Emigrants & Immigrants: My Paternal Grandparents

 

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Paweł Banas and his father watched from behind a tree. It wasn’t his family’s land, it wasn’t his family’s lake but they were his family’s ducks, if ducks could belong to anyone. And when he and his father saw the Russian soldiers shooting them he knew it was time to leave for America.

There wasn’t an eligible bachelor left in Sandomierz that Mary Szata had not refused. As punishment for her recalcitrant ways her landed family sent her abroad to the newish world of America. There she lived the rest of her days, missing Poland terribly.

How they came to be man and wife I don’t know.  Perhaps, there are documents, fading as I type this, that detail their union. Their last surviving child, my aunt Mary, is 95 years old, at an age when, as my cousin said, “memories become more a source for comfort than facts.”

I wonder why I am so interested in people I never met. Yet, I’ve always been like that. Am I looking for comfort in facts and memories or to elide them in stories?

What is a memory, but an emigrant, an immigrant traveling from somewhere or another to somewhere else or another in the great, domestic, international, dialectic clash of thesis and antithesis, the here and the there to form the now which, sooner, or later, if its lucky, lives forever, or as long as well can tell, in memory?  What did the soldiers do with the dead ducks? Did my great-grandparents regret exiling their daughter?

I don’t know. I could make up a story from those two sentences and argue fiction is greater than truth, but it might be best to let them wander like the Truth. Sooner or later, Truth finds a home.

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