The Lower East Side or the Eastern Front: the Bosakowski family during World War I

In earlier posts, I told the story of how my grandmother Katarzyna Bosakowska came to America. She was one of at least sixteen Bosakowski family members from the town of Zalozce, in the far northeastern corner of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who traveled to the United States in a chain migration that started with her cousin Ignacy Bosakowski, who arrived in 1905.

By 1915, there were fourteen family members living on the Lower East Side of New York. This included five children of Piotr Bosakowski and Maria Czechowicz Bosakowska:

Name Date of birth Date of arrival
Ignacy Bosakowski July 27, 1878 May 26, 1905
Katarzyna (Kata) Bosakowska November 27, 1885 January 5, 1906
Jan Bosakowski May 12, 1883 June 5, 1906
Ludwika Bosakowska July 19, 1890 May 8, 1907
Karolina Bosakowska July 16, 1893 before 1915

… four children of Karol Bosakowski and Katarzyna Czechowicz Bosakowska (plus two spouses):

Name Date of birth Date of arrival
Michal Bosakowski September 28, 1881 May 23, 1906
Klimintyna Szarzyńska Bosakowska about 1886 about 1913
Pawel Bosakowski March 21, 1891 March 25, 1910
Piotr Bosakowski February 17, 1886 September 17, 1913
Anna Stójkiewicz Bosakowska about 1886 September 17, 1913
Antoni Bosakowski October 20, 1895 September 23, 1913

… and three children of Jozef Bosakowski and Maria Buczna Bosakowska:

Name Date of birth Date of arrival
Honorata Bosakowska September 23, 1892 February 17, 1911
Katarzyna Bosakowska November 8, 1889 April 16, 1912
Wincenty Bosakowski September 8, 1895 September 17, 1913

My grandmother was living at 101 Essex Street as a live-in servant with the family of Joseph Mayer, a phonograph dealer who would soon be convicted of swindling immigrants with deceptive mail order schemes. Her brother Wincenty lived with some cousins around the corner at 117 Henry Street. And some other cousins lived a few blocks north at 82 Allen Street.

Those buildings are all still there.

From left to right: 82 Allen Street, 117 Henry Street and 101 Essex Street

At least one of the family members who made the trip over – Ignacy’s wife Dominika – returned to Zalozce in 1910, never to return. Ignacy would follow, some time between 1911 and 1921. And I suspect that Piotr Bosakowski and his wife Anna Stojkiewicz also returned after 1920.

For those members living in Zalozce, life was turned upside down by the outbreak of World War I. Zalozce was only a few miles from the border of Russia, and the town was overrun by Russian troops in the early days of the fighting. On August 19, 1914 – three weeks after the start of the war – the Russian army crossed the Seret River at Zalozce and kept moving west. For the next year, the town’s inhabitants lived under Russian military occupation.

By September 1915, a joint Austrian-German offensive pushed the Russian army back across the border. After some gains and losses for both sides, the fighting bogged down along a thousand-mile Eastern Front that passed right through Zalozce. The town saw significant fighting throughout 1916, including the Brussilov Offensive, the final big military push by the Russian forces.

Those battles apparently caused a lot of damage. The town’s Roman Catholic church – the place where my grandmother was baptized and were my great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents were married – was burned to the ground.

Ruins of the Roman Catholic church in Zalozce during World War I. From the website Olejow na Podolu.

When the Russians sued for peace in January 1917, Zalozce ended up on the Russian side of the armistice line. But by the summer of 1917, the Austrians pushed the Russians back once again, bringing Zalozce back under Austrian control. After the war finally ended in November 1918, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved. In 1919, Zalozce found itself inside the borders of the reconstituted Polish republic.

The Bosakowskis living in New York were spared the horrors of war. But they did find themselves, once the U.S. entered the war in 1917, as alien citizens of an enemy country. I know there was a lot of hostility directed toward Germans at that time. I wonder whether Polish-speaking Austrians received similar treatment.

For my grandmother and her siblings and cousins living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the war must have seemed so far away. Perhaps the only direct connection to the war was the mandatory registration for the draft. I have a found a few of the Bosakowski males in the draft registration forms available on ancestry.com. However, it doesn’t seem that any of them actually fought in the war.

Michal Bosakowski's draft registration card, Sept. 1918.

Mostly, the war years were a time of new beginnings in a new home country.

In November 1916, my grandmother married Alex Kowal at St. George’s Ukrainian Catholic Church on East 7th Street. It’s interesting that she married a Ukrainian at a time when Austria and Russia were fighting a war against each other. It’s also interesting that they got married in a Ukrainian Catholic church. Most of the other Bosakowski family members got married at St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church, which was also on East 7th Street.

On their marriage certificate and application for license, my grandmother gave her address as 117 Henry Street, the address of her cousin Michael and brother Wincenty. She must have quit her job with the Mayer family by then. Alex gave his address as 182 Madison Street. That building is no longer there. The entire block was torn down and rebuilt as an apartment complex.

The witnesses to the ceremony were my grandmother’s cousin Michael Bosakowski (who played this role for a number of his siblings and cousins) and a guy named Trofym Marciuk. I have been unable to find Trofym in any other records (census, New York City vital records, etc.). Was he a friend of my grandfather’s? Or was he simply connected to the church?

My grandparents' marriage certificate, November 1916.

Ten months later, in September 1917, my father Anton Kowal was born at 13 Essex Street. I assume my grandparents were living there but I haven’t been able to verify that.

13 Essex Street

Antoni Bosakowski married Sophie Zubeck (the original spelling was probalby Zubyk) in May 1918. The Zubeck family also came from Zalozce. They lived down the block at 21 Eldridge Street and it appears that Antoni and Sophie moved there after the wedding.

21 Eldridge Street

Combining information from census forms and World War I draft registration cards, I can paint the following family portrait circa 1920:

  • My grandparents moved out of the Lower East Side and were living in Charleston, near the southwestern tip of Staten Island. The 1920 census shows that the new family, which included my father Anton (born 1917) and aunt Mary (born 1919), was living at 4668 Arthur Kill Road.
  • Michal Bosakowski was still living at 117 Henry Street with his wife Klimintyna. He started working in the restaurant industry, employed in 1918 as a helper at the Sam Gerin restaurant at 54 Liberty Street.
  • Jan (now John) Bosakowski and his wife Mary Kozakiewicz moved to 15 Essex Street with their daughters Nellie (born 1914), Jennie (born 1916) and Stella (born 1918). John worked as a hat blocker at the Freedman & Haltz hat factory at 193 Mercer Street.
  • Kata Bosakowska and her husband Adam Telechowitz were also probably living at 15 Essex Street. I can’t find them in the 1920 census but they live there in the 1930 census. Adam continued to work as a coal man.
  • Antoni and Sophie Bosakowski were still living at 21 Eldridge Street with their infant daughter Katherine. Antoni supported the family as counterman in a restaurant.
  • Two of Antoni’s brothers followed him to 21 Eldridge Street. Pawel (now Paul) Bosakowski and his wife Karolina Jankowska took the apartment next door. Their family now included two children, Frank (born 1915) and Jennie (born 1917). Paul supported the family as a bartender at Zwirdling’s saloon, 91 Canal Street.
  • Piotr Bosakowski lived in Paul’s apartment along with two other boarders, Joe Ristinyuk and Frances Basnitzka. Piotr worked at a doll factory on Greene Street. His wife Anna does not appear in the 1920 census, nor is she listed as next of kin on Piotr’s draft registration card. Perhaps she already returned to Zalozce.
  • Honorata Bosakowska moved with her husband Michael Romaniszyn (the name would later be changed to Romanish) to Hohokus, New Jersey. Michael worked in a foundry and the couple had two young children, William and Kasimiera.
  • I can’t find Wincenty Bosakowski in the 1920 census. He was probably living at 21 Eldridge Street with his cousins. That is the address he gave in his 1923 application for a marriage license. Wincenty also worked at the doll factory.

In the following years, four additional family members made the trip to America. I’ll write about them in the next and final chapter of the Bosakowskis’ migration to America.

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This entry was posted in Family Line - Bosakowski, New York City, Zalozce/Zaliztsi and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Lower East Side or the Eastern Front: the Bosakowski family during World War I

  1. Pingback: The final chapter in the Bosakowski immigration story | John Kowal's Family History Blog

  2. jestem wnuczka Franciszka Bosakowskiego

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