In search of my Polish roots …

By Rosalie Tirella

… I found this photo in a drawer. It’s of my mother as a young woman (love the flower pinned over her ear, a la Billie Holiday!) and my grandmother as a middle-aged lady. In their Worcester Bigelow Street flat in the block. It used to be called “The Block,” cuz the Green Island appartment building was so big, so many apartments piled on top of each other. One of the hot spots of the ol’ Polish ghetto of the 1930s/40s Woo!


They were so tough, my mom and Bapy! The Poles are hard workers – and stoic, too! My mom and Bapy spent their whole lives in front of stoves, in front of shopping wagons, behind counters (my mom), walking to church, walking to work, walking to Millbury Street to shop, walking to parish dinners to socialize with other Poles and eat stuffed cabbage and boiled dough filled with potato or meat stuffing or (my fave!) blueberry stuffing. Or my Bapy would book it on over, chubby and buxom, to the  St. Mary School recitals where my mom played Mary in a school Christmas pageant because she was smart and could remember all the lines. … I still miss my mother’s hands – so very veiny and hard and strong. As a little girl I’d wanna pretty them up! Stroke pretty finger nail polish on them – shimmery pale pink.  Ma let me have my way, but her hands still looked working man! Today, my hands look a lot like my mom’s: gnarly, with my nails trimmed back low so I can deliver my papers and scrub my bathroom floor and type my stories. I am proud of that. It means I’ve been using them, earning my living with them.

My mother was farmed out as a maid to the Bishop of Springfield at age 14 becuase she was a good Catholic girl and one of the poorest in the parish. It was the Depression – my grandparents needed the dough. So my mother and her two sisters, my aunties, went to Springfield – had this job for 10 years, coming home on the train for weekends. My mom told me she missed my granny and grandpa at first, but then she got used to the hard work and being in Springfield. She loved taking the train to Worcester and back to Springfield! I took this photo today – it’s a freight train and it was flying by!


This morning I left my apartment, feeling like I wanted to join my mom, now dead for two years, for a train ride …


… but not to travel to drudgery like maid work but to some place special …


… to baby-hood! I took this photo this afternoon in Worcester’s Quinsigamond Village. The baby, two months old, is named Liam. Here he sits with his grandpa, a working man who knows me and bellowed to me: THE NEXT GENERATION! THE NEXT GENERATION! TAKE A PICTURE AND PUT IT IN YOUR PAPER!

Love it!

So I did … and then I wanted to be a baby again – START OVER! To love a LOT MORE. Because that’s all there is, really. You don’t get this until you burn through your youth and ambitions … until you are deep into your middle age, the age my Bapy was in the above pic!

Here is a song that is wonderful! Its lyrics VISIONARY!