A Polish Texan Explained…

Panna Maria, TexasWe Polish-Americans who are the very direct descendants of the First Polish Immigrants to come to the US are a proud bunch. People are surprised to hear that in 1854 the 1st Polish people to come to America to STAY came to Panna Maria, TEXAS and not Chicago or any other Yankee place…

Here is a short cheat sheet on us and our customs.

Follow me, if you can on this first and for most to help you distinguish — Texas Poles from Yankee Poles:
If you are a Texas Pole, when you first meet a Yankee Pole – they will try to impress you by saying that they just “loved the Pierogi’s that their Grandma used to make for them in Chicago”.   In response, you just nod and smile, because you have no idea WHAT that is…
You, in turn, will try to impress them by telling them that you used to date one of Bishop Yanta’s nephews – In response, they too just nod and smile, because they have no idea WHO that is…

Your knowledge of the Polish language is limited to
– One greeting – Jak się masz?
– Some Naughty words – ex. dupa, maupa dupa
– A Naughty phrase – Jak sie vieshe
– Counting up to 5: Yeddin, Vah, Shre, Steady, Pienche
– A Drinking toast – Nastrovia!

You know how to dance ALL of the following: the Two-Step, Waltz, Polka, Cotton Eyed Joe, and the Schottish.

Your Wedding had the following elements:

  • Your Wedding Mass had to be held on a Saturday after 3:00 or all your guests would be mad because it didn’t count for Sunday
  • You had to invite everyone within the entire county so as to not offend anyone.  Weddings are up upwards to 1000 people, but could be held at only $7 a person total.
  • You had your wedding reception in a Parish Dance Hall
  • Your Bridal Party sold shots to your guests to make money for you and kept count by passing out ribbons or stickers for guests to place on their lapel or dress. (sometimes while in full view of the sheriff dept. security)
  • You knew to stay away from the flirtier older guys if they had more than 3 ribbons/stickers on their clothes.
  • You sold shots as a wedding party person and you drank more shots that others paid for you to drink than you’ve ever drank in your life.
  • Your relatives extorted money from your guests for you by singing the folk song – ‘Dietche Dietche’  (Translated: “Diaper, Diaper” – A Polish Folk Song complete with metal aluminum stock pot and ceramic plate for lid to shake in all your guests ‘personal space’)
  • You served good BBQ Brisquette and Sausage with all the fixin’s buffet style
  • You knew the wedding dance was about to start because your male guests started moving tables out-of-the-way and started sweeping sawdust around the dance floor
  • You started your wedding dance with the ‘Grand March’
  • Your main beverage came in kegs and you floated several of them

Your Mom wants at least one of her kids to NOT get married but become a priest or nun.

Your Mom may have yelled at you for dressing rather immodestly by saying: “You are NOT dressed like the Blessed Virgin Mary!!!!”.  Hahahaha!  This rather catty Polish girl used to say behind her back: “Yea, but Mary wore a light blue burkah.  That doesn’t fit the times!”

When you told your Grandma that you were dating someone, the first two things she asked in this order were: “Is he Polish?” and “Is he Catholic?”

You own at least one shot-gun and it’s mainly for dove hunting and you fish in “Tanks”.  Ponds are in story books.

Your older relatives have a strong devotion to the Saints, the Blessed Virgin, the Pope (meaning the REAL one – John Paul II), and the Democratic Party.

Your Grandma has a shrine somewhere in her house complete with votive candles, Holy Water, a Rosary, Prayer Cards, Novenas, Scapula and at least one of the following forms of art- “The Sacred Heart of Jesus” picture with eyes that follow you around the room, “Our Lady of Czestochowa”, “Our Lady of Fatima” or the “Infant of Prague” .

Insight: My Mom used to bring the Infant of Prague home once a year to clean it.  She didn’t know this, but when she went to the grocery store, we’d feel the need to take its crown off, touch its embroidered coat and wish we could pick it up and play with it without going an extra few months into purgatory.  We never picked it up, at least I didn’t.

There is also a picture of the REAL Pope (JPII) – somewhere in the house.  *Bonus: I touched his grave in the Vatican crypt this last month.  Was wonderful.

You collect “prayer cards” from funerals and Priest ordinations and from a priest who goes the extra mile (like my BFF does) having them available at Reconciliation (aka Confession) Services.

Your parents have at least one Crucifix with the Corpus on it mounted on a wall in their house with palms tucked behind it.

Your church’s main fundraiser each year is a Parish Picnic or a Turkey Shoot.

The word kielbasa means something to you. And you’ve bought wedding ring kielbasa.

Buying store-bought generic sausage is beneath you. Your favorite brands are either Pollacks’s or Wiatrek’s.

The names Kosciusko, Moczygemba, Dworaczyk, Dzuik, et.al.- roll off your tongue quite easily. *You would NEVER pronounce Kusciusko -‘Kahs – E – ahs-kO” as Oprah calls it…

You aren’t fully sure of the entire story behind the founding of the U.S., but you know the WHOLE STORY of the very FAMOUS Polish migration to the U.S. on Dec. 24, 1854 and…

Fr. Leopold Moczygemba is your founding Father.  The Germans in New Braunsfels, TX were flourishing, so he hoped to do the same for his own kindred.

Your ancestors did not merely come to the US in a straight shot across the Atlantic to gain entry via Ellis Island in NY.

Your initial families came via a 60+ day sailboat ride in steerage to Galveston, TX.  Then rented carts and/or walked 158 miles to Indianola, TX. to gain entry into the US.  Then, embarked on another 108 MILES north to their new home in Panna Maria.

Our Moses…

You may have never been to Poland, but if you do decide to visit, you know to go with the great travel guide Fr. Frank Kurzaj to ensure the royal treatment while there.

Now with the Eagle Ford oil boom, Dads no longer dream for their daughters to marry Ivy-leaguers, they want them to marry Janyseks. 🙂

22 thoughts on “A Polish Texan Explained…

  1. Pingback: A Polish Texan Explained… | One Flew Over The Empty Nest

  2. Great to read because all applies. Ancestors were on the first ships to Indianola, not Galveston and donated lumber for first church in Panna Maria. We are pioneers of Falls City. God Bless. What is last name. I may not know you but my wife may since she is from Poth.

    • Gene,

      Thank you so very much for visiting my blog and for you kind words.

      I was born and raised in Karnes City. My parents are Fabian and Gladys Janysek – brother Robert does water well repair in the area. My Grandmother was a Foegelle. My great uncles were both priests in the area: Msgr. Theo Janysek served in Falls City and Msgr. Peter Foegelle served in Kosckiosko. On my Mother’s side, her Polish family migrated to New Waverly and are Stanush’s, Zabava’s, etc.

      Now that I’m an Empty Nester, I travel to Karnes City at least once a month now helping out the school district’s education foundation and our work to build a vocational center in Karnes City. We want to help people in the entire county get good paying jobs. 🙂

      I’ve always been very proud of my Panna Maria’s heritage (and my Catholic faith), so I studied it… I even taught a class on the Polish Migration at my daughter’s elementary school during their studies of European Migration to the U.S. The kids were enthralled to hear about children walking for miles, working the land, etc. Funny part I didn’t put in there… The Indianola people recored that our women were dressed rather risque’ as their ankles were showing in their Polish dress! LOL!!

      How honored you must be to have them donate the wood for the first church built!!!

      Warm Regards, D’

  3. Hi D’Ann! Just came across your blog on fb. Loved it! Agreed with all the Polish traditions. They really did bring back some good memories of my wedding, other weddings, and just growing up around Panna Maria/Karnes City. Good luck with your blog!

  4. THANK YOU so much for this incredibly funny and immensely accurate post about being a REAL Texas Pole! I was raised in Falls City and my Daddy and Mama’s little “Mom & Pop” grocery store was Sam’s Town & Country, right next to (and intensely competitive with the Pollok’s store you mentioned). My Daddy, Sam Swierc, and Mama, Doris Eckel Swierc, used to do a lot of catering for those HUGE Polish weddings!! There always seemed to be a brisket cooking non-stop while I was growing up, BUT it is Daddy’s REAL, authentic Polish sausage and Polish dill pickles that I miss the most and never forget! While I was in high school, I dated a lovely Janysek guy from Karnes City a couple of times…;0) I feel like we could be relatives! I am delighted to “find” your blog and really hope you will consider additional posts about our mutual Polish heritage and all the interesting about “growing up Polish”! Sincerely, Sandra Swierc Poth

    • Sandra, Thank you for visiting my blog! I remember your Dad’s catering business and of course your family’s store! I’m from KC, as well! Class of ’84. 🙂

  5. Hello D’Ann, I was looking up some family genealogy when I came across your “Polish” blog. I have to say the the explanation on being a Polish Texan is positively 100% correct. You just forgot to mention that, since being Polish, not only do you invite your close friends and family, you invite every Polish person that lives in the community. I remember when Patrick and I got married in Panna Maria, we had family reunions, class reunions, and good ol’ friendships from years past, spark up again. With over 1150 in attendance inside the P.M. community hall in 1991, wonderful memories were also made. Thanks for sharing!
    Dana Dugie Janysek
    Wife of Patrick Janysek
    Panna Maria, Tx.
    Karnes City Badger (Patrick, class of 1986)

    • Dana, Jak se mas! Thank you for visiting my blog. Yes, you are right. I should add, that that you have to invite every body as not to offend anybody. Thank goodness weddings are pretty reasonable compared to the big city! Yes, I know Patrick very well, went to school about the same time as him in KC! My parents are Fabian and Gladys… 🙂

  6. This is so funny to me! My uncle is bishop Yanta, but we call him bishop John! He’s working on building a heritage center in Panna Maria that highlights pretty much everything you wrote about! I’m definitely going to be sharing this when I see him next weekend. He’ll love it

  7. I was born in Bremond, Texas which is a Polish city, not very big now but they make the best Polish sausage. my maiden name was Wrzesinski and all my grandparents came to Texas in the late 1980’s. Every year in June Bremond has the Polish Day, in polish Polski Dzien, with hundreds of people come home for the celebration. It starts with a Polish Pickle run and draws around 600 people who run for Polish prizes, like a jar of Pickles, or sausage and also for money. Then they have a parade with a big bunch of floats with the residents of Bremond decorate and they throw candy to the kids. I attended 12 years of school there. Grades 1 to 8 at St. Mary’s Catholic School and then the Public High School. I lived on a farm all those years and helped with the crops. I was the youngest of 10 children, two of my sisters were nuns. I and one of my sisters are still alive. My sister is 93 years old and lives in Houston. After I graduated from High School I left the town and moved to Fort Worth Texas because there was no opportunity to get a job to support myself. I had 4 brothers who lived in Fort Worth so that is why I moved there. Then I got married in 1958 and I have 7 children, 17 grandchildren and 9 Great Grandchildren with 3 more to be born later this year.

    I love being Polish and Catholic.

    My husband passed away in 2003.
    Mary Wrzesinski Johnston

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