Monday, June 7, 2010

Murals and a Website

I am sure this has been long overdue, but after nearly 10 years of personal genealogical and historical research about St. Mary's Assumption Church, I will be establishing a website dedicated for just that subject. The plan is for the website to be comprehensive, covering everything from church design and architecture to art and statuary, 115 years of history including the church, the parish, the community and the people as well as access to primary source documents and photographs. For those on dial-up, I apologize, but this one is going to take a while to load up for you.

The site will not be up until I have the majority of the material placed on it, saves me money while I make sure that the site that is up is worthwhile to the viewers. The cost for the website will be a donation to the church and community, from myself. For those who enjoy what is placed on there, contributions both monetary and information based will always be welcomed but not required.

Below I will include a short sample of what will appear on the website. This particular portion describes Marion Rzeznik's The Annunciation located on the south ceiling of the interior.

The Annunciation

The Annunciation marks the beginning of Jesus' life and is the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Conveniently, this particular mural is located almost directly above the stained glass window which depicts the same event, however the mural is a different interpretation of the event.

As depicted here, the Angel Gabriel descends from heaven to give word to Mary that she is to bear a child. The dove atop represents the Holy Spirit and a ray of light shines upon Mary to signify that she has been chosen.

This particular image is contrary to traditional depictions for several reasons. Typically, Gabriel is standing or kneeling infront of Mary. In the stained glass window, Gabriel is kneeling infront of Mary. Traditionally the interior of Mary's personal quarters is not shown, instead The Annunciation takes place in an open garden or another section of the house.

You will also notice the presence of two plants; the fern on the left and the lily on the right. The fern is often a symbol of fascination, confidence and a secret bond of love. The lily is the traditional symbol of Mary, often symbolizing virginity, purity and chastity as well as majesty. It is difficult to discern what type of tree grows outside of the window.

You can also see the presence of clouds surrounding Gabriel. These clouds symbolizes that the message comes from heaven and often is present to show a connection between heaven and earth.

It also may appear as though Gabriel is holding something in his right hand. In fact it appears to just be a smudge in the paint. Gabriel's stance with his right hand pointed upward and bent at the elbow while the left hand moving into a positon directed downward is similar to the "Sign of Heaven and Earth," again connecting the message he brings to heaven and earth.

Mary's arms are crossed to represent what is known as the "Sign of Resignation," as a symbol of her obedience to God in receiving His message. Mary kneels infront of an open book to which she is said to have read the prophecy of Isaiah which says that a virgin shall bear a son.

Mary is wearing clothing of red and blue color. Blue traditionally is a representation of heavenly love and red, though used as a representation of the passion, is also used to depict love. Gabriel's red and white clothing show both love and spiritual transcendence. Everything else remains in neutral earth tones, making the two figures standout.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Discovery of the Homeland

After years of searching for the exact villages where my family and most of Albion and Medina's Polish Communities came from, everything fell into place at one moment. I was astounded that after years of looking at the same records that I finally had a revelation in reading old handwriting. Regardless, the presence of village names numbering somewhere around 5 to 8 along with the presence of one distinct region name allowed me to locate the true homeland by finding the region where all of these villages existed, most within 2 miles of each other.

I know that others before me have tried, through their own lineage search, to pinpoint exact locations to where their families were from. Most have suggested that their families originated in Pomerania, this is not to discount those suggestions. It is possible that many families, including mine and those of others in Albion, relocated to Pomerania prior to their immigration to America. I cannot, however, fail to note the place names recorded amongst the books at St. Mary's Assumption Church. Perhaps the names recorded by Rev. Castaldi at St. Joseph's Church would prove to be unreliable, but those recorded by Rev. Swinko and Rev. Dyminski, both Polish immigrants themselves.

So what village names DO appear in the record books of St. Mary's Assumption Church? Of course figuring in my unrefined ability to read old handwriting, my lack of knowledge regarding the Polish language and place names along with misspellings and abbreviations on behalf of the Priests, I can discern a list of villages recorded with my ancestors names including:
Haber or Waber

If you click on the above map, it will blow it up and you will notice Chelmno, Obory, Zyglad and Papowo.

The reason I can be so sure of this location as being the origin of my Polish families is the presence of Culm. Culm is a distinct region, specifically the English spelling for Kulm, now known as Chelmno. From Kulm meaning hill, the area was most commonly refered to as Kulm throughout its history, especially during the Nazi Occupation. Chelmno was used to exterminate 150,000 Poles, Jews, Gypsies and Soviet POWs between 1941 and 1943. Upon the initial occupation in 1939, many of the Poles within the surrounding villages were killed. Those who survived hid in the woods located in the countryside.

Poland's history is rather interesting and one might not even consider it Polish History, but the history of Russia, Germany and Austria. Years of land divisions between the three countries, starting in the late 18th Century rid Europe of the Kingdom of Poland, as depicted in the painting below.

When looking at the history of Poland in the late 18th Century and through the 19th Century, it becomes difficult to understand how a person could ever consider themselves Polish. Poland had ceased to exist for nearly 100 years by the time my Great Grandfather Francis Kaniecki was born in the Kulm region of what is now Poland. At the time of his birth, Prussia or the newly unified Germany would have been in control of the region. Perhaps it was the presence of the Polish language which helped to retain some sort of national pride throughout those 100+ years. Perhaps the culture and will of each passing generation helped to hold on to the sense of Poland.

I have to admit though in all honesty, the most difficult thing to wrap my mind around is that not only was my Great Grandfather Francis Kaniecki born under the reign of Germany's Iron Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, but my 2nd Great Grandfather Anthony Kaniecki was only two years old when Bismarck became Chancellor and lived most of his childhood and early adult life in a culturally and religiously oppressive environment. Besides all of this, my 3rd Great Grandfather Mathias Kaniecki was born amongst the turmoil of the Napoleonic Wars. Through my research, I have felt the most connected to my Kaniecki family simply because the traditions and family that I was the closest with growing up was my Polish family and traditions. Its amazing to feel so close to that, it's something most people don't think about on a regular basis.

Chelmno shows up in this map, north of Torun within the Prussian division of Poland. This map represents the early divisions of Poland in the late 18th Century.

So, in examining the records at St. Mary's Assumption Church, the majority, if not all of the Polish immigrants are listed as being from the German Sector either Borussia (Latin for Prussia) or Posen. Posen is now refered to as Poznan in Wielkopolskie or the Greater Poland voivodeship.

The Greater Poland - Wielkopolskie Coat of Arms
The Kujawsko-Pomorskie Coat of Arms

Regardless of whether or not the Albion Polish Community and my particular family is strictly Pomeranian isn't important. In fact, Chelmno and Swiecie Counties are located just to the south of Pomorskie, which is the Pomeranian Voivodship. Interestingly enough, the coat of arms for each region seems to tell a story about the cultural background. The presence of the Griffin seems to be distinctly German in background whereas the Falcon has become the mainstay for Poland, as often is paired with the flag. We see the presence of the Falcon in Wielkopolskie's coat of arms and the presence of the Griffin in the coat of arms for Pomorskie and Zachodnipomorskie. However, in Kujawsko-Pomorskie the coat of arms is half Griffin and half Falcon...interesting?

The Pomorskie Coat of Arms
The Zachodniopomorskie Coat of Arms

The following map will show the current voivodships. Kujawsko-Pomorskie is the green colored region in the north. To the north of that is Pomorskie and to the west of Kujawsko-Pomorskie is Wielkopolskie. Most of Albion's Polish population is from Wielkopolskie and Kujawsko-Pomorskie, both which were under German/Prussian control for the 19th Century and a good portion of the 20th Century. Below the map is the coat of arms for the old Province of Pomerania as it was under Prussian control. You'll notice that the flags contain both the Eagle which is traditionally associated with Prussia and the Griffin. The Griffin symbolizes fortitude and wisdom.

The next step is to send away to Chelmno County, most likely the Roman Catholic Churches, one being named Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (same as Albion) and request the marriage certificate of my Great Great Grandparents Anthony Kaniecki and Marianna Tkaczyk to confirm that they are infact from that region.

So here are some of the surnames I found, in Albion, as being from Chelmno/Swiecie Counties:
Zwiewka (Zwifka)
Rajs - Rais - Reis - Rice
The Chelmno County Coat of Arms