The Land of the Free - Documentary Film
$20 Raised
0% of $17k goal
1 contributor
4 Years running
There is a very unique community living in the United States today. They speak Polish, even though they have never been to Poland. They consider themselves Polish, even though there is a golden eagle on their passports and their ancestors moved to this co More ...

This story goes back to year 1854 when about 300 Polish settlers first arrived in Galveston, Texas following a Polish priest’s invitation to start a new life, thousands of miles from their home country. They settled in south-west Texas, south of San Antonio, Texas. After the Civil War around 1870, another group of Poles arrived at the same port, coming mainly from the Wielkopolska and Małopolska (also called Galicia) regions of Poland. They decided to choose east-central Texas as their new home and they spread out into a number of little towns – such as New Waverly, Bremond, Marlin, Bryan, Chappell Hill, Brenham, Anderson, Stoneham, Bellville and Hempstead. Apart from what little belongings they brought with them, they also had their Polish hearts and spirit, which helped them survive in this new land. The Polish language, music, traditional celebrations and cuisine were always part of their day to day life, reminding them of their motherland and the families they left behind. The Polish culture was attentively passed from one generation to the next, in an attempt to keep it alive forever.

Today, you can still hear Polish spoken on the streets in these little Texan towns. What is remarkable is that the language remained pretty much unchanged since the arrival of the first Polish immigrants. Even the descendants of the first Polish settlers living around the state of Texas, which is territorially twice the size of Poland, remember their roots and cultivate Polish culture that they learned from their parents, grandparents and great grandparents.

Who we are

My name is Dr Marcin Zielinski. I’m a post-doctoral researcher working at Texas A&M. In 2011, just after my arrival in Texas, I had the great opportunity to meet Dr Jim Mazurkiewicz, who introduced me to his family’s story and to the Polish Texans community. As someone, who just arrived straight from Poland I was very fascinated by the history of the Polish Texans and the way they strongly worked together to preserve their Polish heritage in each community. Even though Irish culture is considered to be the strongest among its immigrant descendants around the world, we find Polish heritage in Texas amazingly unique, vibrant, strong and aware of its origins. They form an extraordinary group of people enveloping in their hearts both – true American patriotism and love for their roots.

Soon after experiencing the distinctive approach to Polish history and culture by the immigrant descendants in Texas, I took the experience back to Poland to share with a group of my friends, who are actively engaged in preserving their heritage. In short, they were greatly fascinated by the stories I brought back and they were hesitant to believe that such people live in Texas today. As the result of my stories and visit to Poland, my dear friend, Mr Kuba Pietrzak – film maker - visited me in September 2012 in Texas and we managed to record some samples of the stories from Bremond and Chappel Hill. Even in Poland it is now difficult to find such powerful feelings for Polish culture and tradition, which makes the Polish Texans an even more interesting subject matter for a documentary film. Mr Pietrzak produced a short documentary (presented here) from our brief trip and it was distributed to our friends in Poland.

From the growing popularity of this short video, we observed a raising demand for a full feature documentary about this unexplored cultural niche. As time passes, more and more of the old generation “leave” our communities, taking with them an important treasure for our nation, a unique perspective on the Polish heritage. Therefore, it is important for us, young Poles, to help our Polish Texan friends not only to be recognized in the country of their ancestors, but mainly to help them preserve the Polish cultural inheritance they nurtured for almost 160 years and share this treasure with Poles and Texans alike.
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