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Konstanty Kaminski


You wouldn’t want to mess with this guy, would you? If he has anything to say about it, you wouldn’t want to mess with his kids either. Or his grandkids. Or his great-grand kids. He was a “ringer” for a Russian wrestler way back when. Look at those hands. My husband now wears this man’s wedding band (sized down from those size-15 fingers). I told you I was hearty peasant stock. Wow — he looks like my brother, and I can even see a little Gavin in that smile. Yes, I said smile.

Konstanty, my paternal grandfather, was born May 26, 1894 and left Poland to escape the Russian draft. As a young man, the prospects of a mandatory 20-year service for a lousy czar seemed pretty miserable. So he left for Massachusetts. Then Henry Ford’s five-dollar-day brought him to Detroit.

He was a cobbler, a grocer, a peddler, and a whip-maker. He and my grandma and my dad and my aunt left Detroit for Poland in 1933 because Konstanty thought he could make a killing as a whip-maker back in Poland. The capitalist bug had bitten him. That’s his passport photo up there for the trip. The red tape was too much though, and the whole family moved back to Detroit pretty quickly.

My dad tells the story about how late in life he drove my granddad to the doctor to look at a wound that needed to be cauterized. The doctor said, “Okay, Mr. Kaminski. You tell me when it’s so painful you can’t stand it.” My grandfather sat there silent while the doctor continued. My dad smelled burning flesh in the air, and the doctor stopped suddenly and blurted out in exasperation, “Mr. Kaminski, you were supposed to stop me!!” Konstanty said in a thick Polish accent, “You said to stop you when it was so painful I couldn’t stand it. I can still stand it.”

That’s my granddad!


4 thoughts on “Konstanty Kaminski

  1. What a character! 🙂 One of my good friends in grad school was originally a Tarnowski from Hamtramck, so I sort of know about the Polish community there. 🙂 And of course we indulged in Paczkis, authentic from a Polish bakery, before Lent. I guess everyone was a little bit Polish that day. 😉

  2. What Eugene Sledge called The Old Breed.

    So glad things didn’t work back in Poland in the early 30s. Was a good time to head back to good old USA. Almost like destiny…purpose even?

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