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A Kosynier in Hollywood. Part 2

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A Kosynier in Hollywood

By Dan Groya

1873.  Great big cowboy America was reborn in the post-Civil War epoch; its arms open wide to immigration without limits.  It had freed its slaves, and now it would free the world.  So they arrived by the shipload, from Hamburg to New York City.  Huddled deep in steerage, hungry and sea-sick, came thousands of refugees from the northeast crescent of the Prussian Empire:  Ukrainians, Pomeranians, Ashkenazi Jews, Kashubians and Poles.  Those with any cash remaining in their pockets bought passage in empty railroad cattle cars, west to Chicago.  Only two years after the Great Fire, the city was engaged in a furious building boom.  Any man with arms and legs could find work.

Among them were my great-great grandparents, Freidrich and Anna Groya, and their adopted son, Hermann.  We don’t know their ethnicity or where they lived in Prussia, but they became members of the Kashubian community that established itself on the near north side of Chicago, the area between Lincoln Park and Bucktown.  The Kashubians built their own Catholic church there in 1883, St. Josaphat.  Named for a 17th century Polish-Lithuanian monk who was martyred in the conflict between the Ruthenian Church and the Orthodox Christians, it may be the only Kashubian church in America.


Meanwhile, Chicago was exploding.  It had become the commercial crossroads between the East and the wild American West.  There were new commodity markets, beefsteak, skyscrapers and political corruption.  Between 1870 and 1900, its population increased by a factor of seven.  And somewhere in this chaos, Hermann Groya became the protégé of a tobacconist—making cigars, blending pipe tobacco and grinding snuff.  Kashubian-style snuff.