July 2, 2011 | Polish

Polish-American History

I read about Martha Stewart and Polish Barbie.

I have just begun a book by John J. Bukowczyk entitled A History of the Polish Americans. I have been feeling as though my background in Polish history—beyond my college studies of World War II—is very weak, so I am trying to fill in some holes. 

The History Book I Am Reading: I Like the Cover

The History Book I Am Reading: I Like the Cover

In 2005, writes Bukowczyk, there were nearly 10 million people of Polish ancestry in the United States. Also from the book: although the city with the largest number of people of Polish descent is Chicago, New York City and Newark are high on the list, too, with (these numbers are from 2000) 268,228 and 120,193 people, respectively.

In the book’s introduction, written in 2007, he notes, “Polishness has lost much of its stigma…has become more ordinary, neutral, and normal in American society and culture, while things Polish have begun to enter American mass culture, in symbolic and commodified forms, just as elements from other ethnic cultures have done.”

Among other developments, Mattel’s introduction in 1998 of Polish Barbie: “the polar opposite of derogatory anti-Slavic female stereotypes.”

He also discusses Martha Stewart and John Paul II. I admit, I was surprised to see their names together in the same paragraph. I did not remember that she was of Polish descent.

“Certainly, both Stewart (née Kostyra) and Pope John Paul II have been sources of pride for Polish Americans,” he notes, “and while her humiliation caused Polish Americans shame and his death, deep grief, both produced in Polish America a profound sense of loss.”

I Am Using This a Lot

I Am Using This a Lot

An aside: as I proceed through my grammar studies, I have quickly become enamored of the Oxford Essential Polish Dictionary.

I am very picky about dictionaries. I like the aesthetics of this one, the readability of the print, the weight of the book (light), and its dimensions (small-purse size).

Most important, when I look up words, they are almost always in there.

A final note: one thing I am really enjoying about studying Polish is that I can finally figure out how to pronounce Polish surnames when I see them! That is worth a lot!

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