MY NAME IS MILLION: An Illustrated History of the Poles in America by W. S. Kuniczak

MY NAME IS MILLION: An Illustrated History of the Poles in America

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From gallant officers in the Revolutionary War to bruising football heroes, the Polish contribution to the making of America has been continuous and rich. Kuniczak's aim is to showcase--with a lavish collection of photographs--neglected Polish-Americans beginning with the glassblowers and pitchmakers who arrived in Jamestown in 1608. Though Count Pulaski, ""The Father of the American Cavalry,"" and Taddeus Kosciuszko who set up the fortifications at Saratoga, both became Yankee heroes, the same can't be said for the military-minded Pole who led a ""patriot army"" in the 1837 invasion of Canada. Kuniczak notes that in the first half of the 19th century Poles arrived only in ""wavelets""; most remained in Europe in hopes of liberating their homeland. But Galveston, Texas--of all places--had a preview of the coming tide in 1854 when 800 native-clad Polish peasants landed with their bedding and pots and pans. In the early years of mass immigration, their lives in the Pennsylvania coal fields and the Gary, Indiana, steel mills were backbreakingly hard--and, Kuniczak hypothesizes, beyond melting-pot reach; speaking a variety of regional dialects, they found their ""Polish identity"" and ""ethnic solidarity"" in the U.S. when they reacted against the disdain of the English-speaking natives. Though a streak of Polish romanticism can be found in Kuniczak's own writing, he is generally discerning, and especially so on the touchy subject of the Poles' longstanding lack of enthusiasm for higher education for their sons and (especially) their daughters. A fine, unpedantic introduction for the grandchildren and their neighbors.

Pub Date: June 16th, 1978
Publisher: Doubleday