A Personal Note for November 11

Sunday, November 4th, 2018     Marie Sontag     Start the Conversation

What does November 11 mean to you? Here in America, we celebrate November 11 as Veterans Day—a day to commemorate all American veterans. Here’s a picture of my dad and mom (when she was his fiancée) before he shipped out to join the fight during WWII. She didn’t know if he’d come back. Fortunately for us, he did!

In some countries, November 11 is celebrated as Armistice Day—the day when fighting between the Germans and the Allies ceased during WWI. My maiden name was Reik, shortened to Reikowski when my paternal grandfather married my grandmother.  I’ve recently researched our family name back to 1845 when my great-great Grandfather, Joahnn Paul Rajkowski, immigrated to America from Gdańsk, Poland.

As an American with Polish roots, I’ve learned that this year on November 11 the people of Poland will have a huge celebration. They will celebrate the 100th anniversary of their reemergence as a country—
a culture—
a people.
If you enlarge the map to the right, can you find Poland? No? That’s because it’s a map of Europe in 1914.

The written history of the Polish people dates back to AD 960. However, from 1795-1918, Poland was erased from maps of Europe until after the end of WWI in 1918.

Imagine a world where the United States of America is eliminated from world maps for one hundred twenty-three years because more powerful countries gobble up various portions of it (Watched any of Amazon’s dystopian episodes for The Man in the High Castle lately?)

Pictured here is my dad with his brother, Paul Reik, and brother-in-law, Al Lukaszewski. They all served in WWII. War is a terrible tragedy, but so is the loss of freedom. As an American of Polish ancestry, I don’t want to take for granted the significance of this year’s November 11.


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