Tuesday, November 13, 2018


My book, Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype is a scholarly book. This blog is usually pretty dry. My goal is to demonstrate that Poles and other Eastern European, Christian, peasant-descent persons are stereotyped. Getting emotional does not help in that work. Facts may help. 

This morning I checked into Facebook, discovered a series of abusive posts from a stranger, and tried to ignore them. I was cleaning house, and I had to handle many items I inherited from my brother Joe, who died recently. 

And I began to cry. 

I posted the following on Facebook. I am sharing it here, unedited. 

Whiny post.

And what I want to whine about is so obscure, maybe no one reading this will have any idea of what I am trying to say.

Two things happened this morning.

I am cleaning house. I checked into Facebook.

Some troll I have never heard of, not my Facebook friend but Facebook friend of a Facebook friend, WASP first and last name, commented on one of my posts.

Gist of his post: You Polax are the scum of the earth.

Look -- is your identity something people can use to hurt you?

Is the very name of your identity something people can use to hurt you?

"Polak" is the Polish word for "Polish man."

How do you know if your house has been robbed by a Polak? The garbage can is empty and the dog is pregnant.

How do you tell a bride at a Polish wedding?

The one with the braided armpits.

How do you know if a Polak has her period?

She's wearing only one sock.

These jokes are not as popular as they once were, but they were at their height of popularity when I was in high school. A vulnerable age.

The Brute Polak stereotype is the rich, white liberal version of the Polak joke.

"You Polaks are the world's worst haters. You just marched for your Independence Day? It was a hate march. I know because I am a rich, white liberal, and a WASP, and I am better than you. Why? Because my people rule the world and you are a *POLAK*. So just shut the fuck up and let my superior, rich, white liberal ooze suffocate you."

So. First thing this morning, I take a break from cleaning house, and this is what I confront.

Scroll past. Scroll past.

I saw a post from Teri, one of my favorite Facebook friends. She saw the photo I posted of my dad in his uniform. He joined the service when he was underage.

Of my dad, Teri wrote, "So handsome. He has happy eyes."

I just wanted to burst into tears .

Because the story of my Polish immigrant-family dad joining the service when he was underage is not a happy story.

It's a freaking nightmare of a story.

And I can't tell it to you. It's *his* story.

Let's just say that when I tell this story to close friends, their jaws drop and they say, "Oh my God."

The pain. The horror. what happened to him. And then hunger and frustration and being persecuted by the Feds, hitting the rails, trying to support his family during the Depression, not speaking English well, not having so much as a grade school diploma, and finally joining the service when he was just a child ... so he and his family could eat.

I choked back tears after I read Teri's comment.

and I resumed cleaning house.

And I came across stuff I salvaged from among Joe's things.

Joe was a genius. That's not a compliment, it's an actual fact. Genius IQ. Antoinette had a genius IQ as well.

I watched them all die, and ... they had so much sorrow in their lives, and so much frustration, and they never achieved or enjoyed what they would have achieved or enjoyed if they had been born to WASP families who didn't have that burden of immigration history and wrong ethnicity.

Right now I'm wondering if anyone will understand this post. What it means to be poor, and white, and of immigrant, Bohunk stock in America.

My mother was the *best* natural writer I have ever known. As a teacher and writer I have read hundreds of people's writing. My mother was in another dimension from most people.

Her English, her second language of several, was pristine. Her vocabulary, her phrasing, her command. She could recite poetry from memory.

And she spent her life working in factories and cleaning houses, often in the same day.

And then maybe you take a shower and you go to college ... and your betters hear your name and put you in your place with a well-timed Polak joke.

And then rich, white liberals decide that you, Polak that you are, are the world's worst hater. And when you march to celebrate surviving over a hundred years of genocidal pressures, you, Polak you, must be publicly shamed. And shaming you is a righteous, holy thing to do.

I'm going to go cry now.

While I continue cleaning house.

My dad and my brother Joe. 


  1. Very moving, Danusha. I stand with you and by you.

    1. Gene thank you so much for your kind comment. I thought of you when I posted it. Your life was no bed of roses. You survived, you thrived.

      I was surprised by how many people responded positively to my post on Facebook. Many felt some identification with what I was trying to say.


Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
These themes include the false and damaging stereotype of Poles as brutes who are uniquely hateful and responsible for atrocity, and this stereotype's use in distorting WW II history and all accounts of atrocity.
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