Wojciech (Albert) Maruszak (1874-1951) was born in Dombrowa, Poland. Wojciech lost both parents before he was five. His father was an alcoholic and died in an accident related to intoxication; it is unknown how his mother passed. At this time, Wojciech was taken in by a neighbor, a religious couple who had good will, but little to spare.[i] He would also sometimes sleep in the barn of the manor house in town (it is possible the two families retold in interviews were one in the same).[ii] As a result of his upbringing, Albert matured to be a kind, gentle man with dark brown hair and blue eyes.[iii]

Magdalen Natanek (1879-1951) was a short, pretty woman with reddish brown hair and blue eyes. She was educated and worked as a governess in Poland. As a governess, Magdalen witnessed all of the possibilities of being wealthy in Poland. [iv]

Wojciech and Magdalen had three children in Poland and one in Austria before they made their voyage to the United States in 1910. Wojciech had intended to immigrant first and send for the family later, but Magdalen insisted that the entire family come together, resulting in a two year delay to save funds.[v] Their journey began with a train from the Krakow area where they lived to Bremen, Germany, where they boarded to Kaiser Wilhelm.[vi] Magdalen carried baby Homer on her lap the entire five-day crossing, crucially saving purchasing a full-priced ticket for the little one.[vii]

When the Maruszaks first arrived in America, they settled in Martins Ferry, Ohio, as they were sponsored by Frank Windak. They did venture south to Louisiana for a time, only to discover they had been swindled and the land they purchased was nothing more than a swamp.[viii]

Albert, as he was known in America, eventually moved to Noblestown, PA, where he would find work as a coal miner. The Maruszaks were keen savers and finally saved enough buy their own home in Carneige, PA.[ix]

Albert would become an American citizen at the age of 50, while he wife never naturalized. Magdalen was not happy in America and did not attempt to learn English. The language barrier would make it difficult for her grandchildren and younger generations to connect with their grandmother.[x]

Her granddaughter, Rose, recalled Magdalen sitting in a rocking chair on the porch, reading the Bible. She was prone to headaches and would put a damp horseradish leaf on her head to relieve the pain, causing her children and grandchildren to fear claiming they had a headache to avoid this remedy. There are fond memories of Magdalen’s homemade jelly donuts.[xi] In her old age, Magdalen seldom left home. She always said she would died in March, which, whether irony or fate, she would on March 4, 1951.[xii]

When eldest daughter Valerie graduated from eighth grade, her mother thought it was time for her to go to work like most girls of her age. However, Valerie was a bright young girl and insisted of continuing her studies at Mount Mercy Academy (now Carlow University) to become a nurse. She would graduate at the age of 17 in June 1922.


Throughout the mid-1800s, the competing powers of Russia, Prussia, and Austria left Poland in shambles. As each tried to suppress the Polish political power in their controlling territories, Poles were left as peasants to foreign controlling classes. Most Poles lived in densely populated villages, pushing agricultural lands to their limits and seldom producing enough food for families. Further, taxation put further stress of the poorest class of peasants, creating deep inequities.

Ethnic Poles were also stripped of their culture. In Russian Poland, the Polish language was banned. In Prussia, assimilation programs were established to “Germanize” the Polish people. In Austria, many Polish children simply went without access to education.

With job prospects few and far between, many Polish people look to emigration. Sometimes husbands and fathers would travel abroad to make a living and send money home to their families, while others uprooted entire families.

America was attractive to many immigrant groups at this time. Flourishing through the Industrial Revolution, America offered amble job prospects for peasants seeking greater opportunity. Of course, industrialists exploited immigrant labor with low pay and long hours. Nonetheless, Polish immigrants saw these conditions as marginally better, as many were able to save and experience political and social freedoms not afforded in their occupied European homeland.[i]

SOURCE: Boberg, Alice and Ralph Wroblewski. “Part Two: Polish Immigration to the United States.” 1976. (obtained April 30, 2022 from The Cleveland Memory Project)

Sources & Footnotes

​[i] Ancestors of Rose (Viviano) Schneider – compiled by Harry Schneider, November 19, 2001

[ii] Jean (Viviano) Kane to Alison Kane, Discussion, February 16, 2019, File 1c, 36:00-36:40.

[iii] Ancestors of Rose (Viviano) Schneider – compiled by Harry Schneider, November 19, 2001

[iv] Kane, Jean 36:00

[v] Schneider, Rose.

[vi] Kane, Jean 37:00

[vii] Schneider, Rose.

[viii] Schneider, Rose.

[ix]Kane, Jean 41:00

[x] Schneider, Rose.

[xi] Schneider, Rose.

[xii] Schneider, Rose.