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Italians in Early Modern Poland

Translated by Katarzyna Popowicz


Wojciech Tygielski

The book provides a panorama of Italian migrants’ activities in Polish economy, political life and, above all, culture. The motivations of Italians who decided to travel to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and quite often settled there permanently, the reasons which made this migration possible and approved by the Polish and Lithuanian hosts are described in detail. Various categories of Italian migrants are considered as well as the potential and growing difficulties in their adaptation. These premises serve as proof of social and cultural distances between the Italians and the Poles and underline the tensions between the Italians’ cultural background and the one which they had to cope with. The hypothesis of the lost historical opportunity made possible by numerous arrivals of migrants from more culturally advanced areas is highlighted through the debate on the efficiency of Italian influences upon Polish-Lithuanian realities, and by the catalogue of the causes which effectively hindered Italian impulse for modernity.
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Fundamental sections of this book were written in the autumn of 2001, when the whole world, shocked with the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, learned the name of Rudolph Giuliani—a courageous mayor who, in moments of tragedy, rose to meet his challenge, organised rescue, uplifted inhabitants of the metropolis, and led them in co-ordinating their actions. The Italian descent of this American was remarked upon by his compatriot, the journalist and writer Oriana Fallaci, whose fiery essay, “The Rage and the Pride”—written in a letter from New York to the editor in chief of Corriere della Sera, Ferruccio de Bortoli—was published in early October by the Milan newspaper, and then reprinted by all major European titles. To Fallaci, writing about the threat from Islamic fundamentalism, the Italian origin of the mayor proved to be of such great significance that she expressed the fragment devoted to him in a tone of national pride. In her opinion, Giuliani “should be thanked by us, Italians, on our knees. For he has an Italian name, is of Italian origin, and gives best certificate of us before the whole world… He is worthy of another mayor of great fame—Fiorello La Guardia.”

Giuliani and La Guardia, the latter commemorated by giving his name to New York’s airport, may certainly be counted as outstanding continuators of the Italian migrational processes to which we have devoted so much attention. Although these two men happened to...

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