Friday, February 7, 2014

Dance with a Polish Girl

Source
My first year in the Air Force, I was 21. I had a cute Polish girlfriend, Natalia Kosciolek. There were a lot of Polish families that had immigrated to Nebraska, and many of them were quite attractive. But the culture came with them. If you wanted to date them, you had to meet their families, and also attend their festivities. Our first date was to a reception after a wedding in which Polish music was played and people danced.

I felt very out of place, although all were very friendly. I left soon after this dancing challenge.

There was disappointment on Natalia's face. I was just too young at that time to "get it." It was a whole new world.

She asked me why I had to go "so soon"

I said something I can't remember – an excuse about having something I had to do. It was obviously not true.

She walked me to the door. I saw her smile diminish, and a sad look wash over her, and that really made me feel just awful, because I really liked her.

I probably should have stayed. One of those regrets we have from youth.

She later called me and said, "My mother had told me, 'Don't invite your GI boyfriend on a first date to a Polish affair, because it might be just too much,' scare you off; did it?"

I replied, "Well, Natasha, I really like you, but, I just don't fit into all that. Yes, I think it scared me off a bit, the music, the dancing, the camaraderie. I don't know how I could be accepted."

We still had a few date-dates after that. But, it was the remembrance of a culture I felt alien to, that I knew was waiting for me around the corner, if anything were to come of this.

Ironically, one year later, I ended up marrying a Polish girl. And, her grandfather told me many interesting and terrifying events of his family's escape to America from Poland during German occupation.

***


I read the above on the page of Rusty Walker, a Facebook friend. It's a short, bittersweet reminiscence. I was struck by how poignant it is, though short. I was also struck by how Rusty conveys the cultural differences he encountered when he intermingled with Polish-Americans. With Rusty's permission I post his story here.

Rusty says that the song he danced to may be this one.

Rusty is an artist. You can see his work at his webpage, here



Rusty Walker

3 comments:

  1. Reading through this, I smiled through the entire story and your comments. Yes, it was bittersweet.
    I have matured into a great admirer of all cultures now. I research and enjoy the different folk music that comes with it. Many of those early historical folk melodies are found influencing other cultures down through the ages.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Keep your hands off our Polish women

    ReplyDelete
  3. Magdalena Pasnikowska offers this comment:

    I really don't know what to think For one, I am Polish and come from Poland, so I don't see anything weird or exotic about myself at all; on the other hand, from what I can see, Pol-Am culture has evolved differently than "mainland Poland" so to speak, and would probably seem a bit alien to me were I to immerse myself in it... All in all, I read the blog post but I can't really understand it, because what actually freaked our protagonist out is left implied, and I don't get the underlying context. Why would a Polish wedding reception scare anybody? The Polish wedding receptions I have attended were rather harmless affairs; there must be something you Polish Americans keep a deep dark secret!

    ReplyDelete

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