Originally from the coastal town of Gydina near the city of Gdansk in Poland, Anna and Greg Jablonoskis fled to the United States in search of asylum from the communist government at the time.
“We were political refugees,” said Gregory.
Now the two reside in Fullerton, California with their daughter Maya, where Gregory is an accountant and Anna is a nurse at St. Jude Hospital nearby.
The Jablonowskis are three of the estimated 9,258,128 people of Polish descent in the United States. Although, a majority reside in clusters on the east coast (New York specifically), the pair decided to go against the norm and moved to the west coast.
“We chose Orange County specifically because we had friends who we met in Hamburg, Germany, and they immigrated to Orange County, so we just followed them,” said Gregory; adding, “It just seemed like the right decision.”
Even though the Jablonowskis live in the United States now, they still make sure their Polish roots are not forgotten. To this day they still make sure to participate in and celebrate Polish traditions and holidays in order to bring them a sense of joy.
Escaping Communism in Poland
Some Polish immigrants came to the United States in order to simply make a better life for themselves; however, a majority of them came to flee the communism in the country.
Claiming to be the “universal truth of revolutionary theory”, communist ideals promoted the complete metamorphosis of the world’s political and cultural arena.
After World War II, the communist regime came about as a response to the country’s liberation by the Red Army and ‘Big Three’ and its eventual secession to Soviet ideals. This continued for many years until it’s ultimate demise in the 1980s.
Although Poland was considered communist, the large cities throughout the country resemble those of the United States.
Despite living in a harsh political climate, the only “shock” that hit the pair was not “cultural” at all.
“The only difference that there really was, was maybe the weather,” said Anna; adding, “palm trees were the only thing that seemed unfamiliar to me.”
Because of this, the Jablonowskis as well as other Polish immigrants found assimilating to United States’ culture was easier for them.
Catholicism Provides Community for the Polish Identity in the U.S.
Poland as a whole is considered one of the world’s most religiously homogeneous countries. In fact, the majority (around 99%) of the country’s children are baptized Roman Catholic as babies; most weddings in the country (93%) are paired with a church ceremony; and between 90% and 98% of the population will answer “Roman Catholic” when asked about their religion.
Because of this, when the bulk of Polish immigrants came to the United States, there was one institution that offered to help and provide support right of the bat: The Roman Catholic Church.
“At the start, we had some help from the Polish Catholic Charities located [here] in Orange County, so when we came here we would have some place to live” said Anna; adding, “They even fitted us with some basic stuff for the kitchen and gave us bedding. It was a great help.”
Many Polish immigrants also helped found Catholic Churches and centers which provided them with a support system and helped them ease into American culture.
The Saint Pope John Paul II Polish Center in Yorba Linda, California provided this for the Jablonowskis. It also gave their daughter a support system of “friends” that make her feel like “part of the culture” when she’s around them.
The Personal Sacrifices of an Immigrant
Like most immigrants in the United States, the Jablonowskis are happy with their new life.
However, they have found at times it can be difficult. For instance, not seeing relatives for years at a time and missing milestones like birthdays and graduations was “always kind of sad,” but to them it was the “price to pay of being an immigrant.”
“You basically have to live with that. You only see pictures probably years later because at that time there was no internet and the post was very slow. You sometimes would have to wait months for the letters to arrive. So, we went through those celebrations probably a year or even more behind,” said Gregory.
However, to the family, as well as other immigrant families, this is well worth living in America. Through making trips back to their homeland every few years and keeping in touch on the phone, they still make sure to live out their Polish identity while maintaining their new American Identity.