Tuesday, May 28, 2024

In The Polish Town

My first trip overseas was to Poland and I'd move there except my house is Polish already, with a flowering meadow across the lane, etc. Finding Sylvia Plath's grandmother's Polish home address I Google-Mapped it. Ernestine Kottke Plath died in an Oregon mental hospital in 1919 but her childhood home still stands: 12, Strozewo (a village).

I saw the address in Ernestine Plath's Oregon State Hospital record.
Just six miles away is a Plath landmark town, under German rule spelled "Budsin," today in Polish spelled "Budzyn," population 2,000. It's Plath's grandfather's hometown. Sylvia called it a "manic-depressive hamlet in the black heart of Prussia." Theodor Plath married local girl Ernestine in 1882 and settled there. I think Ernestine gave birth to Otto in Grabowo because she had relatives there, but Otto grew up in Budsin, and tired of maps I wanted to see the place.
"Strolling" through the older part of Budsin I saw where the Plaths might have raised their children, not quite to their adulthood. The year Otto was born the German Empire's increasingly menacing army started cleansing the empire of Russians, Poles, and Jews. Masses of ethnic Germans like the Plaths were already leaving for the U.S., partly to escape conscription. Otto was 15 when he went to the U.S. His father, and then his mother and five siblings, ages 4 to 13, left Prussia the following year, 1901.

Traditional Polish houses are stone covered in paintable stucco. I learned Gmin means local government, and this is Budzyn's City Hall at the center of town.

Poles put flowers wherever they feel like it. It's a celebratory thing.

For the address of the Plath house in Budsin I'd need church or civil records not readily accessible. But I like Poland for itself and felt at home there. My mother's parents were Polish immigrants. They died when I was very small but I remember the Polishness of their house and ours. I hope you too grew up amid abundant cabbage-rose decor.

No comments: