When I was in kindergarten or first grade, I remember asking my mother why teachers are permitted to use bad language. I was concerned my teacher regularly coursed when speaking Polish (and students could not!) . "What does Sister say?", my mother asked. I was afraid to tell her but she insisted. "Bitch", I whispered. She smiled and told me that "być" is simply the Polish word meaning "to be". "I'm sure Sister wants you TO BE good little boys and girls." Phew, I was so relieved.
I am totally enjoying the book "Shoulder to Shoulder: Polish Americans in Rochester, NY 1890-2000" by Kathleen Urbanic. Rochester's Polish community is lucky to have the author as its historian. I picked up a copy of her book at last Friday evening's exhibit at St. John Fisher College and I just can't put it down. So I chuckled when I came upon the following entry relating a story about a Rochester Pole arrested for loitering near St. Stanislaus Kosta Church on Hudson Avenue in 1905. On that day, a fight broke out in the schoolyard between rival parishioners arguing over parish business too complicated to explain here. (Read the book.) This is a description of the trial:
One question critical to the proceedings was whether or not the defendant was fluent in English. Although police officers maintained that they had heard him shout an English obcscenity at (Fr.) Szadzinski, the defense attorney contended that the accused was not well versed in English and could not have uttered the phrase. Rather, the lawyer submitted, his client had been observing the scuffle, standing on the sidelines with his hands in his pockets when he inquired, Co to ma być? ("What's going on here?" Certainly, the defense appealed to the jury, the officers might have mistaken the Polish phrase for the similar-sounding English epithet "son of a bitch".
The jury found the defendant not guilty.
- "Shoulder to Shoulder: Polish Americans in Rochester, NY 1890-2000". p. 46
St. Stanislaus Kostka Church
Rochester, New York
Here is a sorrowful tale from "Shoulder to Shoulder". Emily Dukat, the daughter of Stanisław and Aleksandra Dukat, was a promising violinist. The Dukats owned a bakery on Hudson Avenue near St. Stanislaus Kostka Church. At the age of sixteen, Emily had already played at many events and had even performed with the Rochester Symphony Orchestra.
"In January 1920 Emily was given the honor of playing before Prince Kazimierz and Princess Teresa Lubominski during the couple's appearance at Convention Hall. Emily's rendition of Wieniawski's "Kujawiak" so delighted the envoy and his wife that they paid a visit to the young violinist at her home.
A few days after Lubominski's visit, Emily contracted influenza and the virus quickly developed into pneumonia. She died on January 28, 1920. less than a week after her triumphant appearance at Convention Hall."
- "Shoulder to Shoulder: Polish Americans in Rochester, NY 1890-2000". pp.109-110
Emily Dukat was buried in the gown she wore for her performance before the Lubominski's. In her memory, her parents provided the funds to purchase a stained glass window for St. Stanislaus Kostka Church. The lovely facial features and wistful smile of St. Cecilia in this window belong to Emily, whose photograph was sent to Innsbruck where the saint’s face was created in her likeness. St. Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians.
Memorial Window of St. Cecilia
"Shoulder to Shoulder" is a carefully researched and well-written book. If you are a Rochesterian, especially one of Polish descent, this book should be a part of your library. It not only describes the Polish community in careful detail, but provides a very readable history of Rochester along the way. Furthermore, the illustrations by Frank Anders are wonderful, adding considerably to the charm of this wonderful book.