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Johnsons of Polish descent *** Polish Dunkirk, NY and Jadwiga's Crossing: a story of the Great Migration
Graj, Panu, Graj!
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"There were Polish people in Dunkirk as early as 1848, although the so-called "Polish immigration" from Prussia did not commence until 1850. First Polish families were those of Ambrose Johnson, Anthony Pogorzelski, Joseph Fleming and John Winkler."
p. 71
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Johnsons of Polish descent *** Polish Dunkirk, NY and Jadwiga's Crossing: a story of the Great Migration



   I admit my main interest in reading "Jadwiga's Crossing" was personal. Having recently discovered that my great-grandfather was one of the earliest Polish settlers in Dunkirk New York, my decision to pick up a copy of  "Jadwiga's Crossing" was made in the hope that the book would include information about my family. After all, some of the characters in the book were actual Polish immigrants, so there might have been some mention of my father's father, Ambrose Johnson (Amboży Jasiek), who according to census records had arrived in Dunkirk some twelve or thirteen years before Jadwiga. She would have known him, I bet.

   Although "Jadwiga's Crossing" did not help me  locate anyone related to me or provide any specific information about my family, it was nevertheless enlightening. The main characters of the novel, like my great-grandfather, were from the Prussian part of Poland.  By reading about their experiences,  I was able to imagine what 
Richard J. Lutz
life was like in nineteenth century Poland and to better understand the conditions that he and his family must have endured on the voyage across the Atlantic. I feel the novel is a must for anyone interested in reading about the immigrant experience -- Polish or otherwise, and I am definitely looking forward to reading the sequel, "Jadwiga's America", which I understand is currently in the works. 

When my great-grandfather arrived in Dunkirk in 1857, he did so with his second wife and his two children: my grandfather, Jacob, and Jacob's little sister Ewa. (Ambrose's first wife had died, in Piaseczno, Poland.) According to "Out of the Wilderness",  a book on local history written by Leslie F. Chard... 
Aloysius A. Lutz

With so few Polish compatriots living in Dunkirk at the time, establishing oneself in an American city must have indeed been a daunting challenge. I often wonder if I were in their shoes, would I have had the courage and fortitude to walk the path of the immigrant. How fortunate we all are that our descendants were such rugged survivors. We owe them everything! Why did the Jasieks emigrate? CLICK HERE

UPDATE: I am happy to report that since I wrote the above comments, I have learned more about Ambose Jasiek and his family. If you are interested, you can read more about it HERE.


A Few Photos Relating to Ambrose Johnson and the Dunkirk, New York Polish Community
Home of Ambrose and Mary Johnson  -  36 North Ermine Street in Dunkirk, NY,  just a few blocks from Lake Erie
Many of the Dunkirk Johnsons were buried at St. Hyacinth's Cemetery, 
however, the location of Ambrose Johnson's gravesite is unknown to me.
 St. Hyacinth's Parish, the second oldest Polish parish in Western New York, was established in 1875.

ABOVE: Dom Polski: Polish influence is still strong in Dunkirk

BELOW: Blessed Mary Angela Church 
(formerly St. Hedwig's), Dunkirk, N.Y.
ABOVE: Moniuszko Club 

                    BELOW: Dunkirk's Monument to Tadeusz Kosciusko

Richard Lutz, a native of Dunkirk, discusses his novel
Richard J. Lutz (Author), Aloysius A. Lutz (Contributor) 
Jacob Johnson
My grandfather grew up in Dunkirk-Fredonia, but later moved to Buffalo. He served as the English teacher at St. Stanislaus School for 16 years before deciding to devote himself fulltime to politics and his real estate business. 

Buffalo "Polonia" at the Turn of the Century


St. Hyacinth's Cemetery, Dunkirk, New York (Lake Erie is seen on the horizon.)
Jadwiga's Crossing: a story of the Great Migration
Polonia Music
CLICK HERE to read the history of St. Hyacinth's Parish, the second oldest Polish parish in Western New York.

 
Why did the Jasiek family emigrate to America?
Although the Jasieks lived in the village of Piaseczno, in 1854 fire destroyed half the nearby city of Sępólno Krajeńskie (within easy walking distance). I wonder if maybe that, combined with the death of his first wife, had something to do with my grandfather deciding to move to America. 

UPDATE: It should also be noted that the time was ripe for Polish emigration to America. As noted by Stephen M Szabados in the Polish American Journal ...

"One factor that affected the increase in emigration after 1830 was that European rulers had granted the peasants freedom to move from their lands. This change allowed many peasants to decide to emigrate to America. The second major factor was the growth in the imports of raw materials -- cotton, tobacco, grain, and timber, for example --  from America in the 1800's. Instead of sending empty cargo holds, shipping lines began offering low-cost passage in the cargo holds. The revenue generated  from their new class of passengers not only offset the cost of the voyage back to America but increased profits for the shipping lines. Note that the reasons for early Polish emigration were to escape the political and religious persecution by their Prussian rulers. However, the low cost of steerage was significant because it sharply increased the number of emigrants who could afford to leave." - Source: Polish American Journal, March 2017, p.15

I am also aware that many Germans from the area were already moving to America en masse, so why not join them!