Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 72- Justyna Kowalczyk

Since my family assimilated into this country a few generations before I was born, I was raised as an American.  I don't speak any of my ancestors' native languages, I haven't been to any sort of homeland, and I don't have any strong ties to my Polish and Irish roots.

I did have some samplings of culture while I was growing up, though.  My Grandma Ginny makes golumptious golumpkis (stuffed cabbage rolls) for every holiday gathering, while my Grandma Katie makes kruschiki (bow tie cookies)- two Irish ladies who are excellent Polish cooks.  We celebrate Fat Tuesday each year with Paczkis from the European Bakery in Jackson, a place my family has frequented since my great grandpa's first visit there 82 years ago.  Are you noticing a food pattern here?  My grandparents gifted all of us granddaughters with beautiful Claddagh rings, an Irish tradition.  I attended my first real polka this past summer and, of course, sampled various other foods.  Our family also has a tradition of attending a Polish Midnight Mass every Christmas Eve, where carols are sung in Polish and my grandpa tears up in rememberance of the past.  It gets me every time.

I have thought more and more about my roots lately.  I am constantly challenged in my classes to consider and reflect on who I am and why.  I am encouraged to think about issues of culture, and this leaves me wanting to know more about my own cultures outside of being an American.  My interest also grows as I get closer to having the means to actually travel to the places that my family comes from.  Over the past few years, my dad has been able to establish great friendships with relatives in Poland, and my parents have even had a few of them come to visit (which resulted in a greater knowledge of choice Polish alcoholic beverages).  How exciting would it be to travel to Poland and Ireland to visit?

Today, in the spirit of the Olympics, I had the opportunity to cheer for a Polish sister of mine.  Girlfriend won a hard fought 30 km cross country ski race to win the first ever winter gold medal for a Polish female Olympian.  I now have my very own cultural icon to look up to :).

Thank you, Justyna Kowalczyk, you made my day.    

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