The ImmigrantWalenty always said that he was from Warsaw. Actually that was to be understood as near Warsaw. At times, he might have meant Warsaw Province, instead of the Plock it once was or Ciechanow Province or as it is today Province of Mazovia. He voiced a name that would be familiar to folks in America, a shortcut for a foreigner in a strange country that became habit.
By 18, like his father, Walenty was already a hard worker on the farm. He learned everything he had to know to begin a farm later in the United States. But he also faced a tough life resulting from the Bolshevik Revolution, Russia’s preparations for war and the wholesale harassment and drafting of Polish men into the Russian Army.
ImmigrationWalenty’s father, Jakob, if he was still alive in 1913, might have responded to American industrialists’ legal or illegal recruiting of cheap labor from immigrant workers. He was able to arrange for Walenty’s emigration to America to hopefully make a better future for himself and possibly send money back to Poland.
In June of 1913, with ten dollars in his pocket, Walenty caught a train from nearby Gasocin to Bremen, a port in Germany where he, like so many other Poles, caught the steamship Brandenburg to Baltimore, MD. Walenty declared a destination on the ship’s manifest as Pawel Brzuszkiewicz, also from near Nowa Wies, who had long established himself and his family in Pittsburgh with a boarding house on #2 Kirkpatrick Street. Leaving directly from the dock, Walenty made his way by train to Pittsburgh where he met Pawel.
PittsburghAs typical for immigrants in Pittsburgh, Walenty became a laborer in the steel mills. According to the 1920 census he was a finisher. According to the 1921 Pittsburgh City Directory, he was a crane man. He probably shifted to many different jobs over the years in that smoky town at the junction of two rivers.
At the boarding house, Walenty met Albina Maruszewska, who had been there since June 13, 1912. She had immigrated from Gasocin, Sonsk parish, a parish neighboring Lapocin. Walenty and Albina married on June 17, 1914. They moved out of the boarding house to a nearby neighborhood on Wyandotte near the north banks of the Monongahela river, then to Pulaski way, then Brereton across town on Polish hill where things seemed so much more open with a view of the city and the Ohio River below.
Oddly, none of the buildings in which they lived have survived. Their home on Kirkpatrick was demolished for a large intersection which empties into 5th Avenue or the “Boulevard of the Allies”. Their home on Wyandotte street is an empty lot in a deteriorated neighborhood.
Polish HillThe home on Pulaski way is missing. The apartment building on Brereton, which was almost literally in the shadow of the Polish Catholic Church, St. _____?______ is an empty gap between two other buildings. Yet another home down a bank from the road was demolished and is overgrown with trees and thickets.
The neighborhood, though, still has the charm of a medieval city in Europe. Yellowish stone blocks dominate the area bringing an optimistic lightness to the airy hill. The houses and apartment buildings were tightly and neatly lined up along the hillside. A Square in front of the church gathers people to its entrance from many directions. The space looks out toward the north, yet draws in our attention with a sense of human intimacy typical of a European town.
ChildrenWalenty and Albina had five children: Walter (1915 – 1989), Angeline (1920 - 1993?), John (1922 – 2003) (my father), Wanda Marie (1926 - 1998) and Alfreda (1928 - 1987). All of them were born in Pittsburgh accept for Alfreda, who was born in Chicago.
ChicagoThey moved to Chicago by train where Walenty eventually became a citizen and applied for Social Security. He and son Walter began working at the Sears paint factory and saved enough to purchase a farm in Fremont, Michigan.
Fremont, MichiganAlbina had taken all the children to Michigan, except Walter and his wife, Helen, both who stayed in Chicago with Walenty to continue working for the paint factory. Eventually Walenty joined the family in Fremont. All the kids worked hard on the farm to build it up. John had worked in the fields as well as in a factory to contribute to the income of the farm. They worked so hard that each of them found a way to leave the farm one way or another. The three girls found husbands, John enlisted into the Army by lying about his age. However, he sent any army pay and bonds that he earned home to his parents.
Walenty throughout the years bought and sold land around his farm buying and selling property adjacent to the farm. He finally sold the farm and retired in Fremont, Michigan, until he died in 1964. Albina died 1965.
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