Combining Identities: How Polish Immigrants are Making a New Life in the U.S.

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.


Battling the Beast: Hiking Bishop’s Peak

When any student comes to Cal Poly, the biggest challenge on their “bucket list” is hiking one of the Nine Sisters.  Although some simply want to hike any of them, most aspire to hike the infamous “Bishop’s Peak.”

The Nine Sisters are a chain of inactive volcanoes which stretch along the central coast from San Luis Obispo to Morro Bay.

At 1,559 feet, Bishop’s Peak is the tallest of all of the mountains and has the most beautiful reward at the top – the view.  Combining its height and rocky path, Bishop’s Peak’s trail forms one of the toughest hikes that hikers can endure and I have ever been on.

“Whenever I come to hike Bishop’s I know that I’m in for a good workout,” said Maggie Christensen, a passerby on the trail; “I will never hike this thing in the afternoon because it gets so hot and I know I won’t make it past the first few steps.”

Although the trek is fun, it is also dangerous, so when you do go up, be sure to be careful.  In recent years, there has been a number of people falling off  the cliffs at the top and getting hurt.  But, if you make sure to adhere to the safety proceedings, you will be perfectly fine and have a great time.

I went on this hike this past Sunday and decided to shoot a little taste of what you’ll be getting yourself into when you ultimately “battle the beast” and hike Bishop’s Peak.


Mustangs Must (Go) to a Cal Poly Sporting Event

Picture this: The sound of sneakers squeak along the freshly polished hardwood floor, the smell of the snack shack fills the gymnasium, you are sitting in the stands watching your favorite team dominate the competition, your team scores a game winning point and the crowds go wild.

To me at least, this sounds like one of the best nights that anyone, especially one that college students can have.  

College sporting events are some of the most riveting forms of entertainment that people can go to.  However, students tend to be shied away because they often think that sporting events, like other events that are put on by Cal Poly, cost money to get in.  But, in fact, admission to any game on campus is free with a PolyCard.

I for one, have been taking advantage of this free form of entertainment for all three of my years at Cal Poly and love every experience I have.  In the fall, I attend football games most Saturdays, in the winter, you can always find me at a basketball game, and in the spring I love spending my Sunday afternoons at Baggot Stadium, watching a the baseball team play.  

Despite the fact that there are a number of Division 1 sports teams, there is also a wide variety Club Sports teams that have games throughout the year.  These games are free as well, and are just as lively and fun as any Division 1 Sports team’s. I had the opportunity to sit down with one of Cal Poly’s very own Men’s Club Volleyball team members to see just what crowd support does for the team as well as their upcoming season.

Cal Poly offers cheap thrills for everyone!

We as college kids today, tend to be “ballin on a budget,” at least according to Kristina Shevchyk; however, we are constantly in need of some form of entertainment.  Because of this, we always are on the lookout for things to do that are cheap, but are still fun. In response to this cry for constant amusement, Cal Poly, its clubs, and organizations offer a variety of events to students, as well as the community, that are affordable and fun!  

This past Thursday, Cal Poly’s radio station, KCPR, put on a showing of the 1988 Halloween classic, “Beetlejuice,” at the Palm Theatre to help members of the San Luis Obispo community to get into the “spooky spirit.” My friends and I had heard this, and knew that we had to go see it since we practically grew up watching the film!  

Once we arrived, we waited in line to get our tickets, and to our great surprise, they were only eight dollars – which is a perfect price for those looking to not break the bank!  After getting our popcorn, we made our way to our seats, and anxiously awaited the movie.

After the movie was over, I asked around the audience members to what they thought about the experience as a whole. I received many responses about how they had watched the movie as a child, so when they heard that KCPR was putting it on they needed to go. However, to my surprise, I also got some responses from people who had never seen the movie before.

“Coming into the movie, I had no idea what to expect since I had never seen it before, but after seeing it, I can definitely say that it was interesting, but good!” said Shevchyk; adding “I liked it, but there were definitely some parts watchin it that I felt a little uncomfortable.”

For anyone – especially students –  looking for a good time, I would highly suggest taking a look at what Cal Poly and its on-campus organizations have to offer.  Often times, events going on cost little to nothing, and range from movie nights at the Palm Theatre, or roller skating in the MAC, to even Trivia Nights at Mustang Station.

“I would definitely go to another event put on by Cal Poly,” said Shevchyk; adding “I had a lot of fun for cheap and would definitely recommend going to all things put on for anyone looking for some cheap fun!”

Adventure awaits even 45 minutes away!

The central coast offers a wide variety of spectacular places within driving distance from San Luis Obispo.  Many students take advantage of this and go on day-trips to a number of places.

About 45 minutes north along Highway 1, sits the beloved coastal and woodsy town of Cambria, California. Cambria, offers its visitors a number of places to shop, eat and grab a delicious piece of olallieberry pie for dessert, as well as experience some fun fall festivities.  Join me on my day trip to Cambria and see why Cal Poly students should take advantage of the wonderous places around them – even if it’s just for the day!

This past weekend, my mom came to visit so we could have a girls’ weekend. On Saturday, we had heard about the infamous “Scarecrow Festival” in Cambria as well as a Harvest Festival that was going on in the town’s East Village.

When we first got there, we stopped by the Cambria Pines Lodge because we had heard that there was a large Halloween display that they had set up. It was more than anything I could have imagined! Pumpkins, pop-up cemeteries, ghosts, and coffins with zombies bursting out of them flooded the grounds and made for a fully immersive experience.

After walking around the lodge grounds, we decided to head into the East Village to grab some lunch at the locally famous restaurant, “Linn’s,” known for making olallieberry everything. I treated myself to a veggie panini, an enormous cream puff, and an olallieberry, banana split.

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Lunch today. #webbtime28 #cambriaca

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In order to let our food settle, we decided to walk around the town and take a look at the abundance of scarecrows scattered around.  The businesses in town hand-make “scarecrows” that have to do with their business or simply things they enjoy, each is submitted to be judged, and a winner is declared at the end of the month!  Although I found some to be slightly creepy, there were definitely some that were absolutely stunning!

We eventually made our way over to the Cambria Historical Museum where a small Harvest Festival was being held. Rachel Kenney was one of the vendors. She runs her business, REK Inc., and hand-makes each beautiful piece of jewelry that she sells.  I even decided to purchase a ring and have worn it every day since as well!

It soon became dark and my mom told me that she made reservations at a nice restaurant in town called “The Black Cat” where I had one of the best ribeyes that I have had in my life.  It was paired with steamed quinoa, a salad, and shallots, and I made sure to eat every last bite. After dinner we walked back to our car and drove back to San Luis Obispo.

I am so happy that I made this day-trip because it gave me a chance to connect more with my community and experience one of the best days that I have had of my college career.  Students at Cal Poly definitely need to take advantage of the area around them because they will ultimately discover the great world around them and make memories to last a lifetime. Remember, adventure awaits – even a mere 45 minutes away!

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