Bob is Polish ­ and proud of it

Bob is Polish ��and proud of it by Bob Karolevitz Several weeks ago I wrote a column in which I confessed that I was part German-from-Russia.

The other half of me � from an ethnic standpoint is Polish, and I hasten to defend that nationality whose people came to America long before the Deutschmen ever left the Crimea.

Admittedly, then, I�m a token Polack in the middle of that lutefisk and lefse belt near Mission Hill in Yankton County where there are more Scandihoovians per square citizen than Carter�s got pills. I should be from Grenville on the northern edge of Waubay Lake which is the only community in South Dakota where Polanders settled.

You can tell because the cemetery there is full of unpronounceable names!

Needless to say, I take satisfaction in my partial heritage. And it�s nice to live in a state where Norwegians and Bohemians bear the brunt of jokes, and not Polacks.

I�ve tried to learn the vowel-sparse language, but I can�t seem to master those guttural sounds. I marvel at those who can speak multiple tongues, be they Mexicans, Native Americans, French or Svengalis.

But I digress!

One of the highlights of my life was going to Chicago with the late Ross Fenn to receive the Polish Gold Merit Cross for our book, Flight of Eagles. We were feted royally; and as a part of the ceremony, the guests in the Polish hall all rose and toasted us as they sang ��in Polish � May You Live a Hundred Years.

I didn�t understand a word, but the emotion of the occasion ��tears fell by the bucketsful ��was something I�ll never forget.

The medal and the accompanying certificate hang on my office wall to remind me of the event. The framed document � in Polish � tells about the award, but I don�t understand it either!

The Polish white eagle looks down on me. James Michener�s book, Poland, is in my library, along with a couple Polish dictionaries. There�s a Polish polka record by Joe Tomaszewski on the shelf, and a Polish flag next to the South Dakota one.

Phyllis even has two Polish cookbooks to please my gastronomical satiety � but I�d never tasted pierogis, bigos, kasa jaglans, wild boar (djik) or carp in jelly (karp w galarecie). I�m surfeited with Polish stuff; no wonder I call myself a Polander.

I was always just a loyal American before the late great accordionist, Lou Prohut, told me I was Polish, and I should be proud of it. He was from Chicago where ethnicity means a lot to the folks there.

Well, since then I�ve been a Pole (the former Polish pope didn�t hurt either), so I guess I�m stuck with it.

It could be worse. I could be a Martian.

� 2005 Robert F. Karolevitz

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