How to Help Children to Cherish Our Heritage


Recently, I am reading a lot about people getting interested in their roots.  Usual avenues to trace them are through Ellis Island records, Mormon Church archives and popular websites such as, and so on.  It is becoming quite a popular pastime, and I see many retired persons in the library doing just that.

From the certain age, children find out, that the world didn’t start on the day they were born and then curiosity takes over.  The best thing to find out about your ancestors is, of course, from your parents and grandparents.  But when parents don’t know and grandparents are no longer around, then we have a problem.  In this country still the most common heritage is European.  But even when one finds out where his ancestors are originating from, not knowing anybody there can be an obstacle, and knowing the language can make things even worse.

When I came to this country, Polish heritage was not something to be particularly proud of.  I’ve learned many jokes and heard quite a few comments, not necessarily uplifting.  I was afraid that my children would try to hide my ethnicity and their roots, although with the name like ours would be tough.  But it was not a case. They embraced our origins.  When questioned, some of them said they are Polish, some that they are half-Polish, but not one was trying to dodge the issue.  Then they found out the true meaning of our last name.  The translation is, that we “don’t listen”.  And then they liked it even more.  It provided an easy excuse for many shenanigans.

At a certain point, we decided to take our family to the place I grew up.  I wanted to show them my apartments, schools, university and the rich heritage of my country.  I wanted to introduce them to my friends and show that there was life before they were born.

So, we started with my older son when he was 10.  Bonnie was afraid, that we will lose each other on a long trip, she fitted him with a bright, red jacket.  No room for accidents.

After arrival in Warsaw, we had problems with adjusting to the 9-hour time difference.  My son slept during the day, was awake at night.  Couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, and was complaining about stomach pains.  I was even thinking of appendicitis and then to which hospital to take him to see a doctor.  But then something struck me: could it be food?  My Mom’s excellent ethnic kitchen?  So I took him to the American Embassy and asked a Marine to show us, where their cafeteria is.  There we ordered a hamburger with french fries and voilà, my son was miraculously healed.   Can you imagine?  All he needed was a hamburger!

Some trips were made with my wife, then boys again, and then with the girls.  How is that for father-boys and father-girls field trips?

Then came the story of our heritage.  Our name originated in the 13th century.  It was given by the commander to a soldier, who didn’t listen to his orders on the battlefield.  Our family also has a coat of arms, the picture of which drawn on handmade, old fashion rough paper I showed to them (herb Nieczuja).  There is also a small village north of Warsaw, which has our name and where my Father’s family was living for centuries. ” You can google it” I said to them.  And here it is – Niesluchy.  I still remember visiting that place as a child.  It looked to me like a transplant from the 19th century.  It was impressive for me to see how big a leap my Father made from there to becoming a legal advisor to one of the biggest Polish corporations.

And here we have it.  My children and their children won’t have to look any more through the archives and spend time on the internet looking for our roots.

The mystery veil has been lifted.



  • Vito, do you know the translation of the symbolism in your coat of arms? The sword in a tree stump both in the top and bottom is very interesting. Your family has been very fortunate to visit their heritage. Having done so they will accurately pass it down to their children. For many of us third or fourth generation children, much of the past is lost and that’s sad.

    • I don’t know the original meaning, but someone told me, that this reminds him of an aorta with intercostal arteries (!?). I will take it.

  • Dear WSN,
    Like always a very interesting and educational post. Once again, thank you very much for the honoring our family history and rich heritage. We can be very proud and we want our children to be proud too.
    Your sister.

  • very interesting Vito. The symbol on your coat of arms looks like aorta with vertebral arteries! You have also taken the family to another level Miss you and Bonnie.

  • I am most certainly proud of my heritage, and growing up I did experience a degree of ridicule being Polish. The truth of the matter lies in those persons lack of knowledge in regard to the different waves of Polish immigration to the US. The first time the this country saw an influx of Polish immigrants was actually during a time that Poland was experiencing a sort of “great depression”. Jobs in Poland were hard to come by, so naturally those with no education, or trade skill were unable to seek employment. These are the first Poles that America saw. The uneducated underachievers ( which every country has) were the first to come over, thus staging a reputation of all poles being “stupid”. When a stubborn audience is still not hearing my message, I then cite that it was in fact a Pole who cracked the Enigma code during WWII, despite all the other countries that were trying so desperately to do so. If my audience even knows what the Enigma code is, I’ve usually got them at this point. Sadly, many are not even familiar with what it is/was/how important of a discovery this was. To those who still need a little persuasion I bring my finishing kill shot. “We’ll look, my dads from Poland, grew up and was educated there. And he’s a HEART SURGEON”. Case and point. End of discussion. Need I say more? I think not. See ya tomorrow. Don’t forget to look up the Enigma code.

  • Chris,
    Very well said. It is nice to set the record straight and let the people know, that a lots of Polish immigrants, who relatively recently moved to the US are, just like your Father, highly educated and highly cultured.
    Your aunt,
    P.S. By the way, I know exactly, what the Enigma Code was.


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