Sunday, March 05, 2006

My Favorite Polish Cowboy

(Czeslaw in his Stetson and bolo tie, pictured with one of his grandsons)

I never met him in person but I loved him just the same. He was a big fan of John Wayne movies and American cowboys. He had his own farm in Poland but owned no wild rodeo bulls or mustangs. By the time I found this branch of my family in Poland, Czeslaw was already retired. He spent his days in the company of his wife and enjoyed visits by his children and grandchildren every Sunday.

When I inquired about family history, he was a fountain of information. He was happy to share stories... even the unhappy ones. He was a strong believer in family and was just delighted to be able to reconnect with his family in America. He'd lost track of them many years ago as commonly happens. He told me of his father and how he'd been conscripted into the Russian army and sent to Siberia. And he told me how he came to marry his wife and relocate hundreds of miles across Poland from the village where he grew up. He told me sad stories, and funny ones. He was a natural story teller and I was all ears.

The first Christmas after I found Czeslaw I sent him a Stetson hat. He was so proud of that hat he paraded around his village in it bragging to anyone that would listen. Every year after that I sent him some other western memorabilia. One year a bolo tie, another year a belt buckle with a Texas longhorn steer on it. He love it all. He might have been Polish by birth but he was an American cowboy at heart.

Czeslaw died two days ago, almost one year to the day after his beloved wife of 46 years. He will be missed by his family and friends in Poland but no more than he will be missed by his family here in America. Once we found him, we loved him. He will live on in our hearts and in our memories as our favorite Polish cowboy. Rest in peace Czeslaw. I'll never watch another John Wayne movie without thinking of you.

This is why everyone should research their family history... to find the Polish cowboy on their tree.