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Second gen Polish-American with little exposure


littlestpoland
5 Feb 2020 #1
Hi All!
I'm new to the forum, but am writing out of my own curiosity. I am a second gen American (my maternal grandfather moved to the states from Warsaw in the 60s), but was raised with very little cultural exposure. My grandfather was exiled from the family due to abuse and addiction, and he died when I was ten - we never met. Due to this, the only Polish culture I received was an occasional pierogi and gołąbki meal for dinner, holiday meals, and the ever-constant question "Are you Polish?"

I grew up in Chicago with lots of Polish friends who spoke the language at home, though I only know a few basic words. I now live in Greenpoint, BK (Little Poland of NY!), where I can always gain access to "Polish Only" ladies nights at bars. I am really interested in getting in touch with my heritage, and don't know where to begin! I'd like to be able to back up the fact that not only do I "look" Polish, but can give you some Polish heat too!
Atch 17 | 3,319
5 Feb 2020 #2
Like the USA, Polish culture varies somewhat via region and more especially urban and rural. As you know which region your grandad came from, you could start by reading a bit about that place. Otherwise you might find this site helpful, it's written in English by Poles, based in Poland and it's 'modern', tells you about Poland and how life is lived there nowadays. Here's an example below

culture.pl/en/article/clean-eating-healthy-polish-cuisine

Also read up a bit about life in PRL Poland as that's what your grandad experienced.
Paulwiz 1 | 70
5 Feb 2020 #3
I am probably only a couple of steps beyond where you are Littlest. I began doing genealogy because I knew almost nothing of my European family. Genealogy almost requires some knowledge of history (Why are they recording birth records in Russian?). The history of Poland is so tumultuous that I find myself amazed that the country even exists at all. So now I am intrigued and want to visit. To do that I have a need to learn some language (Oof!). And so it goes.

If you have family who are in Poland, secure that relationship. Interview family in the US who have knowledge of Poland. I don't have that info and it is difficult to get it since all my Dad's generation is gone. The only thing that saved me is a book my Mom (who is not Polish) put together with her memories that included some info from Dad's family. Mom's memory is still great which helps immensely. Plus I have 4 notes from a Polish relative written to my Aunt (both of them now deceased).

The site that Atch listed looks good too. Thanks Atch. What is "PRL Poland?

I don't know what "Polish heat" is. But I'm an old guy and probably would not know what to do with it whatever it is.

Good luck.
Lenka 3 | 2,200
5 Feb 2020 #4
What is "PRL Poland?

Socialists times. People's Republic of Poland. Cold War era
Rich Mazur 4 | 3,362
5 Feb 2020 #5
To do that I have a need to learn some language

You don't need Polish to visit Poland just as you don't need Peruvian to visit Peru or Latin to see pope. Just avoid older people and you will be fine.
Atch 17 | 3,319
5 Feb 2020 #6
To do that I have a need to learn some language (Oof!). And so it goes.

You can get by with a phrase book. They have the phrases written in phonetic English alongside the Polish, if you're not sure of the pronunication, although it's actually easy enough to learn the sounds of the letters. It's just not that easy to put all the sounds together to form some of the more complicated words :) If you learn the sounds, you can read any word in Polish because it's a phonetic language like Italian, the sounds are always pronounced the same way, not like English where the same letter combos can have different sounds. So if you get yourself a little pocket dictionary too, that will get you through a visit to Poland.

Depending on what your budget is, you could also combine your trip to Poland with something like this which costs just over a thousand dollars:

iko.com.pl/iko-polish-language-school-for-foreigners-learn-polish/total-immersion-courses/

I did one of the intensive three week courses with that language school and it was brilliant. It gave me basic Polish which enabled me, a native English speaker to get by in everyday situations.

I don't know what "Polish heat" is.

Neither do I :))

Here's some PRL stuff for you:

//culture.pl/en/article/the-communist-regime-in-poland-in-10-astonishing-pictures
Paulwiz 1 | 70
5 Feb 2020 #7
Thanks all. The theory was that I would find members of my family in Poland and try to have a conversation about family history. Might be naive but you have to have a goal. So I figured I would need to learn some Polish to have that kind of conversation. I took some Polish lessons online from the library. But I might need to do something different because so far I know how to order pork chops and mashed potatoes.

I realize that most younger people can converse in English, and that might ultimately be the answer. But I figure maybe learning some more Polish can't hurt. I might get tired of eating pork chops and mashed potatoes every evening.
mafketis 24 | 8,930
5 Feb 2020 #8
most younger people can converse in English

At an agonizingly superficial level.... deeper connections require Polish.
Miloslaw 6 | 2,771
5 Feb 2020 #9
Yes, the problem is that the youngsters may speak English but they won't be able to tell you enough about history.
The old folk have that knowledge but most of don't speak English.
It is tough.
Lyzko 26 | 6,967
5 Feb 2020 #10
@littlepoland,

You'll find that even a cursory knowledge of Polish, as in knowing the local tongue anywhere in which you work, visit, or study, will greatly enhance your stay!

While the other posters here are quite right that English is widely spoken, indeed learned in school now, throughout the country, always remember that the locals are no doubt as eager to practice their English as you are your Polish:-)
Rich Mazur 4 | 3,362
5 Feb 2020 #11
Nobody needs "deeper connections" as a tourist. Nor are the locals that eager to offer those "deeper connections". How many "deeper connections" do we experience at home where everybody speaks the same language? Life - like rushing to and from work - is crude and simple everywhere and tourists are now like locust - too many, too loud, and too here.
Lyzko 26 | 6,967
5 Feb 2020 #12
Oh, Rich, you couldn't be more mistaken!

Sure, you'll always run into some uppity folks out there in la-la land who'll ask you "patiently" (though of course, NOT so patiently) to kindly stop speaking their native language because "obviously" you'll never know it as they know English.

Don't listen to 'em!!

This was the gently advice I was giving littepoland.
Rich Mazur 4 | 3,362
5 Feb 2020 #13
Sorry, but I don't understand your advice. I always speak English.
I have to be really desperate to switch to Polish. Like where-is-the-nearest-restroom kind of desperate.
Joker 2 | 1,241
6 Feb 2020 #14
the-nearest-restroom

Make sure you have a pocket full of Groszy, if you happen to need the W.C. around the Wawel Castle area. Don't try sneaking in either, I did. The old Babcia caught me ( if that's not weird enough) she won't take $1either, even if its worth 7 extra flushes. lol

His best bet is to find a Mcdonalds. They have free toilet paper and much cleaner:)
Paulwiz 1 | 70
6 Feb 2020 #15
So there's a little bit of Polish culture I didn't know and they don't even put in the travel books. WC's are pay-to-play? (Except McD's) And they have a real person to collect the groszys? Cosmic! But good to know if it's true. But there must be some distinction if I am in a business where I am a customer - right? Like a restaurant or a theater.

I just realized I am leaving myself wide open here and you all can have a great laugh at my naivety. Be kind.
Atch 17 | 3,319
6 Feb 2020 #16
WC's are pay-to-play? (Except McD's) And they have a real person to collect the groszys?

Only sometimes, it used to be more common.

I would find members of my family in Poland and try to have a conversation about family history.

You'd need to be quite fluent to do that without resorting to dictionary and phrase book. Remember that apart from being able to speak you need to understand what they say to you in response! You would really need good intermediate level Polish and that takes some time and effort to acquire. Now having said all that, many years ago when I hardly spoke a word of Polish I had to spend the day alone with my husband's granny who was over eighty and didn't speak any English. I managed to communicate with phrase book and dictionary to a level where I found out which of her son-in-laws she didn't like (pretty much all of them!) and which members of the family were lazy and 'VERY lazy' :D, also that prices were very hign, especially clothes. So there you go, it can be done!

I am leaving myself wide open here and you all can have a great laugh at my naivety

There's quite a variety of people on this forum who present themselves as all kinds of everyone and can be quite misleading. Some are nice enough people with good intentions but can be a bit misleading because they are not as well informed as they think, some are just trolls. Here's the background on posters who've answered you so far:

Me: Irish, live in Warsaw, married to a Polish man, speak basic Polish. Off to weekly lessons from next week, have to improve a bit!

Lenka: Polish, lives in Poland, has lived in the UK so speaks very good English.

Rich Mazur: claims he was born in Warsaw and emigrated to the USA, claims to have visited a couple of years ago, generally considered a big old troll on this forum. Take everything he says with a spoon rather than a grain of salt.

Mafketis: American, has lived in Poland for years, speaks very good Polish, very knowledgeable, genuine guy.

Milo: claims to be a Londoner of Polish descent, doesn't appear to have visited Poland recently.

Lyzko: American, was in Poland for a few weeks back in the 90's. Don't know what his other Polish connections are. Doesn't intentionally lead anyone astray or mess with their heads :)

Joker: Chicago Polish-American, harmless enough but a bit of a spoofer, don't pay too much attention to him.

Other Polish posters who are a reliable source of information are Kaprys and Ziemowit, if you should come across them on the forum.
mafketis 24 | 8,930
6 Feb 2020 #17
Here's the background on posters

Could put this in an FAQ
PolAmKrakow 1 | 506
6 Feb 2020 #18
@Miloslaw
Actually the people I meet that are under 40 are more than fluent enough to discuss very important subjects, history, architecture and things of this nature in great descriptive detail. English in Poland is very common now, except of course with those over 50 and in some very small villages. I go to a lot of cities in Poland for work, and do not have a problem. Smaller places like Sanok, or Nowy Targ, Nowy Sacz, and places like this, you will need a least a few phrases and base understanding to get by.
Miloslaw 6 | 2,771
6 Feb 2020 #19
the people I meet that are under 40 are more than fluent enough to discuss very important subjects

Agreed.
But I got the impression that the OP wanted to learn more about his/her grandfathers time and would be better off talking to older people who, more often than not, cannot speak English.
PolAmKrakow 1 | 506
6 Feb 2020 #20
@Miloslaw
When I first moved here, it was a struggle. That said, it was simply my not knowing enough. I should have been better prepared and known more than a few words to order drinks and dinner with. I go to a language lessons regularly every week, with a native speaker, and I did 8 months in school twice a week to learn grammar and pronunciation. I still struggle, just not as much.

@Paulwiz
Try learning some Polish. If you don't, people will really question the sincerity in which you are making this effort. My experience is that native Poles in general are suspicious of any foreigner even when claiming good intentions. This is from locals, and government officials alike. You really need to be able to demonstrate sincerity in your reasons for being in Poland if you want to learn things. Learning some basic language skills will demonstrate that. People I met a year ago, now see me differently having gotten to know me and seen the effort I have made. Doors opened and assistance came based on that.
pawian 175 | 13,554
6 Feb 2020 #21
that native Poles in general are suspicious of any foreigner even when claiming good intentions.

That`s an interesting observation. I thought that it ended with the collapse of communism or even a bit earlier. I didn`t notice it in recent years.
Atch 17 | 3,319
6 Feb 2020 #22
You really need to be able to demonstrate sincerity in your reasons for being in Poland.

PolAm, he just wants to come here on holiday. He's not going to be stopped at the airport and scanned for sincerity readings!

My experience is that native Poles in general are suspicious of any foreigner

Maybe it's just you they're suspicious of ;) I would have to agree with Pawian that it's changing. Poles are not the friendliest to strangers but they're better than they used to be.

@Pawian, I'm so sorry, how could I have left your name off the list of 'trusted Poles' on this forum.
@Paulwiz, take note, Pawian is also a reliable source of up-to-date and accurate information regarding Poland and Polish people. He is Polish and lives in Poland.
pawian 175 | 13,554
6 Feb 2020 #23
@Pawian, I'm so sorry, how could I have left your name off the list of 'trusted Poles' on this forum.

It was natural coz you listed people who had participated in this thread. I bear no grudge whatsoever. :)):

Pawian is also a reliable source of up-to-date and accurate information regarding Poland and Polish people.

No, I wouldn`t trust Pawian. His very nickname suggests a nasty character and abusive ways. He is highly untrustworthy. :):)
Joker 2 | 1,241
6 Feb 2020 #24
I grew up in Chicago with lots of Polish friends

Im from Chicago as well. Some of these posters that call other other ppl trolls are really expats from the UK with an axe to grind against Americans on this forum.

Rich Mazur: claims he was born in Warsaw and emigrated to the USA, claims

So, when you use the word "claims" it means you don't believe them?

Mazur has presented more than enough proof to you fools that he immigrated from Poland. You just don't like what he has to say...too bad!

Milo: claims to be a Londoner

Milo are you really claiming to be from London? LOL

And they have a real person to collect the groszys? Cosmic!

Im serious, she was standing right behind me when I was taking a leak, saying in a loud voice, przeprszam! Przeprszam! I just got off the plane an hour or so earlier and didn't hit the currency exchange yet and my back teeth were floating......
Lyzko 26 | 6,967
6 Feb 2020 #25
Can't argue with ya there, Atch! Your assessment of yours truly seems right on point.

For the bazillionth time though, if I returned to Poland, I'd be tickled pink to speak with Poles in English if they preferred, only to allow them to practice.

As soon as they get tired, naturally we'd switch to Polish:-)
mafketis 24 | 8,930
6 Feb 2020 #26
Mazur has presented more than enough proof to you fools that he immigrated from Poland

No, he hasn't. He's demonstrated basic ignorance of universally known bits of PRL reality (like hitchhiking or melina or mortadella) and his attempts at Polish are nothing remotely like a native speaker would come up with (even after 50 years).

I agree with ziem, he's processing childhood trauma... (maybe s3xua1.....)
Paulwiz 1 | 70
6 Feb 2020 #27
I hope the moderator doesn't get cranky because we are off topic. But thank you all for the valuable inputs.

I have not traveled a lot but I have found that a sense of humor is absolutely required. I have also found that most people in the host country will try to help me communicate. And I can encourage them by learning some of their language. The locals that I meet at tourist attractions are pretty resourceful with languages. Outside the touristy areas is where things get interesting. But it is also where you collect the most interesting experiences.

I was at a McD's in New Zealand. It wasn't 10 seconds after I got to the counter that the teenage female clerk and I both had big smirks on our faces because we were obviously speaking the same language but neither of us could understand the other. While eating my Kiwiburger I finally realized that an "ig" is an egg. And lucky for me that I like beets because I can't even remember how she pronounced that word.

Thanks again.
Miloslaw 6 | 2,771
6 Feb 2020 #28
Milo are you really claiming to be from London? LOL

Atch may be many things but a good judge of character ain't one of them...... :-)
pawian 175 | 13,554
6 Feb 2020 #29
Me too as I only know a few basic phrases and words too.

Those offensive ones mainly. :)
johnny reb 28 | 4,432
6 Feb 2020 #30
Psy Krew that sounded like sha - kref my Babcia would say when she burned the soup.


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