The Sobocinski Family

Portrait of an older couple
Wladyslaw and Franciszka Sobocinski, c. 1936

Courtesy of Joan Pizzello


During the nineteenth century, Poland was occupied by three neighboring powers: Germany/Prussia, Austria, and Russia. Among the more than two million Poles who came to the U.S. from the three occupied (or "partitioned") regions, those from the German territories often arrived earliest and established the nucleus of Polish communities in industrial cities and towns. They often included skilled workers and entrepreneurs who quickly started businesses in their new homes. In Salem, this first group included the Sobocinski family. Members of the family arrived over a number of years, starting in 1887 with Felix, one of the younger sons, pursuing a common pattern of migrating alone, finding work, and sending money back so that others could follow him.

One of the older Sobocinski brothers, Wladyslaw, and his wife, Franciszka, were already in their thirties with a growing family of their own when they came to Salem. Like many from the German partition, Wladyslaw was an artisan. Trained as a blacksmith, he worked for many years at his trade in the U.S., including at the United Shoe Company in Beverly. Both Wladyslaw and Franciszka became very involved in Salem's Polish community. Wladyslaw was a founding member of the St. Joseph Society and was among the leaders who oversaw the construction of its hall in 1909. He was also active in the Polish American Citizens Club and other groups.

Franciszka was president of the women's sodality (or lay religious society) at St. John the Baptist Church and a founding member of the Women's Polish American Citizens Club. One of their granddaughters recalled that Franciszka, like many people from the ethnically and linguistically diverse Polish homelands, was multilingual, speaking Yiddish, German, and other languages.

One of Wladyslaw and Franciszka's sons, Felix, served in the 101st Field Artillery during the First World War, joining other young Polish Americans who enlisted in the U.S. military. One of their nieces, Wanda Walczak, became an educational and political leader in her own right, following the family pattern of community involvement.

When Salem's St. Joseph Society celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1949, members altered their parade route between the Hall and the church so that they could pass under the window of the Sobocinski house. He died the next day at the age of 89, honored by the community he had helped to establish. The extended Sobocinski family remains a presence in Polish Salem today.

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Last updated: January 17, 2018

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