Dziennik Chicagoski -- October 17, 1893A Few Thoughts on Polish Day in Chicago (Submitted by Reverend Stanislaus Radziejewski)
As I rode in a horse-drawn trolley car to see the Polish Day parade, I found myself in the company of several young Polish women, one of whom was accompanied by her small daughter. They spoke among themselves in fluent English; the mother spoke to her daughter in English also. From time to time they spoke in Polish, perhaps out of consideration for us two Poles in the ear, but their language was less fluent, and they spoke in Polish rather unwillingly; one could even perceive a certain disregard for the Polish language [in their tone of voice].
I thought to myself: What does this Polish parade mean, the Polish uniforms, the feats bearing figures of Sebieski, Jadwiga, Koseiusko, Pulaski,...? Have these young Polish women, who speak among themselves and to their children in English, decided henceforth to use the Polish language? Will Polish Boy 2change in any way the relation between Poles and Americans?
It seems to me that the relations between the Poles and Americans, and among the Poles themselves, will be the same after Polish Day as they were before.
There are two sides to every question, and so it is with Polish Day. The Day can be regarded from two points of view. The parade was beyond doubt a splendid one, equal to any and perhaps more colorful than others, thanks to the choice of subjects, Polish good taste, and the picturesqueness of Polish costumes. The celebration on the Fair grounds may have been less effective, but here, too, one could say: "Well done"--as far as external appearances are concerned.
But whoever looked upon this manifestation with an eye to something more than more external splendor, could not be carried away with joy; he could not but have certain thoughts which fill the hearts of all Poles who observe American Polonia closely.3
Polish Day would have filled every Pole with real joy, had the splendid external appearances corresponded with conditions as they really are; it is the fact that they do not, which saddens me. Many a man may look well and yet carry illness within his breast. One cannot judge by external appearances! What good are these festivals when the Polish language is being lost or mutilated among the Poles here, or when there is no lack of unhealthy symptoms in Polish-American life?
I mentioned the young Polish women who spoke in English. The priests, who have the best opportunity of knowing the people, claim that the children of Poles born in America will not speak the Polish language. On the farms, this may net be strictly true, but in the cities, the new generations are being Americanized. Many, although they speak Polish, mix in a great many English expressions; either they have been influenced by contact with Americans, or it is merely coxcombry, or negligence, for a Polish expression can be found for anything one wishes to say.4
The same condition exists in America as existed in Poland, where the Poles came in contact with Germans in Upper Silesia, Prussia, and Poznan. Poles readily accept what is foreign, and girls and women sin most in this respect.
Immigration is being restricted, it becomes more and more difficult to find work here in America, and consequently, less and less Poles will be coming here from Poland. Poles born here are being denationalized at least to a certain extent--the future is a sad and gloomy one; the brilliant flash of Polish Day is not enough to dispel the dark clouds that are gathering. Parents, unfortunately, either do not want to, or do not know how to instill in the hearts of their children a deep love for Poland--a love which would endure throughout their lives, and be passed on to future generations. Not all Polish children attend Polish schools, and even the Polish school has little permanent effect upon the new generation; children succumb to the influence of the streets and the conditions under which they live and work. The children never know Poland; they have nothing to gain from speaking Polish. Many a Pole marries a girl of different nationality, and vice versa. All this tends to denationalize the Poles 5in America; first, their mother tongue is lost, then their nationality, for language and nationality are very closely associated.
The status of the Polish language is, then, a dark cloud on the horizon of the Polish nation in America. There are other clouds also. I cannot write of everything here, for it would be harmful to mention some things, but every observant and thinking man knows that there is little harmony and love among the Poles. Proof of this lies in the variety of Polish newspapers here, in the variety of societies and organizations. Proof lies also in the fact that only a small percentage of Poles are members of alliances.
There ought to be one great Polish peoples' organization for all America, and in addition to this, local, specialized organizations fostering music, gymnastics, literature, and beneficent work. Every Pole ought then be a member of the general alliance and some specialized society.
It is said that many Poles trade at the stores of Jews and other foreigners 6instead of supporting their own countrymen. Many a Pole, too, has exploited his fellow-Poles. A too great percentage of Poles are guilty of intemperance, which, in the eyes of other peoples, is one of our national faults. We cannot expect everyone to be perfect, but it is bad if the percentage of evil people is the great.
Proof of how little brotherly love there is among the Poles is the great number of lawsuits between them, lawsuits that merely enrich the courts and the lawyers at the expense of the Poles and their good name.
Carelessness with or abandonment of the Polish language, lack of harmony and brotherly love--these are the clouds on the Polish-American horizon. Polish Day, however brilliant and cheering, did not dispel these clouds, nor even diminish them.
Outsiders admitted that Polish Day was a success; they wrote a little about the Poles, and said that Poles are to be reckoned with, not by Polish Day, but by 7how well they can agree among themselves, by their education, their wealth, their attainments in various fields of endeavor.
In a material sense, the Poles have shown themselves generous, especially in times as hard as the present. I have heard it remarked that it might have been better to use that money for the establishment of some Polish institution which would endure longer than one "Day", and continue to bear fruit as long as there are Poles in America, or that it could have been used to pay some of the debts encumbering the Polish schools. It is too late to speak of such things now--what has been done cannot be undone. As a matter of fact, even such a demonstration [Polish Day] may have been necessary.
The moral lesson is this: Let us be happy that Polish Day was a success, but let us not stop at more external demonstrations. Let us each look into his own heart and then into Polish relations here, and let us admit that the view is not as bright as when seen from the outside; let us determine to abandon the old Polish sins that have been carried over to this new land, that we will 8fulfill our duties as Poles in family, parish, and organization in respect to outsiders, that we will have brotherly love not only on our lips but in our acts, that we will distinguish ourselves by our virtue, knowledge, work, temperance, and honesty. Then can we be Poles externally, then will every day be Polish Day in America, sunny and cloudless!"
(Editorial Note to Above Letter)
We felt it our duty to print the above article, written by the well-deserving Reverend Stanislaus Radziejewski, recently arrived from Poland, although we cannot agree with all of the views expressed by the author. The article, presenting the opposite side of the medallion, speaks many truths to American Polonia; it points out our faults and urges us to reform. We join wholeheartedly in this conclusion, this appeal inspired by a deep attachment to the Polish cause. However, certain views of the author on Polish-American relations are, perhaps, a bit too pessimistic. We are not in so great a danger of denationalization as it would seem. Recently, we have been able to perceive a greater interest in Polish affairs and a sincere patriotism in our youngest 9generation. Our organizations are growing, the struggles ceasing. One thing and another are being done for the good of individuals and for the common good, which years ago were not even thought of.
Especially in the matter of Polish Day, we cannot agree with the opinion that it flashed with merely external brilliance and passed. On the contrary, it is our opinion that it produced permanent results. In the first place, for the first time in America, we have learned to work side by side, despite personal differences and past disagreements; at least for a short time, we joined hands and forget offences. It gave us a foundation for further work toward harmony and understanding. This one result constitutes a great improvement in Polish-American relations; it gives Polish Day the significance of a historical event in the annals of American Polonia.
In the second place, it was absolutely necessary in respect to our place in American society. We will not argue that Polish Day raised us in the opinion of Americans, but it is certain that the lack of our "Day" would have degraded us in their opinion, for it would have placed us below the American cultural 10level; our element would merely be tolerated, as are the Chinese, the Arabs, Syrians, etc.
Further, the manifestation was necessary to the Polish cause itself. A hundred years after the partition of Poland we have reminded the world in a brilliant demonstration that we still exist and that we have not renounced any of our rights. It could not be done in Europe--we did it in America. If however, we are concerned with the most immediate gain, educational, as it were, Polish Day has accomplished something there also. The Polish colors, the white eagles, the dramatic scenes, all bespoke patriotism to more than one young Polish heart much more effectively than hundreds of books or articles; they convinced more than one young Pole that it is no disgrace to be Polish, as he thought.
And thus, our "Day" was not merely a passing flash. We agree wholeheartedly with the Reverend Radziejewski's opinion that continual, antlike activity is necessary to keep down the weeds that crop out among us, that this is a fundamental upon which our community rests; we heartily support the expression with 11which he closes his article, but we insist that such demonstrations as that of Polish Day are sometimes--once in a long period of years--to raise the spirit and to give encouragement to further work.
III A, I B 1, I B 3 a, I C, II B 1 c 3
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