Pictured: Dylan Mowat, Stan Machosky and Kate Howell
On Tuesday, June 7, PACT (Polish-American Community of Toledo) awarded two Scholarships to local students who had competed in an essay contest addressing “What Having a Polish-American Heritage Means to Me.” The winners were Katherine Howell, daughter of Tony and Kelly Howell of Perrysburg and Dylan Mowat, son of Dr. Rex and Linda Mowat of Sylvania . Kate will be entering Notre Dame Academy as a freshman and Dylan Mowat will be a senior at St. John’s Jesuit High School in September. PACT congratulates both Kate and Dylan for winning their scholarships. Dylan’s and Kate’s essays appear below.
WHAT HAVING A POLISH-AMERICAN HERITAGE MEANS TO ME
by Kate Howell
It was 3 years ago that my father handed out Christmas presents to everyone. In the present was a family tree with its origins in the 1700’s in Wales. My father had traced his family name back six generations. That is when I became interested in my heritage and lineage. As I am only 1/16 Welsh, the ancestral research was fascinating; however, I am half Polish as my mother was born to Polish parents.
Since that Christmas, I have become enthralled with Polish culture. My mother, an avid dancer in her youth, has regaled me with many stories of how her dance troop would go city to city dancing at Polish-American festivals. I, too, am an avid dancer, trained in ballet, jazz, tap, and modern. My passion for dance is certainly rooted in my mother’s Polish dancing passion. My mother has also described how her grandfather (her mother’s father) left Poland with virtually nothing to come to America for a better life for his wife, children and all of his future descendants. Well, I am one of those descendants, and I could not be more proud of the courage he showed, so that I might have the opportunity to flourish. Looking at the things around me, I cannot imagine what it must have been like to start over in a new land. No friends, No land. No job. Just the hope of a better future. He did this for me. So what does a Polish-American heritage mean to me? Proud to acknowledge that someone a long time ago planted the seeds from which I now sow.
My mother’s step-father also emigrated from Poland in his 20’s, but first he served in the Polish army in World War II fighting the Axis powers. He provided my mother with a different perspective of what it meant to be in America and have the freedoms we often times take for granted.
It is also interesting that my mother and father were married at a Polish Catholic church, St. Adalbert’s, and officiated by a Polish priest, Father Grudzinski. My mother insisted on enjoying her Polish heritage during one of the biggest days of her life. I intend to follow in her footsteps and celebrate my Polish heritage at my wedding as well. Our family has also attended the Polish-American festival on Lagrange Street and bore witness to the births of dozens of pierogies. It is a part of where I come from and will certainly play a role in where my life will go.
I will always treasure the family tree Dad gave me 3 years ago, but it is not nearly complete. It only represents 1/16 of who I am, and I am diligently working my Polish half to attain a better understanding of that history of which I now enjoy.
MY POLISH ROOTS
by Dylan Mowat
What is important about being of Polish heritage? It is my identity, and I’m proud of it?
I’m the 2nd generation on my mother’s side of the family to be born in America. My grandfather was born in Krakow, Poland on August 14th, 1934. At the age of 5 he was sent to a concentration camp by the Germans. Once he was released in 1945, Poland was already occupied by the Russian Communists, invading Germany from the East. He sailed to America at age 15. While in the Korean War, he became an American citizen. When he returned from the war, he worked as a janitor and worked his way up at General Motors (GM) to be a General Forman. My grandma (I call her Babcia) was born in Hamtramck, Michigan where she met my grandfather and married him. She is 2nd generation. My mom was born January 10th, 1963. I was born on February 19th, 1994.
I have many reasons to be proud to be Polish. My grandparents are very hardworking and industrious and represent all that is great to be Polish. Like my grandparents, I don’t rely on others to do my work and show up every day to make the world a better place. I am very proud of my community work with the Alzheimer patients at Flower Hospital and feel I am carrying out a tradition set for me by my grandparents. My grandparents are very family oriented and religious as many Polish immigrants are. My Uncle Kevin is a priest in Midland, Michigan. Like them, I too am very religious and devoutly Catholic carrying on the practices of my family and all that is good to be Polish.
I am also a lot like my great-grandmother who I can barely remember. My dad recalls when he first met her she was on her knees outside her house in Detroit cleaning her sidewalk. My dad thought it was something out of a movie. Like her, I am very tidy and always cleaning my room and house to keep things perfect for everyone else. These traits though important are not the most important trait passed down to me from my relatives. I most prize the love of family my Polish relatives have. From a very early age I longed to go to Detroit to visit, as my relatives had such great joy and fun just being together as a family. Opening Christmas presents, eating dinners, talking about what we did at school; all these things were very important to my family and me.
To be Polish has been a great joy. We’re hardworking, neat, family oriented, happy in life, and rich in history. It’s these features that bind all Polish people together as one.