Thursday, October 9, 2008

GUESS WHO CAME TO AMERICA EVEN BEFORE THE PILGRIMS DIDDespite the Statue of Liberty’s appeal to “give me your tired and yourpoor,” those who trace the

GUESS WHO CAME TO AMERICA EVEN BEFORE THE PILGRIMS DIDDespite the Statue of Liberty’s appeal to “give me your tired and yourpoor,” those who trace their American roots to New York’s Ellis Islandmight tell you these noble words of welcome were not always the fact.The new arrivals of a century ago were often given special names. The nameswere invented by those who claimed “we were here first” or, at least, that“we got here before you did.”Or, so they thought.The vocabulary of that era was often peppered with derogatory epithets like“kike,” “dago,” “honky” or “Polack,” among others. Today, our assumedcivility and political correctness compel us to refrain from such expletivesand refer to them as the “K,” “ D,” “ H” or “P” words.It’s no wonder organizations like the Jewish community’s Anti-DefamationLeague and, more recently, the Anti-Bigotry Committee of the Polish AmericanCongress became a necessity.Now comes the surprise. The name-callers who thought “we got here beforeyou did” most likely did not. In reality, those who were called these nastynames probably got here ahead of the name-callers. At least as far as thePolish Americans were concerned.When we sit down for our family dinner on Thanksgiving Day, how can we notreflect on the days of early America and the time England’s Pilgrims landedon Plymouth Rock in 1620.History clearly records them as one of America’s “firsts.”But another Englishman named John Smith came to America’s shores even beforethe Pilgrims did when he landed at Jamestown in 1607 to start the VirginiaSettlement.Now here’s what the name-callers who gave the Ellis Island immigrants such ahard time never learned in school.In 1608, when Captain Smith needed skilled craftsmen to help develop the newVirginia Colony, he invited a group of Polish artisans to come to Jamestownand bring their technical skills with them. The first factory in Americawas the glassworks the Polish settlers established at Jamestown.Their contribution to the growth of Virginia became an essential element ofits success. Despite the recognition they earned for their vital input tothe colony’s prosperity, they were refused the right to vote when electionswere to take place.What was the reason for the denial? It was because they were Polish.The Englishmen felt only the English should have a say in Virginia’sgovernment.So how did the Poles react? They simply stopped working. The economicpressure of their stoppage was effective and they were finally permitted tovote.The Poles not only made their point but they also established a precedent.They had succeeded in organizing the first labor and civil rights strikes onthe shores of the New World.To pay tribute to the historic achievements of Jamestown’s Polish workers,the Anti-Bigotry Committee, along with the rest of the Polish AmericanCongress and other major Polish American organizations, held specialcommemorative ceremonies at Jamestown on October 1st, exactly 400 years tothe day the Poles arrived in 1608.When you sit down for your Thanksgiving turkey next month, just remember thePoles got to America even before the Pilgrims did.It’s entirely possible, therefore, the first Thanksgiving Day may haveactually been celebrated in Virginia rather than in Massachusetts. Somepeople in Virginia say it was. However, nobody could say if turkey was themain dish that day.The Polish settlers came to Jamestown nearly two centuries before theAmerican Revolution and the formation of the United States out of theoriginal thirteen colonies. The story of Jamestown is a basic and integralpart of American history.And now, as the noted radio commentator Paul Harvey would say, “now you knowthe rest of the story.”Contact: Frank MilewskiAlex Lech BajanDirector of the Polish American CongressContact: Frank Milewski(718) 263-2700 – Ext. 105__________________Polish American Congress1612 K Street, N.W. Suite 410Washington, D.C. 20006Tel: (202) 296-6955Fax: (202) 835-1565Web: www.polamcon.org Inc.2004 North Monroe StreetArlington Virginia 22207Washington DC AreaUSATEL: 703-528-0114TEL2: 703-652-0993FAX: 703-940-8300sms: 703-485-6619EMAIL: polonia@raqport.comWEB SITE: http://raqport.comReplacement for the SUN COBALT RAQ LINENew Centos BlueQuartz with GUIsupply and global tech support