Polish Immigrants in the Early 20th century: Assignment

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A Family Corresponds: Polish Immigrants in the Early20th centuryMany immigrants to the United States wrote letters back home. At the time they werewritten, the missives shaped the expectations of those who would soon make the samejourney; today, they gave historians invaluable first-hand testimony of the immigrants’own experiences. These seventeen letters involved the children of a retired Polish farmernamed Raczkowski. Adam Raczkowski went to the United States in 1904 with thefinancial assistance of his sister Helena Brylska [later Dabrowskis] and his brotherFranciszek, who had both previously immigrated. He settled with his brother inWilmington, Delaware, and obtained factory work. The letters included here cover theyears 1904 to 1912 and were written between both Adam and Helena and their sisterTeofila, who remained in Poland.Note: The Raczkowski family includes the following members:Raczkowski, a retired farmerWawrzonkowa, his second wifeFranciszek, his sonAdam, his sonHelena, his daughterTeofila, his daughterWilmington, Del., June 25 [1904]DEAR SISTER: . . . . I am already with my brother, thanks to God and to God’s Mother.As to work, I don’t hope to work sooner than autumn, because brother also has no worksince Christmas and cannot get work, because all factories are stopped and there is nowork until they elect the president in autumn. Then perhaps we shall get work. And atpresent brother has no pleasure in life either, because there are five of them and I makethe sixth, and all this means spending money. And you know that when I left you, I hadneither clothes nor shirts; so when I came to them, sister-in-law and brother gave me atonce clothes of theirs and we all three went to the city and bought clothes, one suit forworking days and another for holidays, and everything in the way of clothes. So you canunderstand that when we bought everything it cost them about 80 roubles. The watch andthe suit for church cost alone 60 roubles. I have nothing more to write, only I bid yougoodbye, dear sister and brother-in-law. When I get work I won’t forget you. Remain
with God. Both Raczkowskis with their children send also their bows. I beg you, answerthe soonest possible.[ADAM RACZKOWSKI]* * *September 23, 1904DEAR SISTER: . . . .I received your letter and I thank you heartily for answering me. Asto what you write, sister, that I may greet Brylska [i.e., his sister Helena] for you, well, Iwrote her three letters and she wrote me one and sent us her photograph when she gotmarried. As soon as I came to America, I saluted her politely. But brother and sister-in-law related to me how she remembered [forgot] her children and how she began tobehave as soon as she came to America. And she complained to us that sister-in-law wasnot good to her! She behaved so that if it had been I, I should not have kept her [in thehouse] 24 hours. As it was, they were patient and kept her, and brother tried to find workfor her. And about her writing letters to Wawrzonkowa [their stepmother] and sendingmoney to her, well, I shall bow to her [to Brylska] more profoundly [I will despise her forit still more] because if Wawrzonkowa were lying under a hedge and if I were passing by,I would kick her, but would not give my hand to her[assist her]. . . .ADAM RACZKOWSKI* * *February 13 [1905]DEAR SISTER: . . . . And now I inform you that I have very good work. I have beenworking for 3 months. I have very good and easy work. I earn $8.00 a week. Brother haswork also, And as to Brylska, I don’t know how she is getting on, and I don’t think abouther at all. Inform me what is going on in our country, who has come to America, and whogot married, and what is the talk in our country about revolution and war, because I havepaid for a newspaper for a whole year and the paper comes to me twice a week, so theywrite that in our country there is misery. They say that in Warsaw and Petersburg there isa terrible revolution and many people have perished already. As to the money, I cannothelp you now, sister. You will excuse me yourself, I did not work for five months . . .ADAM RACZKOWSKI* * *June 27, 1906
DEAR SISTER: . . . . As to the work, I am working in the same factory, and brother alsois working in the same factory, where he was working formerly. And as to our country,brother says he will not return, because there is nothing to return for . . . He has noproperty there, and it is better for him in America, because in our country he could noteven earn enough for a loaf of bread. And I also do not know whether I shall return ornot. If I can return then perhaps I shall return some day or other, and if not I don’t mind,because I do ten times better in America than in our country. I do better today thanbrother, because I am alone. As to Borkowianka [a woman friend], I don’t know whethershe came to America or not, because I sent her neither a ship ticket nor money. So I begyou, sister, be so kind and learn from the Borkowskis whether she thinks of coming ornot, because if she does not come then I will marry in the autumn or during carnival. . . .* * * January 28, 1907DEAR SISTER: . . . . As to work, I work, but very little, because the factory where weworked with brother was burned on Saturday, January 19, at 7 o’clock in the evening, andbrother’s carpenter’s tools were all burned. He lost $50.00. And now I inform you aboutmy old Miss Borkowska, whom nobody wants. I don’t care anything about her—such anold maid! I wrote to her only in jest, because I have in America girls enough and muchbetter than she and even to them I don’t pay compliments. I care as much for her as for anold torn shoe. Today I don’t need the favor of anybody except God. May God continue togive me such health as he gives me up to the present day. I don’t want the favors ofanybody except God. As to Teofil, I don’t know what he means, and why he will take tohimself such a shepherd’s bitch. There is no place in America for her, because inAmerica they don’t keep sheep. Does he want to keep sheep, and to breed rams, and tobecome a shepherd? The stupid, where is his reason, since in America there are girlsenough.As to money, I won’t send you any now, because we have expenses ourselves, but I willsend you for the holiday some more roubles; you may expect it. . . .* * *[June?] 3, 1907DEAR SISTER: . . . . As to the work, brother is working steadily and since the factorywas burned I have had no work for a month and for another month I have had no work.During the two years I worked steadily in the same factory I had money, and now I earnhardly enough to live. I am working in the same factory as brother. I do carpenter’s workand earn $2.00 a day. The work is good and well paid, but only if you work steadily, MayGod let me work this year during the summer in that factory and earn at least enough tolive. Then by winter I shall have steady work.This letter which I received from you, grieved me and brother terribly. Dear sister andbrother-in-law, you write to us to hold our hands out to you [help you]. It is true that amisfortune befell you, that a misery form God happened to you, and you have not a piece
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