Archive for the ‘Polish genealogy, history and traditions’ Category

Beyond the Big Water. Part 3: The dark side of the emigration: the “Emigration Hyenas”.

Monday, January 13th, 2014

The massive emigration was easily and quickly discovered to be an excellent source of income for some resourceful individuals. The Galician poverty, overpopulation and illiteracy proved fertile ground for all  companies recruiting emigrants. The hope for  better life is natural.

The agents were mostly recruiting among people in villages, where was the highest rate of poverty. They promised that in America people will obtain free land and inventory. They promised good jobs and high salaries. The most successful recruitment was at the time of the hungry gap (late winter and early spring) and during the military enlistments. The agents were representing large ship companies from Bremen, Antwerp, Hamburg. Sometimes they had their own people working in certain villages.

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Beyond the Big Water. Part 2: The journey and its destinations.

Friday, January 10th, 2014

The most intensive emigration was in the period from 1870 to 1914. There are the historic documents from 1884, calculating that the average number of the emigrants arriving to Hamburg from Galicia each week was 200-300 people. About 85% of the emigrants traveled to the United States of America. There was also a large number of Jews leaving for Palestine and the Middle East, and other large emigrants’ destinations were Canada,  Brazil and Argentina (especially from Eastern Galicia).  For the peasants who only knew the world of their village  and the closest town,  this journey into the unknown , would take them several weeks.

Emigration to the USA in the period of 1870-1914 is estimated to have been between 1 and 1,2 million people; to Canada 107 000 in the period 1897-1911; to Brazil 60 000 in the period 1876-1914; to Argentina at least 30 000 in the period of 1892-1914.

The costs of emigration were always fully covered by the emigrants themselves. Sometimes there could be a little help of some Austrian diplomatic units located in destination countries, but there was no legislation regulating such cases. During the ‘Brazilian fever’ and in Canada, the emigrants were promised that they could obtain land, so the emigration there was mainly to settle permanently. The emigrants going to the United States, usually planned to work for a few years, save some money and come back to their home country. Sometimes they came back, sometimes not. But the future was always uncertain for emigrants, and they asked themselves many questions.  What does life there look like? Will the people be kind people? Is there a church? Will there be work? Will I ever come back home ?  The reasons for leaving their homes might have been different, but the questions concerning their new home were the same.

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Beyond the Big Water. Part 1: Reasons of the emigration.

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

There are not many direct sources about the emigration reasons. The motivation of the emigrants had never been checked on either of the borders, nor by the destination immigrant offices. The only reliable information  we have is from the memories, diaries, and letters, that have been passed down to family members.

The reasons given by authorities were: high level of birth rate, poverty, natural disasters, land fragmentation, lack of work and burdensome taxes causing liabilities.

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A village in Galicia. Picture source: National Digital Archive

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Beyond the Big Water. Emigration from Galicia: Introduction.

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Many of our ancestors  left the old continent and decided to start a new life beyond the Big Water: in America. There was an explosion of emigration in the whole of Europe, but in Galicia (the part of old Poland which was under Austrian partition) this phenomenon was enormous.

Why did they decide to leave? How did they prepare for the journey? It was a social, economical and political problem, and for a group of people it was an enormous business. Who made profits on emigration?  The whole emigration phenomenon has also its dark side: swindlers, cheating, taking advantage of emigrants, corruption and violence. The emigration phenomenon helps to have a broad view on Galicia’s history.

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Road shrines in Poland

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

fot. Aga P.

When travelling throughout Poland with foreign guests, they often look at the small structures built along the roads with great curiosity and ask about them.

They are made of concrete or wood. They are separate constructions or attached to trees. They are small like bird feeders or as big as a chapel. They have figures of saints or they are just crucifixes. They are road shrines.

Road shrines are something very common in Poland and we often do not pay much attention to them. They were always just part of the landscape. Only after visiting the Polish countryside with our guests do we realize that this is something that is not so usual.

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