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A Conference on Polish Women
From Nowy Dziennik
November 9-10

By Karolina Kowalska

"I was going to read a few embarrassing jokes about Polish women in America, but seeing such a wonderful audience, I just can’t do it." With this statement Professor John Bukowczyk of Wayne State University opened a conference devoted to Polish women living in the United States,"The Polish American Woman: The ‘Other’ of Both Cultures."

Gathered in the stylish rooms of the Kosciuszko Foundation, professors, students and other participants of the event spent five and a half hours contemplating the fate of Polish female immigrants. They talked about the hard work of first generation immigrants and the negative stereotypes popular among Americans. Professor Bukowczyk, who has analyzed hundreds of jests, tried to explain the phenomenon of Polish jokes to the audience.

"The term ‘Polish jokes’ has become a rhetorical figure. The jokes portray Polish women as being stupid, vulgar and unhygienic. But we all know that’s not the case," he said.

Follwing his speech, Professor Beth Holmgren of the University of North Carolina presented a lecture about Helena Modrzejewska [a Polish actress who came to the U.S. in 1876 ] and the struggles she had faced here.

"Modrzejweska came to America, leaving behind her fame and her fans. Like any other immigrant, she struggled with loneliness and isolation. She knew, however, that coming here was the only way to secure the financial stability of her family. When she and her husband finally decided to leave, sadly they realized they did not have enough money to go back home,' said Professor Holmgren.

Professor Joanna Rostropowicz-Clark of Rutgers University spoke of Danuta Mostwin, a contemporary Polish female writer who also decided to immigrate to the U.S, in her lecture "Profile in Courage and the Freedom from Prejudice." Her lecture was followed by other presentations, including those by Anna Frajlich-Zajac of Columbia University, Dr. Henryk Cioczek of Brooklyn Maimonides Hospital , Professor Thomas Gladsky of Michigan State University and Professor Katherine Jolluck of Stanford University.

Translated from Polish by Joanna Sufin.

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