This beautifully written, meticulously researched work is a must-read not only for Polish-Americans, but for all readers who are interested in learning about the challenges and joys of the trans-Atlantic crossing made by millions of European immigrants in the late nineteenth century.
Richard and Aloysius Lutz have written a compelling tale about the hardships encountered by a group of poor Polish immigrants, viewed through the eyes of newlyweds Paul and Jadwiga Adamik. Readers are introduced to Poles and Polish folklore from several regions of then-partitioned Poland, as well as the tensions that existed between Poles and the three nations that occupied Poland in the nineteenth century: Prussia, Russia, and Austria.
This work of historical fiction will resonate with readers whose ancestors, three or four generations ago, made the same difficult decision to uproot their families from their familiar surroundings in Europe in order to secure a better life in America. Their stories about their emigration from the Old World, often carefully passed down from generation to generation, have been woven into the fabric of Jadwiga's Crossing.
For many Americans today, the story of Paul and Jadwiga Adamik's crossing offers a fresh look at the courage of, and sacrifices made by, their grandparents and great-grandparents over 140 years ago. Jadwiga's Crossing offers masterful storytelling – a riveting journey into the past.
Dr. Deborah Anders Silverman
Reviews also at GoodReads.com and at culture.polishite.us in addition to those quoted below.
The Lutzes have provided an unusual setting for their book: the migration of a group of people, first by train, then in the steerage compartment of the German ship, Frederika, heading for America in the late 1800s. Jadwiga and Paul are the main protagonists. Jadwiga, with her fierce determination, comes from a Baltic fishing family. Paul has served in the Prussian military and is able to speak German. They find themselves leaders among the mixture of people, all longing for a better life.
On the long train ride to Bremerhaven, the Russians, Germans and Poles become acquainted. In freight passage of the Frederika they are confined to close, smelly compartments. They share their quarters with the animals that will be used during the long journey to feed the passengers, but not themselves. Rowdy fights, children crying, suspicious undertakings are described in detail. The majority, however, learn to take care of each other, share their food and water and amuse the children. Heart rendering scenes of births, deaths and illnesses are included.
Some emigrants are traveling under false papers, some going to reunite with their sons, some to a deceiving family member. All face the unknown, but desperately long for a better life. Their long travels across Poland and the Atlantic Ocean provide many frightening adventures but now they are led out of steerage and into the world of America.
The reader can sympathize with the fears and dreams of these early emigrants who were brave enough to reach out for a new life. A heart-warming book.
Florence Waszkelewicz Clowes, MLIS
Let me state a simple fact: This is a great book! As an author I do not carelessly dispense superlatives about the work of another writer, so let me repeat: Jadwiga's Crossing is a great book. It is a true account of the hardships and perils that Mr. Lutz's great-grandparents endured to realize their dream of a better life in America. Mr. Lutz describes in vivid detail a journey that began in an open railway car across Poland and into Germany with little food or water or shelter from the elements for the little band of immigrants. The subsequent month at sea crowded into the hold of a sailing ship tests the mettle and the strength of Jadwiga, her husband and their companions. Someone once observed in reference to the immigrants who came to America that, "The fearful never left and the weak never survived." Never was that statement more dramatically depicted than in Jadwiga's Crossing. In the United States today we are all immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. For those of our ancestors who arrived on these shores in the years prior to the advent of steamships, we can scarcely imagine what those journeys were like. Under the best of circumstances, they were tedious and stressful. Jadwiga's Crossing describes in vivid detail what it was like to cross the North Atlantic in the winter of 1869 in a sailing ship buffeted by the wind and waves of a stormy sea.
The writing is unadorned but lyrical in its depiction of the characters, their relationship to one another and what drove each to seek a new life in the New world. There are passages where I found I was holding my breath as the struggle for survival seemed beyond the strength of Jadwiga and her family. There are other passages so beautifully written and so emotional that I found tears in my eyes, and I am not one given to fits of weeping.
The end of the book leaves one with a sense of being uplifted by the nobility of the characters and grateful that my ancestors and yours, like Jadwiga, were willing to risk everything to come to America and make it possible for their offspring and those that followed to enjoy the blessings of this great land.
[Five stars] Excellent story about Polish immigrants
This is an excellent story that anyone can enjoy, but especially readers of Polish heritage. The story is a very realistic journey about what people would do to come to the new country, America, and what they endured to claim their dream. I liked the fact that Jadwiga was a strong female character who knew what she wanted and stood up for what she believed in. The story about the ship and the events that happened is amazing, and I especially liked reading the ending when they ended up in Dunkirk, N.Y., because I'm from there, and it all made sense. The Lutz family have written a marvelous book and I wish there were more stories like this. Keep us the good work and Stolat!
Librarian Jill (Somerville, MA)
If ever there was a compelling story for an epic film, the newly published novel Jadwiga's Crossing, by Dunkirk natives Richard J. Lutz and his father Aloysius A. Lutz, fits the bill perfectly.
This novel has believable characters displaying human faults as well as heroic behavior. The two main characters are a married couple, Paul Adamik & Jadwiga Wdowiak Adamik, citizens of partitioned Poland. This is the story of their "great migration" from eastern Europe to America in the latter part of the 19th century. The story includes the experiences of other passengers, both friend and foe, who accompanied Paul and Jadwiga to the new world. They were Poles and Germans, traveling under extreme duress in the steerage class of the wind powered passenger ship, the Frederika.
The long voyage described in the novel occurred at the time of transition from sail to steam. There's a scene in which Jadwiga talks about the dangers of steamships and "all that fire." She was pleased that the Frederika was a sailing ship. However, this fact turned out to cause many problems which are recounted in very dramatic detail by the authors.
Transoceanic steam travel was just beginning. The less affluent emigrants from Europe were hauled, almost as cargo, aboard the aging square riggers which, in the case of the Frederika, was not even a "clipper." This aspect of the ship made the story a veritable roller coaster ride across the Atlantic ocean.
The story of Paul and Jadwiga Adamik's Atlantic crossing during stormy weather, while being underfed and having to provide for the birth of children in steerage among the animals is amazing. It reminds us of the necessary courage of our own WNY ancestors.
All the characters are so adeptly described that it's easy to know them as living historic figures, perhaps even distant relatives. This novel is easy to read, providing an opportunity for the reader to focus on the many minor characters as they face their own challenges. The talented authors "speak" to the reader as if recounting their own voyage aboard the Frederika.
After reading this novel, Dr. Deborah Anders Silverman, professor of journalism at Buffalo State College and the author of the national award winning book, "Polish-American Folklore" said, "Readers of Jadwiga's Crossing are introduced to Poles and Polish folklore from several regions of then-partitioned Poland, as well as the tensions that existed between Poles and the three nations that occupied Poland in the nineteenth century: Prussia, Russia, and Austria."
Immigrants had great personal confidence in their own ability to survive and thrive in America in a political and commercial environment unlike anything the world had previously seen. Paul and Jadwiga show this confidence soon after their arrival as they find work in Dunkirk.
This story is worth reading, particularly by those who live in Western New York and have an interest in their own 19th century ancestors.
You'll like this book if you enjoy (1) romance, (2) adventure, and/or (3) history because Jadwiga's Crossing has all those elements, and more. Its characters some appealing, some appalling are skillfully drawn; by the time you're finished with the book, you'll feel you've made both friends and enemies. The story line – a difficult Atlantic crossing – is compelling; you feel the need to know who will, and won't, survive the storm, the accident, the birth, the treachery. And, most remarkable of all, the story is true: the author is recounting the tale of his own great-grandparents' coming to America. This is one good, thought-provoking, hard-to-put-down "read."
-S. Cosgrove, Pittsburgh PA
Jadwiga's Crossing was many years in the formation by a father and son writing team, and it proves well worth the wait.
Based on records of real people, Poles who crossed the ocean from Poland to find a new life in America, the story has everything a good novel needs: imagery, themes, conflict, and characterization.
The novel begins in a fishing village in Poland and ends in Dunkirk, New York, but the greater part of it takes place aboard the immigrant-laden ship carrying uncertain but bravely optimistic flesh and blood people to a new land and a new life. They lived lives as so many of our ancestors must have done.
James Conroyd Martin
I recommend it to everybody - especially these interested in what their ancestors had to go through to travel oversees over a hundred years ago!
Jagoda Urban-Klaehn (on Amazon.com)
If you're looking for a book to get lost in, one that will make you stay up until the wee hours of the morning because you just have to find out what happens next, this is it. Any reader would be mesmerized by this story because it's a tale of love, personal character, overcoming adversity, conflict, history... I mean, this book has it all. The book follows the emigration of a young Polish bride and her husband to America. While it is a very interesting story of their day to day struggles the reader has to remind himself that this is probably more historical fact than fiction. This was a challenge shared by so many immigrants of many countries. If you are a romance-novel fan, you'll love it. If you are a student of history, you'll love it. If you're a fan of drama, you'll love it.
Mary A. Taylor (on Amazon.com)
Top notch work of historical fiction of immigration from "Poland" in 1870 or so - by following a young couple from young adulthood in Poland, to their train trip to leave for the U.S., the boat journey, arrival, move to a small town in New York, and their first 3 months there - along with 50 different adventures throughout. The book is written as a series of mini-stories, or adventures, that tie together into a whole plot. Various characters are introduced as examples of people in that time and place. We get the fisher-girl who lost her mother that desperately wants to come to America at age 18 (our protagonist). We have the semi-military young man from a different region who isn't as thrilled with the idea. We have the muscleman with 5 kids who escaped death by Russians. We have a man with his sons who want to send back for the rest of his family after they get established. We have a family coming in under an assumed name, and on and on and on.
The setting in 1870 is when Poland as a nation didn't exist; it was partitioned into a German section, an Austrian section, and a Russian section. Many Poles in those days didn't want to leave their homeland, but to get freedom, a way to make a living, and a better life for their families, took the plunge. This story could hold for any immigrant group seeking a better life.
For me, it resonated initially because my ancestry is heavily Polish, and the town they settled in (Dunkirk, New York) is where my father's ancestral line settled when they came to the U.S. As I read, I could identify with the stories, and the varied cast of characters. These were the people my grandfather talked about, it seemed. Yet, then the interplay between the characters, the overall plot, the heavy challenges, the bad luck, the good luck, and the whole concept just drew me in where it no longer mattered that I have a distant connection - I could see the application for immigration today. [The authors] captured a lot of stories... The elder Lutz was born in a Polish neighborhood in Dunkirk, NY where the customs and the language still held sway in his childhood. The interweaving of the stories and the many people make this a real treat. Lutz knows how to tell several stories; and how to unify.
Camerons (on Amazon.com)