Friday, February 23, 2007

Poles of Parisville, MI Part 1 of 3

The Oldest Polish Village in Michigan
Parisville - The Glory of its Pioneers
by Rev. Joseph Szarek from from Poles in Michigan, Vol. 1

Anyone desiring a proper understanding of the Polish in the United States and their contribution to Western civilization must first reconstruct the life of the Polish immigrants in America. This cannot be rightly judged without correctly interpreting the recorded history of their past in the light of the vital problems confronting the early Polish settlers during the period of their adjustment to the new life on an alien soil. One was the economic struggle to earn a living; they were ousted from their beloved native land by conditions that made their life unbearable under the foreign occupants of Poland. The other inseparable factor was their desire to practice the faith of their forefathers according to the tradition of their homeland. (Polish-American Studies. VII, No. 3-4, 1950.)

Every Pole carried with him concrete proof of the truth of the above statement. In order to be convinced of it a glance into the bundles and parcels of these exiles was enough. The picture was always the same. Beside the indication of inseparable poverty a sacred picture with a prayer book girdled by a Rosary, and the armor of these exiles, which was to defend there from all misfortune and adversity, was the scapular, worn over the breast since childhood. The piety of the Polish-Americans is so strongly founded in the belief brought from Poland and in its beautiful traditions that even the Catholic Encyclopedia has given it immortality in its pages. We read: "Historically the Poles have been so circumstanced that their racial and religious sympathies completely coincide. So fused and intensified are these sentiments that it has been well said that the soul of Poland is naturalitier Christiana... the generosity of the American Poles is brought out into stronger relief, and their willingness to build and maintain their magnificent churches and institutes is deserving of the unbounded praise accorded them. Coupled with their deep faith, their intense nationalism acts as an incentive to their generosity... The records of our penal and eleemosynary institutions fail to show that the Poles constitute a lawless element. The very low death rate among the Poles, in spite of abnormal conditions of living (high infant mortality and the heavy death rate in the mines and mills), is striking proof of their morality. It is not unusual to see Polish churches in the United States filled with congregations in which the men far outnumber the women. This is largely explained by the character of recent immigration, but it may nevertheless be asserted that no other class of American Catholics can boast of a greater percentage of church-going men," (Poles in the United States - The
Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. XII, page 206.)

When, therefore, the Poles found themselves in the Land of Freedom and breathed the air of peace it was not strange that, although they were the "aristocrats of the Slavic race," (Poland and the Poles, by Bruce Boswell, professor of the University of Liverpool) they fell in love with the country, heart and soul, as a new Fatherland. They undertook the most strenuous and most difficult of jobs, accomplishing them to the satisfaction and acknowledgment of their employers. As proof of this it is enough to mention as little as this; that Henry Ford, who himself rose in the United States from a workingman to a great employer, commented very flatteringly, in his books, about the worker of Polish descent. He gave them credit for their enterprising ingeniousness, their varied abilities and their honest and earnest industry.

To be continued...