Diary of a Polish Bride

By Ashley Franz-Davis, May 2009 graduate

As English poet Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote, “In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” So too do a young woman’s. May Day, May 1st of each year, traditionally represents the gathering of flowers and dancing around the maypole in celebration of spring time, blossoms, new beginnings, and love. With these thoughts, I have created the following fictional composite diary in English for a Polish girl living in Thurber:

May 1, 1917 – Thurber, Texas
Dear Diary,
Here at the Franciszka house we know all too well the nostalgic feelings invoked by love! Ojec (Father) has decided it is time for me to marry. Since my parents are both immigrants they strictly adhere to our Polish traditions. In Poland, to indicate an eligible corka (daughter) is ready to marry, her father whitewashes dots on the side of his home, which is exactly what Ojec did last week!
Tonight, my father had a visit in regards to a potential groom-to-be! ♥Jacek Nowak’s♥ Godfather -Jakub is serving as the swat (the go-between for the groom-to-be and my Father) so as to “save face” for the Nowak’s, should any of us object to the proposal.
My father and Jakub began speaking, and then suddenly Jakub pulled out a bottle of whiskey and asked me to bring a whiskey glass! OH I KNEW WHAT THAT MEANT- if I did not return with the glass, the message would clearly indicate my refusal to Jacek Nowak’s clandestine proposal. Oh but I wanted to marry that handsome Polish man so, so bad I could feel it! Każda milość przychodzi w porę (Love comes when its time is coming). So I returned quickly before any objections might be roused.
Jakub poured whiskey into the glass, which both Matka (my Mother) and Father accepted. That signified their willingness to consider Jacek’s proposal.

May 3, 1917 – Thurber, Texas
Dear Diary,
Jacek and Jakub returned, once again bringing a bottle of whiskey with them. Jakub, the swat, asked me to fetch the whiskey glass. Once the whiskey glass was full, Jakub passed it to my Father who in turn passed it to me! This means Ojec and Matka have accepted Jacek’s proposal. I am going to be Mrs. Jacek Nowak!!! I took a sip immediately indicating my acceptance and passed it on to my future groom Jacek– he eagerly gulped it all down making me laugh out loud!

May 4, 1917 – Thurber, Texas
Dear Diary,
Jacek and Jakub are coming to meet my relatives and friends for an engagement ceremony today. Mother has prepared the bread for the zrekowiny (hand binding ceremony). Jacek said he would bring me a beautiful white scarf as is tradition for a zrekowiny. The swat, will use the scarf to unite our right hands above the bread Matka made and will then slice the bread in two for Jacek and me to eat, which will indicate our willingness to be married and share our lives together.

May 5, 1917- Thurber, Texas
Dear Diary,
Today Jacek and I must meet with the priest in order to let him know of our intent to be married. I then have only three short weeks to prepare for the wedding. Therefore, I have concluded that I must write a list of what needs to be done in order to execute the perfect Polish wedding.

An artist's rendering of a Polish wedding dance in Thurber, where male guests threw coins to win dances with the bride by breaking a thick plate. All coins went to the newlyweds. Drawing by Sandra Brown, courtesy of Institute of Texan Cultures, TexanCultures.com.

Slub (Wedding Ceremony) Preparation List:
1. Examine Babcia’s (grandmother’s) full white wedding veil for any stains or tears. Since Matka used it in her wedding to Ojcec, I feel privileged that it has now been bestowed to me for my wedding day.
2. Ensure my big brat (brother) can serve as the accordion player to ride in the back of the buggy to church while playing all of Jacek’s and my favorite songs.
3. Make certain all of my friends, Jacek’s friends, and our families are going to participate in following the buggy to church. (This is one of my favorite parts of a wedding – all our friends and family will be singing, drinking, and laughing in honor of the upcoming marriage to my handsome Jacek).
4. Matka has informed me that she will be in charge of the flowers. She and my ojcec have money saved up so we can order the myrtles (representing love and marriage) and violets (representing faithfulness) from Fort Worth! They will come by train just before the wedding. This should give Matka and Babcia plenty of time to decorate the church with the beautiful flowers we have selected. This is a reason to marry in May here in Thurber. Roses, poppies, and wildflowers are in full bloom during this season, and should be absolutely stunning.
5. Order supplies at the Thurber Mercantile to ensure plenty of food and drinks for the celebration: ingredients for wedding bread, salt, wine, sausage, pickles, cabbage, vodka, and beets for stew. The last thing Matka needs will be the ingredients to fill all the dumplings: meat, cabbage, and sweets. YUMMY!

With so much to do and so much excitement in the air, I find it hard to concentrate on the details. I find myself daydreaming about Jacek’s kiss! I cannot wait until the priest announces us Mr. & Mrs. Jacek Nowak.

Frank Galik and Annie Sobato, children of Polish immigrants,

married in Thurber on May 27, 1917.

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