The day started with Mass at St. Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr Church. Later, had such a wonderful day with friends at the annual reading of the May 3rd Constitution at the Adam Mickiewicz Library and Dramatic Circle in Buffalo, New York; and the weather was so nice, I also managed to work in a bike ride around town.
May 8, VE Day
While in Europe people are commemorating "Victory" day, a lot of people in Poland are commemorating "Western-betrayal" day. The reason why WW2 started in the first place was because Germany invaded Poland in 1939, after Poland refused to bow down to Germany's threats. The Poles, who were betrayed by their western allies, France and the UK, fought bravely on for four weeks until the USSR invaded it as well, and inflicted heavy casualties on the German Nazi army.
Even though it was beaten, Poland was not defeated and made an enormous contribution in the struggle against Nazi Germany:
The Poles were the first to crack Germany's Enigma code.
Polish pilots tipped the scale at the "Battle of Britain", when they shot down hundreds of German planes.
The Polish resistance movement, the "Home Army" supplied key intelligence to the allies and was instrumental in sabotaging and delaying German transports and supplies to the eastern front.
Hundreds of thousands of Poles fought in the allies' armies, and were usually used as crack troops in difficult battles.
The Polish underground was the first to alert the world about the holocaust.
Unlike many other countries which were conquered by Germany during the war, like France, Poland never cooperated with the German occupiers in any way.
Despite all that and despite the fact that it was the first ally in the war against Nazi Germany, the US and the UK choose to betray the Poles and sell them to Stalin already in 1943, in the Teheran conference. They kept this decision secret so as to make sure the Poles will keep on fighting until the very end of the war, which they did, bravely.
By the end of WW2, 6 million Poles were murdered, 3 million Catholic Poles and 3 million Jewish Poles.
The country which was the first to stand up Nazi Germany, the country which never compromised on its morals and honor, as a nation and as a people, ended up under a brutal, murderous, Stalinist occupation, which a lot of Poles considered was as bad if not worse than the Nazi occupation
The Times of Isreal, a Jerusalem-based online "newspaper", forced Ann Arbor T-Shirt Company owner Jerry Kozak to discontinue his line of Polish T-shirts because he included the name of the town Oświęcim, the location of the infamous Nazi German death camp.
It offends me that some are offended by this T-shirt. Oświęcim was around long before the Germans renamed it, and it's unfair to forever associate the name of the town with heinous Nazi German atrocities. And let's not forget who the first victims of Auschwitz were! In fact, Jerry Kozak's great aunt was one of the Polish victims at Auschwitz
My mom's family is from that area. I have family and friends living there and they are wonderful people. Shame on the TImes of Isreal for stirring up trouble and promoting anti-Polonism! (Read the article HERE.)
Take Me Out to the Ball Game
When I was a little boy, I lived to go to Offerman Stadium to see the Buffalo Bisons play ball. Like all the other boys I knew, I played baseball as much as I could, sometimes three times a day. At night I almost always fell asleep listening to Bisons baseball on the radio, but only rarely had to opportunity to actually go to the ballpark to see them play.
When I was about six years old my mom bought me a baseball uniform so I could live the dream of being a real baseball player. The uniform came with iron-on lettering so I could pretend to be a slugger on my favorite team. The problem was which team to choose. Most in my family thought I should ask my mom to iron on the name of my other favorite team: YANKEES. Ignoring their advice, I asked my mom to carefully iron on the letters BIS to the right of the buttons (from my perspective) and ONS to the left, with an appropriate curvature to the letting. To my delight, my mom as usual did a great job. (Too bad I don’t have a photo because you would see how great I looked.) All I needed was my own rookie card. (Thanks to Greg Witul, I now have one!) ------>
That was the first important sports-related dilemma I faced as a boy, but years later I faced another. In the mid eighties, I accepted a job in Rochester. Although I looked forward to living in Rochester, I secretly cringed at the thought of living in the town that supported the Rochester Red Wings, the nemesis of the Buffalo Bisons.
After considerable deliberation, I made the decision for the sake of my children that I had to root for the Red Wings. After all, they were our new hometown team. I remembered how much I loved rooting for my hometown team when I was a boy and thought my kids should be able to do the same for theirs. Of course it’s unfortunate there are no longer any real hometown teams. Hometown teams are just an illusion, yet we continue to pretend baseball is still like the good old days before big money and the farm system changed the game.
Baseball in my opinion is still the greatest game, and I enjoy watching it and even playing it from time to time. I especially like to watch the Puerto Rican kids play ball at a park near my house - love their passion; and I still attend hometown Red Wing games whenever I can. I also occasionally drive to Buffalo to see my Bisons play at beautiful Coca Cola Field. It’s not Offerman Stadium, but it will do. In case you are wondering, I choose to stay home whenever the Bisons and Red Wings meet. Too confusing!
By the way, don’t forget to attend:
Buffalo Bison's vs. Rochester Red Wings "Polish Festival Night"
Coca Cola Field
August 11, 2015
(I will be in Poland that day. When I return, don’t tell me who won.)
Kids, put this card in your spokes. Guaranteed to make a lot of noise!
I just noticed that my MrPoloniaMusic channel on YouTube is approaching 2,000 subscribers. If you are not as yet a subscriber, please sign up here:
My channel includes a large variety of videos focusing on my interests: Polish music, folk music, Polonia events, guitar, ukulele and concertina performance or instruction, cycling, etc. Check it out. Subscribe. Thank you.
I think I have everything I need for my upcoming trip to Poland: ticket, passport, international driver's license, etc. but I'll have to start packing soon, Lately I am spending all my time doing more genealogical research of my family. Currently my main goal is to locate the grave of my great grandfather, Wawrzyniec (Lorenz) Stopiński, but so far I have had no luck.
Despite carefully combing through St. Stan's death records, I had have had no success. My great grandfather may have died sometime between 1880 and 1892, so I had to also check the records of the United French & German Cemetery, which is where most Buffalo-area Poles were buried before the first interment at St. Stanislaus Cemetery in 1890. Nevertheless, I felt I had a productive day, especially because I was able to find the gravestones of his daughter (my babcia Ewa Stopińska-Johnson's sister), Katarzya Stopińska Reńska. The photos are from findagrave.com, but I will visit Friday on my way to the Cheektowaga Polish Fest. It's located near the Johnson burial site where he father rests.
I few days ago I found photos of my Uncle Jim's gravestone at Mt Olivet Cemetery, in Chattanooga, TN. Fr. Jim grew up in Buffalo and was ordained at Orchard Lake. He had a passion for old Polish music, both classical and folk. He played the piano fairly well and had an extensive library of Polish sheet music. He was a good guy, and I enjoyed his yearly visits. R.I.P. Fr. Jim.
I also discovered where my grandfather Jacob (Jasiek) Johnson's little sister was buried and am now learning about her three children. Ewa was born in Poland but grew up in Dunkirk. She married Luke Ostrowicki (Ostrye*) and was buried in Corry, PA near Erie, PA. This is a huge find for me! I continue to search for others.
*HOW THE POLISH NAME “OSTROWICKI” BECAME “OSTRYE”
As a Polish American with a non-Polish name, I have an interest in learning the stories of others whose names were also changed. Here is how the name OSTROWICKI became the OSTRYE. (My grandmother, Ewa Jasiek sister’s married name was Eva OSTRYE.)
Paul Ostrowicki of Sucha, Poland (near Bydgoszcz) came to America in 1854 and settled near Dunkirk, New York. His son, Peter Ostrowicki, (Eva’s brother-in-law) enlisted for the Civil War in 1862 and was given the name Peter AUSTRIA when enlisting. Peter was still unfamiliar with the English language and took to spelling his name phonetically in his letters back home to family eager to hear about his military experiences. People in the army called him “Os-try-e” (Austria), he wrote. Peter was wounded in the Battle of Spotsylvania and died at the age of 19 at Stanton Hospital in Washington, D.C. in 1864. He is buried at Arlington Cemetery under the name Peter AUSTRIA. (Sect 27 Grave #487). Later the family went by the name OSTRYE. Sad but true.
UPDATE - JULY 17, 2015
I spent the day searching for the graves of my ancestors and had two big finds:
1. Daniel Ostrye- the grandson of my grandfather's sister, Ewa Jasiek of Dunkirk, NY (Ewa was born in Piaseczno, Poland, north of Bydgoszcz.) The funny thing is his resting place is not far from where I lived and worked for many years. Daniel was an employee of the Eastman Kodak Company. (Hey, maybe his kids have pictures! I’ll have to track them down.)
2. Marcin Stopiński- my grandmother Ewa Stopińska-Johnson’s brother. Both Marcin and Ewa were in the first group to make First Holy Communion at St. Stanislaus Church in Buffalo, NY. Marcin was a tailor. If you know any Buffalo-area Stopińskis, they are likely related to Marcin.
3. I also for the first time visited Katarzyna Reński’s grave. She was one of my grandmother Stopińska’s sisters. Both the Renski and Stopiński graves are located near the Johnson family site.
I still have not located my great-grandfather Stopiński’s grave. If he died before St. Stan’s opened their cemetery, he probably was buried at the German/French Cemetery, where I know his son-in-law is buried. He died in 1876, and almost the stones from that time frame are unreadable/ worn down. My quest, therefore, may soon be over.
But wait! Next week, I leave for Poland and plan to visit the Stopiński ancestral villages. So…
I returned to my home in Rochester safe and sound after having a wonderful time in Poland. You can read all about it by clicking on any of the carousel images on the right or by clicking on the link below.
Chochołów (see video below) is a village comprised almost exclusively of the heritage Polish wooden houses (góralskie chaty) built by the Góral highlanders. It became known as the place of Chochołów Uprising of 1846 (Powstanie chochołowskie) against the foreign
oppression throughout the nineteenth century Austrian Partition of Poland. Its economy is closely associated with the popular Polish-Slovak border crossing.