I will write this without amendation or revision. It comes from the heart. When I think of my family, when I think of the past I think of what I have been told and what I remember. I don’t research, but I believe and I know what I know from those I loved and one of those stories came from my father who told me we came from Poland and one of our ancestors made his living in Poland by performing as The Strongest Man In Poland. Imagine. At a time when my great grandfather immigrated to American to build a log cabin and live in Wisconsin and raise eleven children with his wife in that log cabin which still stands, one of our people made his living as The Strongest Man In Poland.
There are many strong men and woman in Poland and in Ukraine today. In those days long ago brute force and trial were common. A man could bend horse shoes or pick up huge stones and lift other men into the air for a few coins in order to eat that night, then do all of it again and again day after day against every other man who thought they could prove my forefather wrong. Yet today with great pride, without even knowing his name, I become wonderfully emotional to think I am related to a man who once called himself The Strongest Man In Poland and could prove it.
Poles and Ukrainians will do the same when they remember their own people in times to come, the people fighting now to be themselves, to be strong and live their lives in peace. We must do the same, each in our own way. The test is before us and others will try to prove us wrong, but we are who we are and the outcome is sure.
Let me say this as well. Once I stood in the forests of Romania and felt such belonging it startled me to silence and stopped me where I stood to consider what I felt must mean I had been there before, even though I had no knowledge whatsoever of any member of my family being from Romania. Now it is the same when I watch the images of war in Ukraine. They are familiar. They are cousins and uncles and families to whom I am in fact related and have never met and those who die I will never meet and I resent the enemy all the more, but yes we are related and yes, the outcome is sure.
I am proud to be upon the winning side. As an American relative of The Strongest Man In Poland, I am proud to stand among the innocent.