A Journey to Poland in Search of Roots

From the Providence Journal

My grandfather, Jozef, was in his early twenties when he left his ancestral home in north-central Poland in the spring of 1899. He traveled to join his older brothers and a new life in America. After a 12-day steamship journey he landed on Ellis Island with one dollar in his pocket, the ship’s manifest shows.

Jozef died before I was born and his wife, Marion, my grandmother, died when I was in first grade

Growing up, my father spoke little of his Polish heritage. Probably it was the classic first-generation urge to leave the past behind and embrace the new. As a result, I grew up with a difficult-to-pronounce, ethnically identifiable last name but no understanding of either the companion Polish language or culture.

This summer, 111 years after my grandfather began his journey to America, I fulfilled a long-suppressed ambition to retrace his steps and learn what he, and indirectly also my father, were so determined to put behind them.

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