Turns out more than meets the eye.
My Dad’s parents came to the US
from Poland. My Dad researched
his family history in Poland. Or was it Poland?
Immigration papers listed the family
as Austrians. Or were they? Maybe
Prussians , Austrians or Polish? Birth
records were in Radgoszcz, Poland.
Poland emerged as an independent nation
again after WW I. My Dad’s family settled in Western
Massachusetts and considered themselves
Polish. Between 1772-1795 Poland was
partitioned between Russia, Prussia and Austria.
As a Fulbright Teacher to Germany, I was intrigued
when colleagues guessed my name to mean “the
German Girl” which fascinated me since I
had a Ph.D. in German and taught it.
The beginning of my family name meant
a “person who did not speak
the language” which made sense to me. In
border countries, people suddenly had a new
language to learn. Before my Polish grandmother
came to this country in her twenties, she
told us of walking over the border and working
in Germany. Maybe it was Prussia or Austria?
Another colleague in Germany was
convinced that I was German “in my other
life” which confused me. Later I learned that
this individual believed in reincarnation.
My Dad researched family history and
wrote the family genealogy after researching
church records in Radgoszcz, Poland.
Speaking with a former student today, I was
reminded of my family history. As a German
teacher of almost 50 years, I consider my
name to be German or Austrian. Who
knows? My Dad considered it Polish since
he traced and visited several distant relatives
located in Poland. Since borders frequently
changed, so too did countries. And family stories.