I always wondered why the Paternal side of my family hated the Maternal side…Ha! I found out why – my Mother’s parents were Jewish; my Father’s parents were Catholic.
After doing research on Ancestry.com under the name Kuczynski for ten years, I found out that Kuczynski was not their original name.! I found my Mother’s Mother, Janina, on a ship’s manifest for 1921. Janina was listed as “Hebrew” as were all the other passengers on that ship! The name she used was Kogutiuk (but misspelled there as Kogntink). I knew it was her from verifying information that also appeared.
Then I remembered being in High School and asking her why she left Poland. She said because of the “Pogroms”. I said what is a pogrom? And after her short reply I dropped the discussion. Young and stupid. What I would give now to have a discussion with her!
I also remembered that she never went to midnight mass with us! She had told me when I was a child that she was Jewish when I asked her why she didn’t go with us…
None of my Polish friends ate Kasha, but Grandma made it and I love it. A Jewish dish. I wish I had some now. Or all the other wonderful things that Grandma Janina made! Her cookie recipe is gone…she had shown me how to make it – but no measuring of course. I keep trying cookie recipes from Polish cookbooks but have yet to duplicate her recipe.
All the facts were there, but it didn’t sink into my brain. I had always been interested in reading about people who had been in concentration camps and survived. And I always looked for the name, “Kuczynski”. I knew all along that I was Jewish. I guess I was looking for verification.
When I finally found that ship’s manifest on ancestry.com, I was thrilled to have the fact written clearly: “Hebrew”.
So I can only guess why they raised their children to be Catholics. I think they were hiding. After having experienced a pogrom, I think they decided to play it safe.
So what does this information about my Jewish heritage do for me? Initially I was thrilled. Then I was mad that they had “robbed” me of my heritage. Of course I don’t blame them. Now it makes me proud to be among my people.
It passed my mind to start going to Synagogue but then I remembered: Synagogue’s are made up of people, just like the Christian churches. I had already drawn my own conclusion about Christian churches – they are full of hypocrites! So I nixed that idea.
I still continue to read about the Holocaust. I feel connected to “my people”. I sometimes wear a Star of David to honor my Grandparents.
And of course, I still search Jewish cookbooks!