Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Family History

Alas, brigands to a man, I am decended from. It's not quite surprising, though. My father's generation on both sides of teh family has made gret efforts to unravel the secrets, and here is what we know so far:

The Polish side of my family, through my dad's father, left Poland rather abruptly midway through the Russian Civil War. Apparently, they had made quite a profit helping smuggle Jews, intelligensia, and anyone else targetted by the NKVD or its predesessor from their side of the Russian border into Poland proper, and on to Europe proper. Obviously, this was not looked kindly upon by some of the worst torturers and butchers that the world has ever known. So, when a neighbor knocked in a panic one night, they rushed to the door. He explained as quickly as he could that said parties has politely questioned him at gunpoint as to his whereabouts. He had sent them two farms in the wrong direction, but they didn't have much time. They grabbed their ill gotten gains, the children, and loaded up the car. They dashed to the nearest port, and took off for the first place they saw: America. Now, between the ruination the Great Patriotic War brought and whatever means my great-grandfather used to dodge the secret police, the facts are shrouded in time. My dad grew up in Long Beach, CA, speaking Polish as a second language.

The French side of my family, through my mother's mother, was kicking it in the New World since the 1760's, maybe earlier. Parish records indicate that the first member of my family we can trace our lineage back to came over as a soldier in the service of the monarch. Essentially, from then up to the 1920s, my family was dirt-poor. As in, literally barely owning the dirt they lived in. However, all this rather abruptly changed in 1920s. My great-aunts and uncles recall tales of a 'Forbidden Barn' that smelt funny. My great-grandfather suddenly received a job in the local automobile licensing bureau, run by the local Liberal party member. Now, this may not seem odd...but it should, knowing the town numbered 200 odd souls. Suddenly, of a family of seventeen, all the girls under thirteen could afford to go to school. A few others were married off to an Irish family that shall remain nameless...and also basically runs the Montreal underground. My great-uncle Florian and a few others still repeat a a phrase that makes no sense without context whenever someone loses a game of cinq cent , the local version of bridge: "Awh, t'en va tu a CHICAGO!" For those of us who don't speak French, 'Looks like you're going to Chicago!'. Now, why would a hick from a place you can't find on a map say something like that? I mean, sure, they made regular trips down the St Lawrence weekly. And the year that Prohibition ended, somehow the local licensing place closed down.

Interesting the little facts that add up, isn't it?


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