When I first saw the face of the lady in the harbor, I knew I would never go back to the old country to live. Her face was beautiful to me, and it held such promise. No longer would I be a Polish farmer owned by the Kingdom of Prussia. My country of Poland did not exist in August, 1912…it did not exist on a map, but it did exist in my heart. It was the motherland of my people. My people had passed along family stories of Catholic kings and princes who loved us. What hardened my heart against the old country was that I was conscripted into the Prussian army…I did not want to serve greedy men. I longed for freedom…freedom from want, freedom from hunger, freedom from oppression. My brother Jan went to America where he lived with other Polish emigres in Philadelphia. He had a job. He had a family. He had a roof over his head. I made a decision to leave my remaining family, including my parents, for a new country. I left with a little money in my pockets but big wishes in my dreams. I was 25 years old.
In May, 1906, I was 14 years old. I was an orphan. I was alone, but for the family members who took me in. I had nothing, and I had nothing to lose. I was of Polish extraction. My brother Antoni lived in a place called Connecticut in America. He begged me to leave the old country and join him. He found a family for whom I could work. I would be a charwoman in a large household…I did not know what that meant. My country was suffering from labor strikes so I had no future. If I could get from my village in Austria to Trieste, Italy, I could board a ship to this America…that was almost 600 miles to carry my belongings on my back and find a way to get to the ship. Three other orphan girls from my village traveled with me. I had little money on my person. I was leaving the old country to claim a new home.
In 1914, we (Francizek and Anna) were neighbors in a Polish neighborhood in Philadephia. Much of our lives centered around our Catholic parish of Saint Ladislaus and its activities. We grew to love one another so we married. We had three children: Emilia, Stanley, and Edward. In raising our children and educating them, our goal was to guide them into being American citizens with a love of their country and its people. We spoke little about the old country to them and followed little of our Polish traditions. We wanted them to learn English and make their way in this America, our new country. Our lives were simple, and we were a simple family. Anna died 20 years before me, and she never returned to the old country. I, however, returned for a simple visit with remaining family. I experienced the old country through different eyes. My homeland had been desecrated by two world wars. In returning to my beloved America, I lived the last of my days in my beloved new home.
Note: This is the story of my paternal grandparents, Anna Mroz and Franciszek Slabik.