Thursday, August 9, 2012

Live from Winona (II)

Yesterday was another day of digging for gold in the Polish Museum, followed by an evening of chasing trains around while trying to wrap my brain around all that I am learning. And before I hit the road this morning (headed for Pine Creek), here are a couple of the more interesting quotes from my breakfast-time reading. The first comes from Professor Borzyzskowski himself (56-57)
The diocesan capital of Pelplin, an ancient seat of Cistercians who arrived there in the 13th century from Bad Doberan, constituted a particular religious center for Poles and even more for Kashubs. The crucial factor was the position of the bishop and seminary, where generations of Polish and German clergy had been educated, where everybody had to know Polish, what enabled understanding of Kashubian. That role had been increasing since 1836, when the bishop's progymnasium was founded as Collegium Marianum to be known as a forge of Polishness, and since 1869, when the journal and publishing house "Pilgrim" was established. The ministry and position, also the financial status of a clergyman formed for many Kashubian-Pomeranian families, especially rural ones, a professional climax for their sons' careers. Therefore, Kashubian proverbs said Who's got a son in Pelplin, who's got a daughter in the convent, who's got a priest in family, won't be touched by poverty.
This would confirm that religious vocations were cultivated and discerned in Kaszubian families; as in other Catholic cultures, having priests and/or nuns in the family were considered an honor. The next quote is from the Kashubian-born Rev. Augustyn Hildebrand in his 1865 Pelplin book upon the former Pomeranian archdeaconry, quoted at Borzyzskowski 57-58.
At present, the number of Kashubs amounts to more than 120,000 souls. In the modern times, among all Polish tribes, these people have been exposed to the highest danger of losing their tongues and their native customs because of the German element. Indeed, in spite of the numerous unfavorable circumstances, the Kashubs have faithfully preserved their holy Catholic religion as well as both their tongue and the customs of their forefathers. One should expect that they shall still preserve their mother tongue and transmit it to their children, together with the native customs and virtues which have guided their forefathers. Although the language of the Kashubs differs in some words and way of pronunciation from the pure Polish nation, it does not mean that they form a nation separate from the Poles, as various German tribes who speak different vernaculars do not constitute separate nations. The Kashubs always speak purely Polish, if one speaks to them in a clear and slow way. They use prayer books in correct Polish and the priests preach to them also in correct Polish. And nobody who thinks fairly would refuse respect to clergymen who truly care about safeguarding and maintenance of the mother tongue among their parishioners.
Father Hildebrand's clear "Hochdeutsch-Plattdeutsch" delineation between Polish and Kaszubian provides a key to the roles of Polish and Kaszubian among the immigrants in Winona and Pine Creek.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Live from Winona

I'm up here in Winona this week, spending the remnants of my summer "vacation" in my ancestral stomping grounds. In the morning I go to the Polish Museum (now with awesome Wikipedia page), to soak in the ambiance, look through the collections, and chat with any of my countrymen and countrywomen who happen to pass through.

Here's a delightful little snippet (translated in the English version of Borzyzskowski's The Kashubs, Pomerania and Gdansk, p. 62) culled from a 1911 article in Gryf by the Kaszubian scholar Jan Karnowski (1889-1939).
The Kashubian population is characterized mainly by two attributes: religiousness and justice. Religiousness is a fundamental breathing of the Kashubian soul, not guided by reasoning, but deeply grasped through feelings. It is in customs, tradition, and above all the personality of priest that stand in for the reasoning. The justice of a Kashub is firm, persistent, with no allowances. This may be a reason for that famous suing mania, that relentless stubbornness and persistence in own rights. A Kashub is ready to forgive all faults and grudges. But he shall never forgive an injustice. 
It is enough to hurt those two aspects of a Kashubian soul and the hostility will last forever! Such an effect had the anti-Polish policy of the Prussian government. As said above, more or less until the period of Kulturkampf, the Prussian government enjoyed a significant confidence within the Kashubian population. The cultural struggle, however, opened their eyes.
Confirming, of course, a lot of what I already suspected about my countrymen and countrywomen. But it is interesting to note Karnowski's contention that most Kaszubians were "more or less" comfortable with Prussian rule prior to the Kulturkampf. The fact that my Kaszubian forebears were not driven out from their homeland is important because it suggests (among other things) that when they reached Winona they did not bring any particular feud with the Germans. Perhaps their desire to form their own congregation with their own Polish priest was simply that.