which now was becoming less and less needful of that attention. Therefore, as was perhaps unavoidable, the committee gradually ceased to he active in any representative capacity.
The desirability of uniting the community at this time sprang from certain of its social and material needs, which could not satisfactorily he fulfilled in a disorganized group. The brief economic decline which followed the war gave rise to an unemployment and relief problem sufficiently pressing to overtax the capacity of existing independent organizations, and the rapidly enlarging population of American born Polish children was creating a new class of social dependents, for the guidance and adjustment of which the community was responsible. Obligations of this nature, however, were not at once great enough to insure the desired unity in the face of certain obstacles left over from the tunnoil of preceding years.
Following the restoration, the Polish group in America found itself hampered by a troublesome factionalism, really inherited, from its own war and pre-war activity. This factionalism, indeed, proved more annoying in peace-time years than before, since the compelling issues current during the period from 1914 to 1920 frequently submerged the personal and local differences of the various wings. Upon the attainment of their common prime objective, therefore, the opposing groups retired to their respective camps and maintained for a time a hostile and impenetrable exclusiveness. It is noticeable that sincere efforts to achieve unity were made from time to time by one or another of these camps, resulting usually in the ascendancy of the group taking the initiative, which, of course, brought about the withdrawal of the others. This awkward state of affairs continued to exist until time had partially softened the memory of previous conflicts, and events occurred which demanded a kind of unity not calculated to revive any of the old disputes.
Locally, the earliest attempt to achieve general co-ordination of action, perhaps, was the Polish American Philanthropic Association, organized July 25, 1919, and incorporated March 23 of the following year. Prominent in the guidance of its affairs were Adam Norwich, of the Norwich Clothing Company, Michal Gibowski, Marcel Mularz, John Owczarczak, Stanley K. Kowalski, Joseph Biskup, Dr. Leon Kurek, Joseph Koscielny, Casimir Damsz and Apolonja Kruszynska. The avowed object of this organization was the orderly collection and distribution of charitable and relief funds, and its structure followed essentially the lines of the city War and Community Chests. Reverend Joseph Luniewski, then assistant to Father Klejna of St. Stanislaus, maintained a keen interest in the success of this work, and for a number of years was active in promoting community consolidation in various fields. The Philanthropic Association as a movement in group unity did not win adequate support, however, and survived only for a short time.
In March, 1924, another attempt at fusion was made in the formation of the Polish American Central Committee, called in Polish, Centrala, of which John Grycz was elected President. The group responsible for this venture fully realized the importance and extent of its major problem and, in seeking to heal the artificial estrangements left over from the controversial activity of earlier years, chose for its immediate objectives such matters of common interest as the establishment of a playground and improvement in traffic and police protection. Father Luniewski also played an energetic part in the work of this Committee, which for a time succeeded in making genuine progress toward the goal of civic cooperation.
|This body acted as formal reception comittee for the famous Namysloski Band, which played in Convention Hall March 19, 1925, under the direction of Casimir Namysloski. Some citywide Interest was aroused by the appearance of this musical aggregation, which had existed for many years (45) and in its colorful peasant dress had played command performances before the German and Russian Emperors.||(Footnote 45) The Namysloski Band which visited Rochester was successor to the pretentious organisation founded in Europe by Jan Namysloski. The parent ensemble at one time numbered three hundred musicians and in its time played before all the courts of Europe. Its members were recruited in boyhood and remained identified with the society for life, as in a guild.|
|The appeal by the Kosciuszko Foundation of New York (46) for funds in October 1926 was taken over by the Central Committee and an active campaign was organized. Some of the local contributions were substantial, notably that of $1000 by Stephen Zielinski. The Kosciuszko campaign had the beneficial effect of bringing the Central Committee into general public notice for the first time.||(Footnote 46) Kosciuszko Foundation: a nationwide society of Polish-Americans devoted to the exchange of students between higher institutions of learning in Poland and the United States and the promotion of Polish-American relations generally.|
Despite these well-handled opportunities, the interest of the community in the work of its committee was not sustained, and during 1926 and 1927 its existence became chiefly titular. Accordingly, in 1928 a few enthusiastic members, headed by Henry Bielski, then Chairman, embarked upon a membership drive and by dint of much labor eventually reawakened Committee activity to the extent of holding regular meetings which were reasonably well attended.
At length, in 1929, an event occurred which to an appreciable degree has assured the permanence of the Central Committee as a community institution. This was the Congressional Resolution of that year calling for the proclamation of Pulaski Day on October 11, and authorizing the nation at large to commemorate the name and works of the great patriot in public ceremonies. The campaign for passage of this resolution was a live issue in the Rochester Polish settlement and naturally fell into the hands of Centrala as the only organized unit representative of the entire section. Formal correspondence with Representative Meyer Jacobsteiu and Senator Robert F. Wagner is still in the Committee's files as a record of the activity displayed on that occasion. The ultimate proclamation of Pulaski Day in 1929 turned the attention of Rochester Poles to the Central Committee, which was, by common consent, charged with the duty of organizing the local observances.
These observances assumed somewhat the form of a memorial. Church services were held in the morning, and a procession marched to the mass meeting at Conven- tion Hall. The Committee was unusually fortunate in being able to secure as its principal speaker at this meeting the Honorable Waclaw Sieroszewski, a Polish writer of great prominence, the Very Rev. John Francis O'Hern, Bishop of Rochester, acting as honorary Chairman. The event was counted a signal sucess both by the local community and by the city at large, and the Central Committee ever since has assumed acknowledged leadership in the organization of Pulaski Day affairs.
The importance of this development as a unifying influence is interesting to consider. It will be observed that the celebration of Pulaski Day emanated from the government of the United States, which made such celebration definitely an American patriotic occasion. Thus the conduct of the Pulaski Day program for the first time afforded America the opportunity to act through her Polish population instead of merely permitting the Polish element to act through America. Psychologically, this produced a healthy effect in that it imbued the Pole with a sense of responsibility to the whole body politic, transcending the differences in viewpoint which had arisen from the partisan issues of his own making, and peculiar to those of his own national background.
Locally, too, the Pulaski ideal provided various community groups, of dubious cordiality toward each other, with an immediate common goal or object, of such unimpeachable virtue as to impel instant and unanimous enthusiasm. Here was a cause which might enlist the support of the entire settlement without the danger of reviving factional disagreements. The unity movement thus acquired a valuable momentum which it has never lost.
|In 1930, the progress of plans for a new branch of the Rochester Public Library at Hudson Avenue and Norton Street led to the inauguration of a Pulaski movement which eventually culminated in the erection of the so-called Pulaski Plaque within the completed building. The presentation and dedication of this memorial took place during the cerenlonies of October 11, 1933, at which Dr. Edmund Kalenski addresscd a large audience gathered at the library entrance. (47) Centrala played a leading part in the completion of this project. The distinct acceleration which this sort of enterprise gave to the program of general unity is indicated by the fact that the petition submitted, was signed by the rectors of all churches in the community, regardless of denomination, as well as the executive heads of all societies then affiliated with the Central Committee.||
MEMORIAL PLAQUE HONORING PULASKI,
ERECTED AT HUDSON BRANCH LIBRARY, DEDICATED OCTOBER 11, 1933.
|(Footnote 47) The actual dedication was made by Edward R. Foreman, city Historian, acceptance being made by Hon. Percival D. Oviatt. Mayor of Rochester, and John Adams Lowe, City Librarian.|
Perhaps the outstanding event of 1932 for the Polish Community was the George Washington Bicentennial celebration held at Benjamin Franklin High School auditorium May 1, 1932, when an audience of twenty-five hundred assembled to hear Professor William J. Rose of Dartmouth College deliver an address appropriate to the occasion. Professor Rose is one of America's foremost authorities on Polish affairs and presented a broadcast over Station WHAM on the same evening, in deference to the large Polish majority in his audience at the school the Professor during a portion of his speech used the Polish language, in which he is thoroughly at ease. Hon. Arthur L. Wilder, City Judge, was also a speaker at the mass meeting.
Several other semi-public programs were undertaken by the Central Committee in 1932. The banquet and reception at the Sagamore Hotel in honor of the Polish actress Pola Negri (September 28, 1932) will be long remembered, as will the visit of Joseph Fisch, commercial attache of the Polish Consul General, who addressed the Rochester Chamber of Commerce in October. Mr. Fisch, it should be noted, came to the city at the invitation of Adam Felerski, acting upon the suggestion of the Committee.
The Centrala Charity Ball of 1933 (January 28) is notable as being the first of these affairs to result in substantial profit. The Charity Ball venture had been attempted with indifferent success on several previous occasions but in this year under the capable chairmanship of Walter Wojtczak the net receipts exceeded six hundred dollars. By now this social event has become an established institution and invariably is attended with financial success. The 1934 Ball was distinguished by an address from Mayor Charles Stanton. The auditorium of the new St. Stanislaus school is ordinarily used for these dances.
An interesting experiment was undertaken by Centrala during this year when the committee sponsored the showing of a moving picture, "Unknown Heroes" at the Little Theatre in East Avenue. This was the first time a full length fihn made in Poland had ever been presented at a downtown Rochester theater. The play continued from February 8 to February 17, and was largely attended by the Polish and other interested groups.
|PRESENT DIRECTORS OF POLONIA CIVIC CENTRE (CENTRALA). STANDING, left to right: Stanley Kaczmarek, Stanley Dziubal, Walter Helminski, Stanislaw Orzechowski,Joseph Zielinski, Joseph Paprocki. SEATED, left to right: Mrs. Marie Sokolska, Stanley K. Kowalski, Walter Nowakowski, John T. Skalny, Executive Secretary, Edmund F. Lorentz, President, Theodore Jablonski, Vice-President, John Racinowski, Treasurer, Miss Sophie Cwalina, Secretary.|
In 1933, with the election to the chairmanship of Edmund F. Lorentz, the Committee began to enjoy a firmer establishment. Lorentz, who had come to the city in 1919, had acquired considerable experience in the field of organization prior to his coming and his association with the city at large through his professional connection with the courts and city government made him of unique service to the Committee at this time. He has since acted as chairman of Centrala and during his incumbency, that body has adopted bylaws, introduced the device of active subcommittee organization and has enjoyed a degree of citywide publicity conducive to successful, permanent existence.
Important among new subcommittees are the Political Activities Committee, headed by Joseph H. Paprocki, Polish attorney, the Publicity Committee, of which Lorentz is leader, and the Organization Promotion Committee, led by Joseph J. Zieliński. The work of these groups has materially aided in inspiring coordinated action of a practical sort.
Present officers of Centrala are, Edmund F. Lorentz, Chairman, Theodore Jablonski, Vice-Chairman, John T. Skalny, Sophia Cwalina and Walter Nowakowski, Secretaries, John Racinowski, Treasurer, and Stanislaus Dziubal, Marshal. Thirty-eight [societies are affiliated with the Committee and regularly elect delegates to it. Of late the official English name "Polonia Civic Centre" has been adopted.
Progress of a practical character, especially in the field of education, has been made in the community during the past few years. Shortly following his assumption of the St. Stanislaus pastorate (January 2, 1926), Rev. Stanislaus J. Szupa initiated in the parish a movement looking toward the new parochial school, which became a reality in the spring of 1931. This structure, which adjoins its predecessor, is large, modern and attractive. Recreation facilities are extensive and the building, chiefly perhaps because of the size of its auditorium, is often used for large social affairs by various neighborhood societies.
|The erection of Benjamin Franklin High School in 1930, to date the largest institution of its kind in Rochester, has provided a convenient opportunity for the community to support the cause of higher secondary education and a large part of the student body is of Polish origin. The school survey of racial backgrounds conducted in 1933 places this proportion officially at sixteen percent, although the presence of substantial groups listed under closely allied Slavic heads leads to the conclusion that the Polish section is of greater extent than the figures seen to indicate. (48)||(Footnote 48) Russian, Austrian, Ukrainian are some of the classifications referred to, in which Poles undoubtedly are to be found, particularly since persons falling within these designations are located in the heart of a predominantly Polish section.|
In a sense, the mutual interest which has recently developed between Rochester at large and the local Polish contingent has produced in the community an interesting cultural nationalism, characterized by a strong exhibitionist impulse in the field of art and personal accomplishment, as events of the past two years will show. It cannot yet be said that the purely Polish character of group participation has disappeared, nor would such a course be presently desirable, since in this community adherence to Slavic identity, the city is discovering much of value which otherwise must have been overlooked.
From the presence of a cohesive Polish citizenry, Rochester derives her opportunity, for example, to receive such visitors as General Josef Haller, who for the second time was entertained by the city May 11 and 12, 1934. General Haller's visit to America at that time was in behalf of the veterans of his own army, who were then engaged in an attempt to set up an insurance or compensation fund designed to assist disab!cd and indigent members. The General was widely feted during his stay here, notably by Mr. Frank E, Gannett, local publisher. High Mass was celebrated at St. Stanislaus by Archbishop Edward J. Mooney, the service being attended by Haller and the staff which composed his entourage.
At the insistent invitation of the Polish group, Rochester was further honored by Andrew Bohomolec and George Swiechowski, the famous Polish mariners who crossed the Atlantic in a twenty-seven foot sailboat to attend tbe Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. On July 12, 1934 these men were entertained by the Rochester Yacht Club and for the Poles by Centrala.
|The Rochester Centennial celebration of 1934 aroused high interest among local Poles, who organized one of the most effective of the exhibits in the much heralded hobby show at Edgerton Park. Various unusual handicraft was displayed, of which the artistic and painstaking cabinet work of Joseph Konieczny proved the most conspicuous. On August 19 and again on August 25, Polish programs were featured at the Centennial. Important participants in these programs were the Echo Musical Society, Moniuszko Singing Circle, the St. Cecelia Choir, a musical group recently organized in the St. Theresa parish, the Falcon band, also an ensemble of recent origin under the sponsorship of Frank Mularz, the Miss Polonias of 1933 and 1934, and a dance group assembled by Mrs. Walter Wojtczak, which offered several dances traditional to the aristocracy of old Poland, in elaborate costume. The latter group has met with gratifying success and has become a permanent institution, furnishing the community and the city with a novel and beautiful form of characteristic entertainment.||
Mrs. Walter Wojtczak
The Polish Centennial program of August 19, 1934 was distinguished for the presentation to Rochester of an illuminated scroll, inscribed with the felicitatious of the ancient city of Torun, in Poland, whose seven-hundredth anniversary coincided somewhat with Rochester's hundredth. This unique and significant gesture of friendship between two cities became an impressive highlight of the Centennial, and the scroll now hangs in the office of Mayor Charles Stanton, to the pride of the local Polish group and of Rochester.
Pulaski Day, 1934, saw the year's climax of public affairs involving Rochester Poles, when Dr. Rhees received the "Polonia Restituta" cross from Dr. Marchlewski, who addressed a radio audience in the evening. The radio program of that occasion was arranged entirely by the Polish people and brought into prominence several talented individuals and ensembles, not hitherto afforded an opportunity for public performance. Musical background was provided by a capable orchestra directed by Stanley Pietrzak, and a well conceived rendition of folk songs was given by an octette composed of Agnes Kozlowska, Mary Mrzywka, Theresa Lupkiewicz, Pauline Oszywa, Mary Kowalska, Lillian Zaleska, Cecelia Mularz and Marie Lorentz. Piano and violin selections were played by Virginia Kaczinarek and Janina Gorecka, respectively.
On the same day there was opened at the Memorial Art Gallery an exhibit of Polish art and handicraft. This display lasted twenty days and several Sunday programs were given at the gallery during this period, the last of which combined the more striking features of both the Centennial and radio presentations.
Extensive and increaeing activity, which now marks the Polish community of Rochester frequently gives rise to inquiries as to the actual number of Poles and immediate descendants of Poles permanently settled in the city at the present time. As a matter of fact, the establishment of this figure presents many difficulties and involves the application of more intensive study than any yet undertaken. The problem of identifying early Polish strains, considered in Part I, exists, with many ramifications, in the identification of present Polish strains. The alphabetical combinations of Polish spelling, so unfamiliar to any but those of Slavic origin, offer to the Pole a continuous temptation to mutilate or completely discard his surname. Successive generations born in America invariably yield to this temptation, as their national homeland passes, for them, from the realm of memory into that of ancestral tradition. National divisions born of the partitions, which have been responsible for the acquisition of non-Polish names, still survive. From these and numerous other factors, it will be seen that a thoroughly accurate census of any Polish group requires a minute and painstaking investigation of family backgrounds, for which, locally, adequate facilities thus far have not been provided.
Reference to parish records of the Rochester Polish churches accounts for nearly seven thousand persons of Polish birth or extraction and an examination of the rolls 0f certain large secular societies, in which many non-churchgoers may be found indicates the presence of from fifteen hundred to two thousand more. Conservatively estimating the number of persons, whose national derivation it is impossible to determine, but who reside for the most part in the vicinity of the Polish group, it may fairly be asserted that the total for the northeast quarter of the city belongs near the ten thousand mark. This, however, does not embrace scattered neighborhoods in other quarters of Rochester, the investigation of which has not been attempted.
As a study in group assimilation, the local Polish community offers both that which is typical and that which is individual. Those characteristics which it possesses in common, no doubt, with Polish units generally in this country are, of course, its racial and geographic background, its nationalism and its inevitable association with nation--and worldwide Polish movements. Mainly, however, its value as such a study lies in the fact that its comparatively small size numerically has preserved a strong cohesion, and has retained as integral pans of the whole certain elements that, in a larger group, would have disappeared in an uncontrollable process of absorption. In fact, a consideration of the nsanner in which this mutual interchange, not only of benefits but of responsibilities, has taken place between the local community and the city of Rochester, may permit a distinction of definition between the term absorption, as a social merger in which the racial and, national identity of the minority is lost, and assimilation, in which a share of that identity is retained-conferred, as it were, in the form of a cultural contribution, upon the predominating majority.
Our local Polish group is now as much a part of Rochester as Rochester is a part of it. Its civic and social problems are those of Rochester, and its active concern in similar problems proceeding from other quarters is taken for granted. That the city has derived much of value from the presence of a Polish strain cannot be denied. Finally, it may be said that the process of social integration exemplified by the developments herein discussed owes its essential success to the peculiar advantages of the American city, as a kind of matrix, ideally adapted to the unhampered progress of these developments.
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