Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Poles

In the 18th century, Poland was carved up by its jealous and powerful neighbors when, in 1772, Catherine the Great of Russia, Frederick the Great of Prussia and Maria Theresa of Austria annexed sections of Poland. By 1795, the once-great nation had almost disappeared from the map. The next century saw a relentless attack on Polish identity with restrictions to Polish language, culture and religion, as well as the conscription of their young men to serve in the armies of their oppressors. As conditions grew worse in the last three decades of the 19th century, legions of Poles fled to America.
Poles began arriving in Globeville during the 1880s to work in the nearby smelters. As people became established, they encouraged friends and relatives to join them and a small Polish community developed in the 4500—4800 blocks of Washington, Pearl, Pennsylvania, Logan and Grant Streets, and on Emerson Street near the Platte River.
Poles in Globeville formed organizations that would provide financial help in the event of sickness, injury and death and offered the comfort of old-country customs as they eased into American life. In 1889, Globeville's Poles organized Towarzystwo sw Marcina (St. Martin’s Society), Lodge #134, as part of the national Polish National Alliance.
Since they had been persecuted for their religion in the old country, lodge members then began to raise money for a Polish church and, in 1902, built St. Joseph's Polish Catholic Church.
Poles moved up the economic ladder, assimilated and moved to better neighborhood in Arvada and Wheat Ridge. Yet the "Polishness" of St. Joseph's persists as immigrants have arrived after the fall of communism and a younger generation calls St. Joseph's their spiritual home. The Polish lodge survives as well and makes its home in Wheat Ridge.
Father Jarzynski, pastor from 1902 to 1922, and a class of first communicants in 1914. Photo from Andy Jackson.

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