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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!

My McDonald’s …












Rosalie and Jett, autumn 2012 … I am wearing the fall coat I wore last night while walking my little boy …


Greenwood Street McDonald’s worker, this afternoon

By Rosalie Tirella

Last night I walked my dog …and I wore my fall coat because it was so cold out. Heavy, dark, lined, my fave coat is perfect for the season, will cuddle me as I make my way through the Woo autumn landscape … .   Walking Jett, my little Mountain Feist/Husky, I thought  about the innocents of Syria – women, children  – dying from inhaling burning, toxic gases. Horrific ..  I want our president to intervene so badly …

I worried about the workers of America and wondered why we, the greatest country on earth, pay millions and millions of our people $7 or $8 an hour for all their hard work – and leave it to them to survive – meanly. Labor Day weekend and to have so many Americans struggling is disconcerting, depressing … These days in the USA, there is so little respect for labor! Our unions are at their weakest. Low wage workers (at least in Woo) too afraid to make some noise, agitate.

I visited my local  McDonalds today (on Greenwood Street) to take some more pics for my ICT stories on RAISING THE FEDERAL MINIMUM WAGE TO AT LEAST $10/hour. The manager spoke to me. She said she had to give my paper – the one with the McDonald’s worker on the cover – to “headquarters” for them to peruse. And no, I could not talk with her or her workers or even take photos of the property for an InCity Times story. She told me she had liked the story. It was a good story. But everyone had to just work – they were alerted by “headquarters” that there would be walkouts and protests at McDonald’s all over the country. She acted as if this were a bad thing.

I said: PLEASE, WAKE UP!!! America supports you! You deserve to be making $10 or $11 an hour! You have the American right to organize. There is nothing wrong with demanding a living wage for a hard day’s night. Let’s get together, here! Please!!!

No go.

She was young – in her mid 20s – and she felt part of the McDonald’s team.  AND SHE DID NOT WANT TO LOSE HER JOB!

Her uniform was crisp and clean. Her hair pulled back, her name tag glinted in the summer sun (she was outside having a smoke).

I tried to educate, proselytize. I think if I had hung on a bit longer, she would have called 911.

I went inside “my” McDonald’s. I looked for my young friend, the young man I put on the cover of ICT a few issues ago. I did not see him. I got afraid for him. … I began chatting up another manager, a Latina who looked worried. I saw an older woman – late 50s maybe early 60s – at the fryolator removing baskets of french fries. She looked sweaty, tired. She turned to look at me as I spoke. My heart broke for this lady.

I got a coffee – fair trade, Newman’s own – all profits go to Paul Newman charities, specifically his Hole in the Wall camps for kids suffering from cancer.

The big cheeses of McDonald’s make billions of dollars. And they have tried to move in the right direction re: animal rights.

Why can’t they see people rights???


To learn more about the fight to raise the wages of fast-food workers in America, click here!