Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day of Remembrance

Today when the typical older Amerikanski hears the word "rocket" the image that comes to his mind is about Niel Armstrong on the moon.  His parents thought about "Buck Rogers" in the fictionalized stories about things that were yet to come in that time.  In the 1960's in America there was a lot of talk about Werner Von Braun from Hitler's V2 rocket program who was now assisting the Americans in their "race for space."     

Again, what comes to the mind of Amerikanski is words to his national hymn.
O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

At the words "The rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air" there is moisture in the eyes of many patriotic Americans.  In school the American is taught about how the Chinese supposedly invented rockets.  There used to be a mention that Marco Polo brought this technology to the West, but of course there is no mention that Marco Polo was Croatian.  Sigh.

There might be some mention about how the British attempted to use rockets in the 18th century.  Of course their rockets were ineffective weren't they?  The Americans won against them - right?   So the school books skip ahead to the rockets of the invincible American military of the present time.  There's little mention of William Congreve whose work was behind "the rockets' red glare" in the hymn.

The American never hears about Kazimierz Siemienowicz.  I suppose its because his name is too long and too difficult to spell.  I will be the first to admit that Казімір Семяновіч is  much easier to spell in Belarusian than in Polish.  The man literally wrote the book on rocketry in 1650. His "Artis Magnae Artilleriae pars prima" stood as the basic artillery manual for the next two hundred years. 

Siemienowicz provided the standard designs for creating rockets, fireballs, and other pyrotechnic devices. It discussed for the first time the idea of applying a reactive technique to artillery. It contains a large chapter on caliber, construction, production and properties of rockets including multistage rockets, batteries of rockets, and rockets with delta wing stabilizers.

What on earth does Siemienowicz have to do with American Veteran's Day, Canadian Day of Remembrance,  oh and by the way, Polish Independence Day on 11 November.    Why would a Croat, especially a Texas Croat care about any of this? 

The year was 1673.  The game was on!  The grad was Khotyn.  Poland versus Ottomans.  The odds are on an Ottoman victory.  The Turks had won the year before.  The Ottomans were invincible.  They brought 120 of the most technologically advanced cannons to the battle at Khotyn.  Jan Sobieski brought Siemienowicz and his rockets.  The Ottoman's lost.  Sobieski and Siemienowicz beat them again the next year at Vienna and the Ottoman's were forever excluded from Slovakia and Hungary.  Croatia began to arise again.  Poland  began to recover from the Khmelnytsky disaster and the harsh period of the Swedish disaster during which Poland lost about one third of her population.  The red glare of Siemienowicz rockets vaulted the Lion of Lechistan (as the Turks called Jan Sobieski) to the throne of Poland.

For a time Poland's fortunes were much much better.  There were major advances toward democracy and Polish officers assisted the Americans in their struggle against monarchy.  In that time Poland promulgated one of the world's first written constitutions, a document Potemkin derisively dismissed as "a contagion of democracy."  The autocrats of Europe couldn't stand such a contagion.  Armies marched and Poland began another long night of foreign domination. 

According to many historians Poland ceased to exist then until 1918.  Are they correct?  I submit to you that these historians are incorrect.  Poland existed, but where?

"Oh sure," you say, "Poland existed in the hearts and minds of the Polish people scattered around everywhere and in the hearts and minds of the Polish people under foreign rule."  Yup.  True enough.  But there is more to the story than just that.

Let's start with Felix Wardzinski.  One man.  A soldier.  A Polish soldier.  A soldier in an army defeated by the Prussians and defeated by the Russians.  A soldier in an army totally crushed.  A soldier on the run for his life, Felix Wardzinski crossed the border into Galicia which at that time was controlled by the Hapsburg empire. 

If the Hapsburg government had been faced with just one Felix Wardzinski that would have been the end of the story.  Felix would have found a job and he would have settled down in his new homeland. That was not the case however, there were a lot of Felix Wardzinskis who crossed into Galicia.

Examine this scenario with me.  Let's step inside the brain of the Austrian Crown for a moment.  All these Felix Wardzinskis form up their units again inside Austrian territory and continue to strike at the foreign armies occupying their homeland.  The Prussians use this as an excuse to strike at Galicia, or the Russians come to stop the raids into the territory they occupy.  Either way, the Austro-Hungarian empire loses.  The Hapsburg family has just lost Mexico in the Mexican revolution of 1825.  Further loses to the family are ~ shudder ~ unthinkable.

The Austrians could just shoot these men and be done with it.  That would set the Polish population in Galicia on edge.   Galicia, Slovakia, Bohemia, Moravia,  Czechy and - God forbid - Croatia might rise up.  In short, the Austrian Crown might be left with only Austria.  All that disaster over Felix Wardzinski, a defeated soldier, who may have had no idea he could be that important to the rise and fall of nations.

There is a way out for the Triple Crown.  (What?  You thought the "Triple Crown" was a horse race in Kentucky? Ha! Austria - Hungaria - Croatia, that's the Triple Crown.)  There's a simple way out.  "Felix, brate moj, where you want to go buddy?"  The Triple Crown offered to furnish transportation to any place in the world these men might want to go as long as it was away from any where they could cause trouble to the Empire.  "By the way, brate, there is a little thing going on in Teksas.  A professional soldier might be appreciated there just now."

Problem solved!!  The potential source of grief to the Austrian Crown is on his way to give grief to the Mexicans.  Serves them right for breaking away from Hapsburg hegemony!  Ha!  A brilliant stroke!

Felix was on a boat from Austria to New York in a heartbeat.  Ok ok, in as many heartbeats as it took to get Felix from Galicia to the nearest Austrian seaport.  So now you are looking at a map and you are asking me where Austria had a seaport.  Sigh.  That's the same question my son-in-law asked me once.  Slovenija, Istria, and Dalmacija were under the Triple Crown dear friend so Austria had a lot of access to the sea. 

From New York, Felix found his way to New Orleans where he and a lot of other Felixes were met by a recruiter for the Teksas army which was being formed. 

There were already Polski in Teksas.  Napoleon had attempted to establish a French colony about where Liberty, Texas is now.  The textbooks tell you that the French failed and that they withdrew.  Yeah.  That's true.  The French officials withdrew.  The colonists remained. 

Simon Wiess was among those colonists.  Simon was Polish.  Simon was Jewish.  Simon hooked up with my father's family and their little business about the Trinity River about which they were a long time discarding.  I've already told part of that story elsewhere.  Simon was a merchant, a trader.  This Polish Jew knew all the roads, all the oxcart trails all the paths and all the waterways of any kind in eastern Texas.  Like a true viking he knew how to use them too.

The sort of person who think Jews are all supposed sitting in their counting houses counting out their money are going to have trouble with this story.  That kind of person will have difficulty with the picture of a Polish Jew in a coonskin hat, a hunting knife in his belt and a rifle on his shoulder sweaty from walking through the breeze-less forests in the weltering 100+ degree East Texas spring/summer/fall.  This, however,  is the true picture of Simon Wiess, a frontiersman and pioneer in Texas.  We will come back to his role in the matter at hand in a few moments.

19th century Bosnia
19th century Texas
After the battle of the Alamo, the Teksikanski fought the Mexican centrist army at Goliad. Does the flag used by one regiment of the Refugio volunteers remind you of a familiar "Bosnian" ensign?  It should.  The Texas Hrvati were quietly out in force.  They were not alone.  Michael Dembinski, Michael Debicki, Francis Petrussewicz, Adolph Petrussewicz, John Kornicky, Joseph Schrusnecki and a lot of others fresh from Poland were right beside them.

Again they lost.  Santa Ana gave Colonel Jose Nicolas de la Portilla orders to execute the prisoners.  Today there is a monument to Colonel Fannin on that location. The Mexicans attempted to cover up the matter by burning the bodies and burning the records, so its not an easy task to find who all these heros were.

General Sam Houston continued to recruit and train an army to fight Santa Ana.  They withdrew toward eastern Texas with Santa Ana in pursuit.  Santa Ana's supply lines grew longer and longer and his troops suffered more and more.  The soldiers under Sam Houston fared much better.  At every river crossing they were met with fresh food, clothing, equipment, and other supplies brought by Simon Wiess. 

There came a day when Santa Ana's troops were  essentially cut off.  They were resting, resting as much as a hungry army being devoured by hordes of mosquitoes can rest.  Frederick Lemsky brought his flute to the front with him.  Felix Wardzinski was there too in the Teksas army.  The Teksikans struck up the tune "Come to the Bower" and began to "drill" right in front of their opposition.  The Meksikans were entertained by the Teksikans in their rough clothing as they slouched into formation.  No one payed any attention to the cannon which were being brought forward behind the ragged appearing group. 

When they were at nearly point blank range, the Teksas army suddenly revealed how well trained and how professional they were.  Instantly they stepped aside from the cannon.  They formed a straight line with their rifles to their shoulders. 

The cannon fired. 

The rifles fired.

The shout went up  "Zapamiętaj Goliad!" as the Polish army with bayonets fixed streamed across the Mexican position and drove them into the swamp where the alligators had a feast that day.  That day the proud Polish army was vindicated as it vanquished tyranny.   All the seething anger at Santa Ana for the murder of their brothers at Goliad flashed and flamed with a furious ferocity.  All the pent-up anger they had for the Prussian Kaiser and for the Russian Czar burned fiercely for eighteen intense minutes during which the entire Mexican army was utterly destroyed.  Felix Wardzinski has the satisfaction of being present when Santa Ana was captured. 

Oh dear!  Oh dear!!  Now I've done it!  I was supposed to say all on english "The shout went up 'Remember Goliad" as the Texas army with bayonets fixed ....  Oh dear!  What have I done?  Well now, I told you Poland didn't cease to exist and I asked you "but where?"  Here it was, a piece of Poland existed right here in plain view in Texas.  Jeszcze Polska nie umarła!

What happened to the Polish soldiers who survived the war?  Some of them melted quietly into the Slavic corners of Texas and went about the business of living.  Some of them had other adventures.  Last Sunday I had  breakfast with the great-grandson of one of them.  My friend's surname sounds Hispanic.  What of it?  He is proud of his ancestor who came from so far away bring liberty to this land.

What happened to Simon Wiess?  One of his descendants married into a branch of my mother's family.  Am I Jewish?  Nope.  Am I Polish?  Nope.  Am I proud of my shirt-sleeve relative who was both?  Yup.  Perhaps more of this story will be another adventure for another time.

In the video I made for this year, I used "Texas Our Texas," the traditional and now legal National Hymn of Texas along with the Polish National Hymn.  The school books for the young people in Texas make no mention of these heroes from Poland who came at just the right time.  I thought they should be honored.  From their blood the flowers of freedom sprang.

The words to "Texas, Our Texas," written by William J. Marsh  and Gladys Yoakum Wright are:

Texas, Our Texas! all hail the mighty State!
Texas, Our Texas! so wonderful so great!
Boldest and grandest, withstanding ev'ry test
O Empire wide and glorious, you stand supremely blest.

Texas, O Texas! your freeborn single star,
Sends out its radiance to nations near and far,
Emblem of Freedom! it set our hearts aglow,
With thoughts of San Jacinto and glorious Alamo.

Texas, dear Texas! from tyrant grip now free,
Shines forth in splendor, your star of destiny!
Mother of heroes, we come your children true,
Proclaiming our allegiance, our faith, our love for you.

God bless you Texas! And keep you brave and strong,
That you may grow in power and worth, throughout the ages long.
God bless you Texas! And keep you brave and strong,

That you may grow in power and worth, throughout the ages long.
The Polish National Hymn:  Mazurek Dąbrowskiego -  Dąbrowski's Mazurka, also called Pieśń Legionów Polskich we Włoszech Song of the Polish Legions in Italy or Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła  Poland has not yet perished :                                        

Jeszcze Polska nie umarła,
 Kiedy my żyjemy
 Co nam obca moc wydarła,
 Szablą odbijemy.
 Marsz, marsz,

Dąbrowski Do Polski z ziemi włoskiej
 Za twoim przewodem Złączym się z narodem
Jak Czarniecki do Poznania
 Wracał się przez morze
 Dla ojczyzny ratowania
 Po szwedzkim rozbiorze.
 Marsz, marsz...
Przejdziem Wisłę, przejdziem Wartę
 Będziem Polakami
 Dał nam przykład Bonaparte
 Jak zwyciężac mamy
 Marsz, marsz...
Niemiec, Moskal nie osiędzie,
 Gdy jąwszy pałasza,
 Hasłem wszystkich zgoda będzie
 I ojczyzna nasza
 Marsz, marsz...
Już tam ojciec do swej Basi
 Mówi zapłakany
 Słuchaj jeno, pono nasi
 Biją w tarabany
 Marsz, marsz...
Na to wszystkich jedne głosy
 Dosyć tej niewoli
 Mamy racławickie kosy
 Kościuszkę Bóg pozwoli.

on english this is:
Poland has not yet died,
 So long as we still live.
 What the alien power has seized from us,
 We shall recapture with a sabre.

 March, march, Dąbrowski,
 To Poland from the Italian land.
 Under your command
 We shall rejoin the nation.

Like Czarniecki to Poznań
 Returned across the sea
 To save his homeland
 After the Swedish occupation.

 March, march...
We'll cross the Vistula and the Warta,
 We shall be Polish.
 Bonaparte has given us the example
 Of how we should prevail.

 March, march...
The German nor the Muscovite will settle
 When, with a backsword in hand,
 "Concord" will be everybody's watchword
 And so will be our fatherland.

 March, march...
A father, in tears,
 Says to his Basia
 Listen, our boys are said
 To be beating the tarabans.
 March, march...
All exclaim in unison,
 "Enough of this slavery!"
 We've got the scythes of Racławice,
 God will give us Kościuszko.

Texas is not the only North American nation who should give thanks to God for Poland.  The Americans also should give thanks to God for Kościuszko who so greatly assisted in their revolution.

hrabri vojnici 
     iz krvi
          slobode cvijet

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,

Canovals a.k.a. Slavonac
15  studenog 2011

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