Book Review: Witold Kula (2012), Nina Assorodobraj-Kula, Marcin Kula, Listy emigrantów z Brazylii i Stanów Zjednoczonych 1890-1891
Languages of publication
Writing Home: Immigrants in Brasil and the Unites States 1890-91 by Witold Kula, Nina Assorodobraj-Kula and Marcin Kula is a collection of letters from emigrants to their families and friends in the Russian-occupied part of Poland. It was published for the first time in 1973, and republished in 2012. An English translation edited by J. Wtulich was published in 1986. The 367 letters, in their original Polish spelling or translated (mostly from Yiddish) are a unique source of information about the lives and mentalities of Polish peasants, the process of emigration, and about the lives of Polish Jews. They were confiscated by tsarist censorship and never reached their addressees. Bad handwriting, grammar and spelling made the letters immensely difficult to read and an enormous amount of work went into their preparation for print. The resulting publication is a unique collection of documents, valuable also for historians of the Polish language. The Jewish letters tell much about the lives of Polish Jews of the time. The authors preceded the letters with a 100-page introduction, which resumes the most important issues and throws light on the mentality of Polish peasants of the time. In the future, another publication with selected letters and an even broader introduction to the late 19th century realities of Polish territories, Brazil and the USA might be useful. In the meantime the book is a valuable and moving read not only for historians and sociologists, but also for today’s generation of emigrants. Although migrating in completely different circumstances, they can certainly relate to the emotions of migrants of several generations ago.
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