Archive ID: 1981-075-2

John Czajka WWI diary

Date Created: 1919-1920

Donor: Michael Kolberg

Media Type: Scrapbook/Album/Diary

Language: mul

Description:

John Czajka’s World War I dairy written in English and Polish.

Backstory:

This diary was donated by the brother-in-law of John Czajka. Czajka was a Polish immigrant who lived with his family in Mystic, Iowa before they settled in Chicago. His father found work in the meatpacking industry in the heavily Polish Back-of-the-Yards neighborhood. In 1918 when he was 17 years old, John enlisted in the “Blue Army.” This was a group of Polish-American volunteers who were allowed to enlist in the Polish Army at the end of World War I. After training in Canada, they were sent via France to fight to resurrect a Polish homeland. The diary is written in both English and Polish and includes notes on gun training, observations of the European war front, literary quotations, drinking songs, and what appears to be original poetry. After the war, Czajka married Jennie Kolberg, the daughter of a steelworker at the massive South Works mill. Her family attended Immaculate Conception, a Polish church in South Chicago. Jennie’s brother donated the diary to the Southeast Chicago Historical Project.

Translation of a poem written in Polish:

– You think I am not happy
– that you don’t have
– silver or gold
– You are enjoying my sorry
– that I am just a poor orphan
– Oh, God, count our fortunes,
– You who rule
– Heaven and Earth,
– have an effect
– on this love or let
– me end my young life

– Be well, my girl
– Farewell, maybe forever
– Cause war trumpets are
– calling me
– Today I am here by you
– Tomorrow, I’ll be in the trenches
– and, the next day, maybe in a grave
– forever, forever I will sleep

Thanks for translation to Magda Marczewska

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