Anna was an American, although she did not know it.
She was born in Wisconsin, but her family spoke Polish,
as did most of the families that lived around her,
so she thought of herself as Polish,
even though she knew Poland was far, far away.
So begins the first book in the Latsch Valley Farm series by Anne Pellowski, First Farm in the Valley: Anna's Story. I was recently reminded of this series while searching for children's literature that reflects our Catholic heritage. I liked these because my own family shares a Polish heritage and geographic location with those in the story. The family is Catholic, and while that doesn't play a huge role in the books, you will find beautiful little surprises like this:
As they were getting up from the table, they heard the sound of faint singing coming from the direction of the road. It grew louder and louder.
"It sounds like a procession at church," laughed Mother nervously. "Has Father Snigourski decided to come all the way here to celebrate St. Anna's Day?"
"Let's go see," said Father with a smile.
They filed out of the house and waited in the yard. The singing grew louder. Soon the procession reached the top of the hill and they could see it as well as hear it. In front came Frances Cierzan, bearing the lovely wreath. The colored ribbons fluttered and danced in the breeze like a rainbow that had been separated into strips...
Laughing and singing, the procession moved up to where Mother was standing.
"Happy Name Day," said Frances as she placed the first wreath on Mother's head. Then Julia stepped up.
"Happy Name Day," she repeated as she put the second wreath on Anna's head. Anna was speechless. Of course, she had known it was her name day, too, but in the excitement of planning the surprise for Mother, she had forgotten all about herself...
"And now your surprise," laughed Mrs. Walski as she thrust a package into Anna's hands. "Careful! It could break, too." Mrs. and Mrs. Walski were Anna's godparents but this was the first name day present they had given her. With trembling fingers, she opened the package and when all the paper was lifted away, she saw a small statue in blue, white and gold. It was of a woman, holding a small girl in her arms.
"Why, it's St. Anna and her little daughter, Mary," cried Mother. "That will be a keepsake for the rest of your life." Everyone started to sing, and before long they were dancing in a circle and going in and out, first right and then left. They danced and danced, forgetting all about their work for the moment. At last, they could dance no more...
As Anna munched on the delicious honey cake, she thought she would explode from all the happy thoughts that were welling up inside her. She realized that she had done something unselfish, not for a minute thinking about herself, and her sisters had shared in that unselfishness. The good feeling spread through every bone and muscle in her body. She could almost feel it in her fingers and toes. "I wish it could be like this every day," thought Anna.
In this new series, Anne Pellowski traces five generations of her family as they experience life in the upper Midwest. In Wisconsin in 1876, Anna lives on a farm and helps with the chores that keep the farm going. But she can't help but dream of someday visiting Poland, the romantic land of grand houses and castles.
They're being republished by Bethlehem Books and might be available at your public library.