Local book explores Northwest Ohio’s Polish heritageWritten by Tom Konecny | | email@example.com
The recent Lagrange Street Polish Festival offers an annual reminder that its heritage is a key element of Toledo’s history. Now, some of its own have documented a past digging even deeper than an event can offer in “American Originals: Northwest Ohio’s Polish Community at Home, Work, Worship and Play.”
The book is a collaboration of several authors and compiled by Timothy Borden, editor, a born-and-bred Toledoan now living in London.
“When I had the opportunity to join the new project as an editor and contributor, I thought that it was my duty to contribute to a wider understanding of my own peoples’ contribution to our region and our country,” Borden said. “We do have some enduring values, in my opinion, that have contributed greatly to our region’s identity.”
The work includes four chapters penned by Borden, who completed his Ph.D. in history at Indiana University, and minored in Polish language and literature. Others with chapters include locals David Chelminski, Dorothy Stohl, Jane Armstrong-Hudiburg, Sarah Miller, William Samiec, and Margaret Zotkiewicz-Dramczyk.
The book incorporates thematic chapters of growing up, weddings, labor, polka music and also personal narratives.
One such narrative was written by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur on the history of her Polish family, and recounts several of her own visits to Poland to explore her own ancestry.
“The concluding chapter of the book, on Mrs. Frances Stocki’s life before she immigrated to Toledo, is a wonderful example of both styles of history – the grand reach of historical events and the very personal story of one woman’s life. Both are equally important,” Borden said. “I don’t know that anyone can read her life story and not ask themselves whether they would have been able to persevere through that tragic era, let alone build a new life in a new country.”
The book focuses largely on the Toledo area, which help make the Polish ethnicity one of the largest in the region. However, its chapter on polka music, for example, discusses the area’s smaller towns and the reasons why the music remains so popular in rural parts of Northwest Ohio. Borden noted his own family settled in Wauseon, and La Salle, Mich. before moving to Toledo around 1900.
As the only writer not of Polish descent, Toledoan Dorothy Stohl came upon the project through a love of history and a friendship with a patient at St. Luke’s Hospital, from where Stohl recently retired. It was there she met Frances Stocki during her regular hospital visits, and heard her stories of survival.
“It was her life ambition to let them know that Stalin was just as bad as Hitler,” Stohl said. “The story of survival is amazing, and I’m so happy that it was able to be published for her. I’m so honored. This is really my first published work.”
“American Originals” was issued through the University of Toledo Press, an academic publishing house which focuses its titles on Northwest Ohio books and authors.
“We’ve done one on Irish, Hungarians, and Arab-Americans in Toledo, and we all know there’s a large, vibrant Polish community, so we thought it would be appropriate to extend that,” said Barbara Floyd, director. “It’s a nice contribution to scholarship in researching the Polish community to bring their thoughts and research together to highlight and document.
The community is sort of dispersed, and a lot of first generation people are quickly passing away so it’s important to capture their experiences. What it meant to our community and the world is important.
“American Originals” is published by the University of Toledo press, and is available at utoledopress.com, or by calling 419-530-2170.
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