Tuesday, November 08, 2005

why do I turn my back on my own people?

I was born in Poland. Who doesn’t know that already? Come on, read the heading of the blog: Ocean, Poland, Polish, Polish, of Poland from Poland, Poland Poland Poland.

But do I have any American-style Polish pride? I’m afraid not.

Oh, I understand Polishness with all my being. I have little droplets of Polish martyrdom and suffering pulsating through my veins. I walk the streets of Warsaw, badger the salespeople there and chat up the cabbies like the rest of my country men and women.

So why do I not seek out the Poles who have, like me, moved to the States?

In 1979, the year I came to Madison, the Polish Heritage Club of Wisconsin formed its Madison chapter. Me, I stayed out of it.

Today, I find myself walking along State Street, enjoying a long route home on this yet again gorgeous day and just off to the side, on Henry Street I see a large Polish flag. Huh? Off of State Street? In Madison? Please, not another (lackluster) Polish deli (because, you know, the others were so in demand)!

No. A Polish couple (first and n-th generation) have opened a gallery (only three years ago, not that I noticed) with principally Polish art and jewelry. Tons of amber stuff.

I go in and chat them up. Man, are they talkative. (It’s the genes, it’s the genes.)

They seem forward-looking, they seem modern. They seem religious (I try not to stare at the big amber cross hanging down from his neck). They seem friendly (ah, the kiss of the hand). They seem warm and eager to bring me into the fold of the Polish community here in town.

I promise to participate in a pierogi cook-off. I promise to come to some party or other. I promise to hereafter do all my amber shopping at their place (and really, the jewelry is gorgeous. Stunning. Nicer than much of what you see in the average store shelves in Warsaw or Krakow).

However, chances of me being involved in the Polish Heritage Club of Wisconsin – Madison chapter? Same as before: zero.

[Are you missing the reason? Let me just say that a Palm Sunday Spring Festival with a demonstration of egg-decorating and the sale of Easter items, workshops on embroidery, making Polish cutouts, putting together Christmas packages for Polish troops in Iraq, volunteering as a guest speaker for the Kiwanis and the Oregon Senior Center, and volunteering at the Boston Store Community Days – these all seem proper and decent activities, I’m sure. Yay Polish Heritage Club. And the day you find me at any of them will be the day I have turned completely senile and some well-meaning volunteer wheels me over, thinking (erroneously) that I might enjoy a slice of the old country on this side of the ocean.]